I have some sweet friends who have family living in their office closet. It started a few years ago and has grown from one to two, and finally three. They often tease that there is no more room for another urn or sealed box. And I’m earnestly praying they don’t have to expand their relative’s memorial to another space.
Recently they shared that the closet was being emptied. Each loved one was going to their final resting place. And with each departure, I wondered if there wasn’t a sense of sadness mixed with perhaps a little relief. It can be hard to live waiting for the past to move on.
Is Your Past or Pain Keeping You Hidden Away?
I lived in this in-between space for a decade. I was waiting for the heartbreak of infertility to move. But nothing seemed to help. So, I waited, my heart locked safely away in a closet of my construction. One I thought would protect me from the relentless sense of failure and disappointment of being a barren woman.
I was never meant for closet living. I put my life on hold because the days and years weren’t turning out the way I had planned and imagined. Truth be told, none of us are meant to hide away, buried deep in the back corner of a self-assembled cubby. We were created to move forward, one small step neatly in front of the other—guided by the Master Planner.
I want to ask you to take a few minutes and look inside the closet of your heart. Are you finding any old memories, broken relationships, or troubling conversations that are causing you to lock yourself away? Is there any part of your past you are waiting to move on? Any dreams you can’t let go? Please know I understand it’s not easy, remember I lived in the in-between for years. But I do want to challenge you to perhaps think about your situation a little differently.
Infertility almost broke me. And then my circumstances turned into an opportunity. Do you have any idea how many barren women are among us? And many of them wrestle with the same demons I fought. They needed a network, a refuge, a safe place to talk, cry, scream, and process. They needed a place where they could be seen and understood. So, we came together. We held one another, cried when the test came back negative one more time, and shared our deepest fears.
The thing that was meant to break me, became the very thing that gave me hope. All I had to do was take that first small step.
What first step do you need to take? What open doors do you need to walk through? What shelves need emptying?
Consider Taking These 4 Steps to Move On From Brokenness
Just as my friends took the needed steps to empty their closet, we too can take a few steps to help us when we find ourselves hiding or locked away. Consider these four steps to help you navigate all that keeps you from moving on.
1. Identify the contents of your closets. If you find yourself stuck in a specific thought pattern, unable to make a decision, or wrestling with what should be the next step, take a few minutes to look in your closets (those places in your heart that hold hurt, pain, and sorrow) and try to pinpoint the feelings you are experiencing. This process may feel awkward and will require you to be painfully honest with yourself. But the outcome will allow you to understand the obstacles keeping you from moving forward.
2. Recognize you were never designed to carry your burdens alone. Once you’ve identified your obstacles, you will need to take a second step of bravery and admit that you aren’t in control and can’t navigate this life alone. You were never meant to do life alone, God stands ready to guide you which leads to the next step, surrender.
3. Surrender to the Master Planner. Submitting our plans and expectations is not fun. We have spent our lives preparing to navigate on our own so why do we need to surrender? It is a simple answer, left to our abilities, we end up locked in the closets of our past experiences, disappointments, and failures. God, our Master Planner, can see our lives from beginning to end. From that perspective, he can direct each step for our good and his glory.
4. Understand, that you have to decide to take the next step. I think it is important that you understand, that although God intimately knows you and wants the best for you, he will never force you to take a step. Moving forward is your decision. He waits for you to recognize your need for his direction and when you are ready, he lovingly places his hand on your shoulder and moves forward, one small step after another. He waits patiently. But please remember, as you wait, life will continue to move forward. And as you wait, you can become even more broken and trapped. It is a vicious cycle of deception and fear.
These four steps will take time and there will be frequent needs to revisit a step as you move forward. But one day you will take a peek into the closets that have made up your life and find all the shelves neatly organized. You will see the past that was meant to defeat you, nicely wrapped in the victory resulting from Jesus’ tender care.
Maps laid out by the Master Planner will be rolled and placed in the corner. All the words previously used to convict and condemn will be captured and enclosed in a jar. A caution label placed on the side of the container reminds you, “Do not open—contains lies and deceit.” The space meant to break you will shine brightly because of Jesus’ loving protection. And you can take the next small step and the one after that knowing that you will never have to walk alone.
For more on recovering from self-doubt and shame, listen to this podcast episode: Get Ready to Break Free of Self-Doubt and Shame – 220