Once upon a time, I ran. Not just because I was trying to get away from something or out of fear, but I once spent several years running for pleasure. I made daily laps around the track, experiencing the often-reported “runner’s high” along with the satisfaction of having completed a night’s workout.
As I went about my duties the next day at work, I would feel soreness in my legs. It very well could have been that I didn’t stretch them enough, but I felt the aftereffects of the previous evening’s activity. There was slight pain and tenderness involved, but I always regarded it as a “good pain.” As the muscles in my legs were being worked out, they were growing. If I would not have run, I would not have the soreness; hence the old phrase “no pain, no gain.” They reminded me of that accomplishment. I never had to wonder if I had missed the workout.
All of my life, I heard the concept of loving someone so much it hurts but never fully understood it until I started my own family. Along with the love and responsibility I feel for my wife, my daughters also provoke a very strong reaction. These girls arrived in the world not of their own requests, but ours, and so it is both out of love and obligation that I make sure they are not hurt or cold or hungry or in need.
When I think about that love I have in my heart for my wife and daughters, I am struck by how unusually deep and weighty it is. The mere thought of anything interrupting our relationship or causing them distress makes my heart hurt. Having married later in life, I’d learned in some ways to be guarded with emotions. But hearing those first cries of my children made those walls come tumbling down. When they were handled by the hospital labor and delivery staff, I likened that strange feeling to having my heart fully vulnerable and on display. It was beautiful and wonderful and scary and terrible all at the same time.
My leg muscles could be sore because of working them out or because of not using them enough. The same can be said of the heart. If you’re living, truly experiencing life and everything God has lined up for you, you’re going to experience heartaches and pain followed by seasons of joy and happiness. And then the cycle may begin again. Thinking back on those moments that still leave a sore sport on your heart, you can take comfort in knowing that you have truly lived.
When asked if they could go back and change anything about their lives, I have friends who have expressed very different opinions. Some say they would not change a thing, because every choice, every path made them the person they are today. Some mention regrets of investing so much into certain people that betrayed or hurt them in the end. Perhaps their lingering thought is to be determined to love less.
No matter how your life has played out, the pain in your heart reminds you that you have put yourself out there. You have done exactly what God has required of you. You have loved. Whether it led to happiness or emptiness, the loving in itself is the win.