I never wanted to return to this place. The place where I was born. The place where I experienced so many defining heartaches. And truth be told, a place that felt like the antithesis of all that I am and hope to be.
And yet, here I am.
My husband and I returned to the town where I grew up shortly after completing college. What was supposed to be a rest stop on a one-way journey far, far from here, ultimately became the endless layover. Plans didn’t work out, and so here we stayed.
For years, I’ve viewed this return as some sort of failure. I didn’t want to be here, and yet, here I was. Surly that indicated some sort of failing. Some lack of creativity or initiative. At the very least, it felt cowardly. How often do we do things that we don’t want to do, simply because they are known? Our brains can be so fickled. Our heart wants what it wants, but our brains want the familiar.
And so we return.
I crave change and constantly desire to rework ideas, seek new experiences, and grow-grow-grow. So I worried what it said about me if returned to a place notorious for same-same-same.
I’ve been at odds over our decision to return to this place ever since the moment we landed. What’s more, I’ve been at odds with this place. There are so many things about this area that I do not love. So many things that drive me crazy. So many things that seem to crush my spirit.
But recently, I’ve had a change of heart.
No, I haven’t suddenly fallen in love with the small town, traditional ways of the place I live. No, I don’t see this as my forever home. And yes, I still dream of traveling and finding those places that – though new – feel more like home than my actual “home.”
But I’m starting to see my current situation in a whole new light.
You know how you can hear truth over and over again, but all it takes is one split second to suddenly, really hear it for the first time? I guess that’s where I’m at. I know that anger is really just unresolved sadness. I know that avoiding pain doesn’t really fix anything. And I know that the way to find true healing is to dive into those emotions and meet God in the middle, allowing him to hold your hand and emerge clean and new on the other side. I know all this. But I don’t think I’ve really known this, like in my heart in mind, until just recently.
I’m starting to wonder if maybe this return to my hometown wasn’t the result of me being cowardly or unimaginative or lame. But rather, the result of God being gracious.
I, like most people, have unresolved hurts. Past wounds. Broken relationships. And this area was the backdrop for many of those experiences. And for many years I’ve carried around the weight of all that pain, somehow believing the lie that time and distance would eventually heal my broken places. I thought that new settings and experiences would create a salve that would heal old wounds and bind up the parts of me that pain had weakened.
This of course, wasn’t true. It could never, would never, be true.
I’ve been given a chance, though I’ve come to it kicking and screaming, to revisit some things that I never wanted to face. I’ve been given a chance to think long and hard about past hurts that I would have rather gone on pretending never happened. I’ve been given a chance to see people in a more gentle light – as humans with insecurities just like me. And sometimes those insecurities make them do bad things, just like me. But pretending that hurtful experiences never happened will get you just about as much healing as pretending a broken arm isn’t broken.
Call it escapism. Call it avoidance. Call it ignorance. Call it whatever you want. But pain and heartache aren’t the enemy of us living a life of healing and meaning. If we allow it, those emotions and experiences can be the vehicle that drives us straight into healing’s arms.
There is a place for healing; from whatever pain you might currently be in. I know that I’ve found it here, in this place.
A place called grace.