Moving On / by Michael Nichols

"Someday,
Everything ends.
Can we begin
Finding our way back
Before we're too late
And lost in between
The truth and the dream?
I've never been more ready to move on."
-- Yellowcard, "The Sound of You and Me" (When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes, 2011)


Do you know that feeling that you're home? It's a good one. It's fantastic.

It's a place where you're safe.

It's a place where you're free.

It's a place where you're loved.

It's a place where you're known.

Do you know that feeling when your house burns down? Everything good before is burned away. You're left alone to wander.


It doesn't always sink in at first when something major in your life blows up. Imagine what it's like to have every light in your house suddenly switch off in the middle of the night, and without warning. You still might not be able to see well when your eyes adjust to the dark, but for that first little while, your eyes are still full of a light that, when compared to the dark you are now drowning in, is blinding. Once that fades, maybe you can see a little. (Okay, that's not what physically happens in your eyes, but metaphors are awesome.)

Being hit hard with the force of change can be disorienting in that way. You lose balance, direction, and probably aren't even sure where you are or what happened for the first little while. But eventually, that disorientation fades, and reality sets in. Whatever reality.

Death. Disease. Divorce. Depression. Disdain. Displacement. Violence. Verbal abuse. Rejection. Loss of any kind.

In a word, disappointment.

A frientor recently said, "Disappointment is the death of the dream." He couldn't have been more right. Life is full of dreams. It is itself the biggest dream. Everything else is an expression of life as God made it to be. The things we do in this life are a shadow of our relationship with the one who made us. When we see such things come to no or ill effect, it sends ripples through our world that could fracture the ground beneath our feet.

When my grandfather on my mom's side died little more than two years ago, it was rough. Who could expect anything else? He and my grandmother, who is still living, had these recliners where they would sit and read, take naps, sometimes just be. Granny sat in his chair a few months after he died. Others have sat in it. I only sat in it within the last few weeks.

I had accepted his death, but that didn't mean I had entirely settled things in my mind.

Despite how much we say it's true, how much we want it to be, how much we hide it, how much we deceive ourselves into actually believing it, a lot of times we don't actually move on from the various traumas we experience.

Let me be blunt about the truth.

Nobody wants to move on.


I've been on a long, long journey ever since 2010. I've mentioned that I lost a friend that year. When that happened, everything changed.

The reason for the loss? I had feelings for her.

I assumed the journey I started then was going to be the worst. I had no idea why, but I had this sinking feeling about it.

I walked away from the scene of that wreck with too many questions for me to handle. Entirely too many uncertainties. But let's just be honest: they were questions I've probably always had. They just all found the means to break loose like the woes inside Pandora's box that rained destruction upon the earth.

At the time, I was still a very young Christian. I hadn't fully grown into my identity in Him. I didn't truly know how much He was the foundation for every area of my life. I wanted Him to be, but I hadn't dug deep enough to build on Him. When I lost my friend, I had no clue what to do. Yes, there was the typical "trust Jesus" platitude that every Christian spouts at some point. But let's face it: that's not actually enough.

It isn't enough to just say that someone should do something. When you go through something that tears at the most basic parts of your identity (at the time, I based my identity on romantic relationships and friendships in general), you can't just brush it off in faith. It's more complicated than that. Granted, yes, we should trust Jesus with our hurts, but trusting Jesus with that entails processing those hurts, and sometimes it challenges the actual depth of our faith in Jesus.

Since I was still basing my identity on a lot of not-Jesus things, even though that had begun to change, watching that part of my life blow up was excruciatingly painful. In hindsight, I realize that neither that friendship nor any romantic relationship could tell me who I am like Christ could. My view of friendship and of romance had not yet begun to grow into Christ. I think this was the thing it took in order for that process to begin.

That part of my life was still immersed in the old me. Experiencing what I did as painfully as I did was an opportunity for that aspect of my life to die with the old me. As Jesus put it, a seed can't grow and bear fruit unless it dies first and is put into the ground.


Rather than truly moving on, I took all my hurt, ran away from the place where I found it, and found a place to collapse and die slowly. I had no idea I had taken it that far when it happened. I had no idea how much I had let go of all hope in this aspect of my life. I honestly think that it's only lately that I've come to terms with that fact. When I think about anytime I've been interested in someone beyond that wreck, when I acknowledge how I've responded to those feelings, I see that I've had no desire to move forward with that part of my life. At least, that desire hasn't been greater than the looming shadow of the memory of griefs past.

Here's the problem: running away from pain does not mean running into joy.

Part of Jonah's story is a time of wallowing. Elijah, too. Starkly different reasons, but I digress. [Actually, jklol no I don't.]

Jonah, in his disdain for the people of Nineveh, remained bitter about their continued existence after their repentance, rather than his expectation of the destruction God warned of. Elijah, on the other hand resumed his ministry after his grief.

Both prophets experienced the grace of God. Jonah was given a plant that grew over him for shade during his grief. Elijah was fed by ravens.

When God let the plant die, Jonah reverted to grief. When Elijah was through resting and being fed and God called him to move forward, he did.

Jonah was stuck on an idea about what God's plan should have been. Elijah just followed. Sure, when he ran away, I bet he had his doubts about himself and God.

These two men had something vastly different from each other. One had something the other lacked: a sense of hope.

Just because you've lost your sense of hope doesn't mean hope is gone. Being repeatedly and brutally beaten can result in numbness. Pain turns to normal, and normal turns to nothing. Your nerves are damaged, severed, even. But you're still alive. It's hard to move when you've been beaten. No one in their right mind would blame you for needing time to recover from whatever hurt you.

But like I said before: running away from pain does not mean running into joy.


It doesn't end there: chasing joy doesn't mean outrunning pain.

No amount of pleasure. No substance. No person. Nothing can take away pain. Nothing but the embracing of the truth. And even that isn't immediate, and it isn't always, because no matter how hard we seek truth, we are wading in the waters of a world flooded with lies.

It's tempting to fill the void with whatever we think will fit. But what can truly satisfy us? Relationships only last until one person leaves or dies. Substances that get you high will let you down. Substances that black you out only delay your wake-up call. No distraction will ever last forever. And Jesus is not a distraction.

Jesus is truth, and He will never lie to you.

Jesus is the greatest love we can ever know, and He will never leave.

Jesus is joy, and can provide comfort even through unbearable pain.

I know that since the thing that I cared about most, coincidentally the thing that blew up in my face, was finding a lady whom I could eventually marry, it kind of makes sense that filling the void consisted of wanting that even more. Couple that with the memory of the raw pain, and that makes even discussing with friends whether or not I'm seeing anyone an untouchable topic.

It's not that I haven't wanted to move forward, though. It's that I haven't wanted to leave the place I'm in. For every time I've said I was prepared to finally find someone, I wasn't, all because I wasn't done holding onto the pain. I think that it has been provident that nothing from then til now has worked out. Either I would have been using the person as a means to drown out the past, or I would have been betraying the person to whom I moved on by pretending I was over a chapter of my life when I wasn't.

It's a great thing that I haven't been able to move forward.

You shouldn't pursue one person to get over another. It's using a person as a cheap drug.

Neither should you try to get over one person to pursue the other. It's dishonest, which the world needs less of.

Mixed motives simply do not allow relationships to thrive. You should do what you do because it's right, and because you want to do things right, and make them right when you didn't do them right.

You should want these things because you really do want them, not because they're a means to an end. Even if that end is noble, if it isn't for the right reasons, the nobility is betrayed.

When these desires happen at the same time, they can get tangled up, and the right motives can be lost. You trip over your mixed feelings. That's how it's supposed to be. We were meant to do the right thing for the right reasons.

Stumbling like this makes things hurt even more. You gag as you pull on the chains that choke you. You reopen wounds before they've finished healing. You add bruises to already swollen parts. You break bones. You bleed.

Trying to move on before you're willing to... it can kill you. But it doesn't have to.


I'm tired. Actually physically exhausted by everything I feel. I'm an ENFJ, so that doesn't help. An ENFJ who no longer trusts his perception of feelings, which is what he's supposed to be good at.

This isn't the only thing, either. A lot of other things are like this for me. It's just that this one aspect of my life is the most visible, to me, at least.

I've spent a long time (relatively, I'm only 24) not actually wanting to move on. The words on my tongue say otherwise, but deep down, I don't want to move on.

I don't want to move on.

I want to be wrong about the hard truths I see.

I want to be wrong about the love I've lost.

I want to be wrong about the love I wasn't allowed to have.

I want people who wanted to leave to come back around.

I want everything to change.

But if everything else changes, I never have to. And if I don't change, I don't grow. I don't grow stronger, taller, deeper, anything. I slow to a stop. I rot until I die.

We say life is hard, but it's not. Life is great. Death is hard. Death gets in the way of life. Death of dreams, death of bodies, of souls. Yet when death interferes with our lives, we often don't defy it by continuing to live our lives. We let it have its way and continue to kill us. And often we are unwilling to acknowledge that our passive living is just active death. At some point, it becomes easy to believe that this is the way that it's supposed to be, the inevitable death of hope. Nothing could be further from the truth. Death is all around, but life is welling up inside, and it will burst through and put and end to its enemy.

Real hope can never die. As much as it sounds like another platitude, that means that Jesus is the only real hope.

If He can tell us who we really are...

If He can show us what we're really worth...

If He can carry our broken bodies home...

If He can find us in the dark when we're abandoned and alone...

... then in His power, we can have the strength to move on, even and especially when we are weakest.


I've spent six years trying to admit this to myself.

I think I'm ready now.


Here's some cool music about moving on! A lot of it has gotten me through, well, a lot.

 

P.S.: It's funny, really. The thing that drew me to Christ in 2009 was that I realized that I didn't really know what love was, and I wanted Him to teach me because I knew His was love in its truest form. I had no idea it would have taken this much pain. If I had, I never would have followed Him in... but I'm glad He didn't warn me, because I did follow Him in.