Read Time: 4 mins.
The breeze off the ocean began to cool the early evening air as my feet shuffled through the still warm sand. Off to my right, the night sounds of the jungle began to rise as the sun dipped below the horizon. Cheap beer sloshed in my stomach, as troubling questions swirled inside my hazy skull. My month-long backpacking trip to India was already more than half over, and the days seemed to be passing faster as my friend and I reached our final destination. I had tried to escape my restless thoughts by distracting myself with adventure and activity, but all of that had ground to a halt a few days ago when we had arrived in Goa. Both of us had sensed the need for a rest, and we had followed the counsel of a fellow traveller and bypassed the touristy beaches at Palolem, instead opting for a quiet hut in the fishing village of Agonda. In contrast to the flurry of activity that had come before, there wasn’t much to do here but to soak up the sun and trade stories with the small but eclectic community of travelers that had also stumbled upon this hidden gem. With the sudden slow in pace, the questions had come back full force.
“What happened to my heart?”
“Why can’t I feel anything?”
“Where is my life headed?”
There had been many hurts over the last three years, but none so painful as the emotionally violent and crushing loss of two close friendships. The resulting feelings of confusion, abandonment and self-condemnation had all been more intense than I had ever felt. I hadn’t known how to deal, so I had determined that I would just “continue living”. I went to college, and buried myself in school work and weekend parties and old habits. The pain had slowly gone away, but along with it, so had every other emotion and desire. I felt I had lost myself, and didn’t know how to get back.
I looked out to sea and watched the waves roll in over the nearby reef. Tiny crabs scuttled out of the way as the foaming surf smoothed the sand into a wet slab. I looked back up the beach towards the hut village, where a fire had been started. The “villagers” would exit their bamboo huts soon to drink and spin tales around the growing flames. Maybe I should head back? This walk to “clear my head” was obviously not having the desired effect.
As I turned, I glimpsed something out of the corner of my eye. Down closer to the water, some local children had dug a sizeable hole in the sand, deep and wide enough that if you weren’t paying attention, you could easily fall into it and sprain or break something. The broken waves reached up towards the void like bubbly appendages, stretching and straining to spill themselves inside, but always fell back before they could quite reach their goal. Just too far from the water’s edge, the hole remained empty. On any other night, I would have probably just kicked some sand into it and continued on, but on this night, my state of emotionally-charged introspection caused me to stop and really look. For the first time in what had seemed like forever, I heard the voice of Jesus whispering along with the sound of the surf. “You’ve felt like that hole… nothing quite fills it anymore does it?” With His words, a rock in my chest cracked open and hot tears began to stream down my face. Yep. That’s exactly how it felt. As a silent prayer, I reached down to the bottom of the hole, scooped up a fistful of sand, and between sobs, flung it as far as I could out to sea. Collapsing to the ground, I felt the warmth of Love begin to pulse in my heart. Suddenly, like a film reel, memories started to flash through my mind. With each one, Jesus highlighted and affirmed things that were part of me, things that had been clouded and overshadowed by the pain. I saw myself encouraging and counselling, comforting and praying for hurting friends, and teaching others things that Jesus had shown me. Each scene was different, a park bench, a sidewalk curb, a living room, a car, a college hallway, but those expressions of who I was were always the same. Jesus spoke again: “You may have forgotten, but I will always remember”. I looked up as the stars began to blink into view as Jesus continued to restore my heart.
In the spirit of this story, I want to encourage any of you out there who have had a “loss of heart”. Whether through pain, or heaps of circumstance upon circumstance, or disappointment, or condemnation. You may feel numb, and separated from yourself. You’re not lost, and you haven’t lost a thing. You’re found. Jesus remembers everything about you, and who you are has always been safe, held in His heart since He first thought of you (Colossians 3:3). There are no layers you have to peel back, and no emotional knots to untie. He’s stumbling over Himself to re-introduce you to who you are, and to the things that uniquely give you joy. He’s as close as a simple turn of attention.