Glorious Grace in Deep Heartbreak
By the age of 26 I had seen a lot of heartache, however I honestly could not say I understood what it was to have a broken heart. I knew it as an expression for someone who had been greatly disappointed, hurt, or deeply sad. Just words to verbally express the depth of pain. I was not aware that a heart can physically and literally break. That is until August 9th, 1998.
The Morning Phone Call
It was 4:30 am the first time the phone rang that morning, and I can honestly say from that moment my entire world as I knew it, or as I thought I knew it, was about to be completely transformed. More like, flipped upside down and ripped inside out. Even 20 plus years later I remember that morning as if it just happened yesterday. That’s probably the only part I remember so vividly though. The rest of that week I was in a fog. Just floating through the motions of living. Breathe in, breathe out.
I sleepily answered the phone at 4:30am that very early Monday morning, and immediately my dad on the other end in an eerily calm voice, asked if my husband Paul was there. So, with a confused and somewhat concerned, “yeah,” I handed the phone to him, and watched as my husband stoically nodded and intently listened, giving away no other clues as to what my father was saying on the other end, and then, as if receiving orders from his commander he then handed the phone back to me without looking at my face, and promptly scooted beside me wrapping his arms around me from behind holding me tightly.
Even more confused, I began to take in the most incomprehensible and physically painful news I had ever heard in my entire 26 years of living.
My baby brother, 20 years young, and who I had just seen for the first time in 3 years the week prior, had drown in Bull Shoals Lake. His lifeless body was found just barely an hour before I received that shattering phone call.
Reality or Nightmare
“This could not be real!” My mind did not want to accept this. I just kept screaming, “no!” Shaking my head uncontrollably. If I shake it hard enough, or if I just do not accept this, it won’t be real. It will just be another nightmare, and I will wake up in a cold sweat from the terror, take a deep breath and all will be normal. Only, that did not happen, and all I could do was cry and scream every time my mind allowed me to reemerge into my horrific reality. Suddenly, I’ve been cast into this alternate universe and the only thing that existed in it was pain. I could not seem to cry hard enough. This pain would not drain out. It was in that very moment I felt a physically piercing pain in my chest. A harsh streak that radiated straight out of my heart through my entire body.
My heart literally broke.
I did not realize it, but this was the beginning of a very long and challenging journey ahead. A journey of facing nightmares, and extremely painful truths that refused to lie dormant in a locked room of my past any longer. A journey that would leave my spirit crying out desperately to be saved. A journey that would lead to a beautiful and peaceful place where my heart could finally heal from a lifetime of abuse and misinterpreted love.
A journey that would lead me to my Savior, and through the trials to come, I would come to know His heart, and I would learn what love truly looks like.
Finally seeing a small glimpse of His immeasurable love for even me, and experiencing the unmatched strength that can only come through knowing Him personally, and letting Him have it all.
I walked like a zombie for the next 7 plus years. Just existing, and going through the motions of being a mom, a wife, and having a career. After all this is what I am supposed to do, isn’t it? Be a good mom, a loving and selfless wife, and a good person. I was not aware of the deep depression I had fallen into. All I knew was that my pilot light was out. I had no spark, no pure joy. I did not know it at the time, but I cannot do it by myself. Even though I tried. I tried hard. It was not going to happen, because I did not have the strength to keep up the charade. Instead, I relied on immediate gratification of worldly things. Each small moment of happiness was short lived, nonetheless. Gone as quickly as it appeared. There was no living for me. I was a walking corpse just drifting through life day by day. It was just about remembering to breathe. I made so many mistakes. I tripped and stumbled in everything I did.
I kept insisting I do this on my own, but God was constantly there. Never turned away. Never just gave up.
He just kept working on me through loved ones, friends, scripture, and prayer. Even moments that were not necessarily peaceful prayer, but rather yelling, “why!” from bloodshot eyes and tear-stained face.
Incomparable Grace and Mercy
I look back on those years now and I can see God’s hand in every single good thing. From the Christian counselor He brought into my life through my workplace, to the moments when I know without a doubt, He was the only strength holding me up.
It was through this tragedy that He began working on my heart and realigning my spirit and mind.
I was crushed, destroyed from someone who was taken from me, but there was more that needed fixing than my broken heart from losing my brother. The Lord began to take this lifeless spirit. This dead heart and rebuild me into what He had originally designed me to be when He knit me together. I no longer needed the tools of survival that I had collected through my own human understanding. I now have all that I need through the power of His Holy Spirit to not only survive, but to thrive, and to love others more than I ever thought I had the capacity to.
It is through God’s amazing grace and a strength that can only be found in Him, that I let go of my self-preservation. I was blessed to receive His glorious grace and immeasurable mercy. The pain from my brother’s death has dulled after more than 20 years now, not because of time, but only because God took it all. He lit His light inside of my soul. He restored my dead heart and lifted me out of a pit of damaged emotions that I had become accustomed to.
I am not just a changed person; I am new. I am a cracked piece of pottery formed by His hands, and yes, I still have scars and cracks. But those cracks flow with the Water of Life and allow me to pour out my blessings onto others now.
All by incredible the strength and mercy of God.
Heather is currently a student at GCU and a portrait photographer for over 10 years. She is passionate about family life and devoted to her faith in Jesus. She takes every opportunity to give back. She desires to use her creative skills as a photographer, writer, and illustrator to write and illustrate Christian Living books and is currently working on her first novel. She writes stories that inspire others to know and believe their true value and using that value to contribute to a better world for all. You can connect with Heather on Instagram @ heatherjefferson_
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