Love, suffering and recovery
by Jesse Hove
I have fallen in love only once in my life. She was the first girl I said “I love you” to and she had the prettiest nose imaginable. Our dates usually consisted of puddle jumping, playing catch in the park, competing for the attention of chickadees with a handful of seeds by the Bow River and devouring as much food as we possibly could at a local Chinese buffet. It was the greatest time of my life and, compared to genocide, lethal diseases and third degree burns, the suffering I experienced when we broke up is not in the same league. But many of us in the western world do suffer in a different sort of way: we suffer from loneliness. We suffer from our individualist society telling us that all our hopes and expectations should be placed in romantic love.
We’re told the “soulmate,” as we often like to describe him or her, will meet all our emotional and sexual needs. Whenever we need connection to another human being, they will be there rescuing us from feelings of insignificance. And when the rescue plan fails, nothing can prepare you for the dark feelings that often emerge; feelings that you are unlovable, that you will always be alone and that nothing on heaven or earth could fix that which makes you despicable.
I had never before understood why a person would want to commit suicide, but in the weeks following the break up, it was a miracle I made it through. Many biblical scholars suggest that the story of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It is a book about suffering. Job is a good person from whom God allows everything to be taken. He loses all his wealth, his entire family leaves him, and he is left diseased and deformed. Job calls out to God, asking why God would let this happen. God does not answer Job’s question, and I think it is because He is trying to tell Job that there are painful realities in life that we will never understand. God instead comes to Job in a whirlwind and asks him if he knows who stops the waves on the shores or who gives Calgary Chinooks every winter.
God does not philosophically explain pain to Job, but instead tells Job that He knows what He is doing and not everything that happens is just about Job. God does eventually restore Job, but even before this happens Job responds by saying, “All of this is too wonderful for me.” Job becomes content and even joyful when he understands the story is not necessarily about him, and he begins to care more about the larger narrative God is trying to tell, even if he doesn’t fully understand what that narrative is. After months of barely eating and rarely shaving, I felt myself recovering from the break up, and I didn’t like it. Wallowing in my own self misery had become a sure thing; it was unchanging and predictable. I didn’t want to respond to the inklings of hope I felt emerging from my soul. But at some point I responded to God’s whisper that it was time to move on, it was time re-enter my story into His grand narrative.