“How might it have been?”
Oh boy. This question could haunt us until the day we die. Or… it could just be static background ambience to a life we accept as is. How do you approach this question?
My parents divorced, many, many years ago—but I don’t often give the memory itself the time of day anymore. I’m aware of its reality in my life, but I hardly think about it. Their divorce is a reference in passing of a reality that I’m used to. The ramifications of divorce are my “normal”, you could say. The question, “how might it have been?” just ends up pressing on old wounds that are scars now.
The only one who knows how life could go in all directions is God, since He is omniscient, or all-knowing. This could either be relief, or it could be nerve-wrecking, because some of the wounds in our lives are so traumatic, we just want to know what “might have been” in an alternative of this reality. “What might life be like if my best friend hadn’t died when I was so little?” or “What might have happened to me if I had applied for that job as soon as it was posted, instead of waiting all this time?” These questions haunt us because we see how life turned out, and we feel convinced our life could have been improved upon in some way if that event just hadn’t taken place. But how do we know? When we try to play God, we end up ruining the present by wishing it away. The present is all we have; there is no other life we could have lived, and no other memory we’ll ever make—other than the one we’re in now.
I think for me, the biggest “might have been” would be my parents divorce, because the ripples extended far and wide throughout the years. There are many telling factors about my life, some which are too personal for me to share here, which make it very obvious to me that the divorce shook the entire universe of my life. To help you understand where I’m coming from, I’ll will say this: all that has happened to me after the divorce–every job I’ve applied for, every relationship I’ve tried and failed at, every state I’ve lived in, every person I’ve met, on and on the list goes– everything was impacted by my response to life after the trauma of experiencing my parents’ divorce.
The way I thought about myself after their divorce changed. The way I viewed relationships, and the promise of their future, changed. My perspective of theology and religion changed. My trust in people, and my expectation of friendships, changed. Everything I looked at and received into my soul changed because I lost something inside. There was a breach that occurred during the divorce that never left me; if anything, it left me damaged permanently. When my parents divorced, my heart became something I didn’t understand, couldn’t quite accept, and no longer recognized. The pain was very deep, extremely convoluted, and excruciating in more ways than I could explain. Not a hand touched me, but my heart was crushed. And what happened following all of that was my response to life became something like that of a guess: I was guessing my way through life, using the identity of someone I didn’t quite know how to be. Does this sound familiar to you?
How might it have been? could be a holiday for me because of the alternatives that I could fantasize about. Do you know how many alternatives I have fantasized about–how many ways I’ve imagined how things could have been better? But ultimately, what good are they? They’re not real. Those fantasies aren’t my actual memories, those conversations and those experiences never occurred—they aren’t my history today. How much more remorse do we put in ourselves when we conflate the moment we’re in with better-case-scenarios? That only confuses us with a fallacious prescription of hope and permeates life with disappointment because, eventually, you see–we will blink, and the heart-shattering reality we live in comes flooding back. What, then, is best way to live on?
What I would suggest, as I’ve come to experience through my own life, is we embrace the blessing of perspective. What I mean by that is, we accept the the truth of our trauma, its impact on our hearts and lives, we admit that the pain we feel is real, and that we have been impacted by something severe. After that, we choose to see alternative realities as something we can write on paper, like journalism; seeing those stories as just that—stories—because to try to embrace alternative realities is to choose not to live in the only one we have. The one thing more painful than experiencing trauma is to make believe they don’t really exist, forcing into our minds that something else happened instead. The convoluted lies of such a sorrow-based reality plays only one role, and that is to plant the seed of depression.
To overcome trauma, we must embrace the ripples of our trauma and come to see the life following the horrors of the event as a world that can heal. Coming to see the world in this way took over 10 years of my life to find, so, readers, this is something I’m writing to you because I hope whatever trauma you’re going through right now, that you might come out of your pain sooner–if possible, without rushing your healing time–than I came out of mine. After 10 years (but 22 years where God was just a word and not a relationship), my eyes were opened to Jesus, and, years more after that, my heart opened to Him as well.
Trauma is no stranger to Jesus, who was nailed to a cross to die. When I talk to Jesus now, I don’t feel the way I used to feel, which seemed more like a conversation with myself and a wall than a dialogue. But those prayers were prayed like reading words off of a page; it’s not that God wasn’t listening or responding, it’s that I didn’t have the faith to communicate with Him, and I didn’t quite have it in my heart to fully believe what I was praying for was possible through Him. I do now, and that’s what’s changed the way I pray, and, furthermore–the way I can hear Him responding.
Bringing up the pain and trauma of my parents’ divorce is to help you see that I am just like you: I’ve experienced something excruciating enough to want to make believe it never happened. But it did. There’s no going around it, and what’s unfortunate is how adamant I was about resisting that truth. But let me make it clear–I’m not justifying or suggesting we cling to our traumas or live in pain. NO. I’m suggesting we embrace the truth that the pain hurts, and then choose to allow what we’re experiencing to be our reality; pain as only the first step, healing and restoration as the last.
Like I said, I found Jesus 10 years after my parents’ divorce, and my faith is what has reshaped the perspective of my life for the better. I believe my purpose on Earth is to help others see Jesus by being a light to them through my faith in action. In writing this blog, for example, I hope to bring others who have experienced real horror in their life to the loving embrace of Jesus. That’s where the most promising safety is. Nothing on Earth, below it or above it could ever stop the love of Jesus. That is why I want others to come running for this—because the promise is real, it is eternal, and it is free. Whatever pain you’re going through, whatever Hell you’ve experienced, Jesus understands. You don’t have to live in that place by yourself. Your darkness can find the light just like any other; mine certainly did, even if it took ten years and counting. Some people find hope after decades of running through life trying to escape the pain of their memories–never realizing that their entire world is one microcosm of pain fabricated as the reality of their present moment; like some fictitious middle-ground world where they can’t really live, but where they aren’t really dead, either. But thankfully, that world isn’t real, it just feels real because our minds are trying to cope with our hearts’ experience of deep and horrible pain. When we are ready, we can take a step back and see a bigger picture: the Truth that Jesus loves us no matter what pain we’re experiencing, and that His light is stronger than our darkness.
If you are experiencing trauma, my hope is that you won’t live in the “might have been” thoughts, which squander all of the best moments you could be having instead. Embrace the pain by seeing it through the perspective that it is only the first step in a process, and that the last steps are of healing and restoration. Pain is the repercussion of sin; restoration is the gift of faith in Jesus as Lord. Seeing the world through the perspective of Jesus as Lord and Savior is to see grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, and acceptance as made possible through His sacrifice for us on the cross. After we receive His gift of love through that act, our lives change, knowing this isn’t the end.
We don’t have to live in misery; we can live in the hope of tomorrow, knowing Jesus will come back for us, and we will live forever in peace, joy, and happiness. Pain on Earth is temporary, but emotional pain feels like a lifetime. Our minds experience time differently here, and so the trauma we feel can seem like a nightmare we never wake from. But invite Jesus into your nightmare, and watch Him light up your world with the hope of what’s to come. You are loved, perfectly and unconditionally, so please do not let your past be your present. Live for Christ, receiving His love for you. Embrace the traumas of your life as only temporary, and find the peace in receiving the hope of Christ. You don’t have to live in this bubble of misery. You can have joy, right now. Do you know Jesus Christ? It’s time you are introduced. He was a carpenter, He was God Incarnate, and He loved others, directing all the mystery and loving nature about Himself back to our God in Heaven, teaching that through Him, we can be made anew. That means that in receiving Christ, our hearts will be remade with the hope of having relationship with Jesus; our best friend, Messiah, and Lord.
Trauma can fade away, and joy can be put in its place. Ask God to meet you where you are, and be transformed with His perfect love for you. Nothing and no one could ever take you away from this gift of love, and no other love is more powerful and fulfilling than the love of Christ.
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Be lifted high, in Jesus name!