Tears stream from my eyes, making my mascara run in black streaks down my cheeks. The sniffles and attempted deep breaths don’t help, and the sobs overtake me as I look at the destruction surrounding me. The ground is bare, bereft of any of the greenery or life that once made it beautiful, and the sky burns red-orange. I wrap my arms around myself, hoping to feel a semblance of an embrace, as I step over the death that covers the land. The first body is extremely recognizable, and I pause as I take in the girl’s form. She’s me. Or she was. That girl no longer exists. Grief, brokenness, and shame destroyed her. The lifeless body is a reminder of that permanent and ever-present death.
In the middle of the battlefield is the largest devastation, and seeing it again causes my sobs to catch and start anew, as if I was seeing it for the first time. It’s my marriage. The marriage I thought I had. The destruction of this was slow, but when it finally fell apart, it felt like a sudden explosion. It was the result of pain. It was the result of two people using weapons they didn’t know how to use, weapons that shouldn’t have been weapons at all. It was internal suffering that neither was prepared to or knew how to express.
A smaller mark just after that reveals a burned pile of memories. They say you shouldn’t burn bridges, I think, but here are all the bridges I burned. I swipe the back of my right hand under my nose. It’s the remains of friendships. They felt the explosion of my marriage. I pick up a few singed memories, the edges of each crumbling away, memories that haven’t quite been destroyed, and dust them off. They’ll take some mending, I think. If they can be fixed at all. Only these handful are fixable, and I mourn those the most.
I creep through the battlefield and take a look back at where I started. I glance down at my feet and think about where I am. Just ahead is another girl, this one younger than the first. Much younger. You were in such a rush to grow up, I think as I stare down at my childhood self. She was forced to give up so much so quickly. The outside world told her to throw away her childish things and start seeing reality. Success is hard won, and naivete gets you nowhere. Nowhere but here, I sigh. But then—she stirs. I gasp and rush to bend down at her side. “Help,” she squeaks, hope still alive in her eyes. “I will,” I promise through sobs, and I hoist her into my arms.
She’s not the last casualty of battle, but she is perhaps the most important. Without her joy, her wonder, and even her naivete, I wouldn’t be where I am. She is a part of me that I can't ignore anymore. Because she is the part of me that reminds me to live.
These sights are painful. My chest physically hurts. They are reminders of selfishness, fear, and deep grief I never wanted to experience. But they are also reminders of growth, of a battle hard won in the middle of a war that is not yet over. They are reminders of moments of crying out to God for safety and release. They are reminders of grace and His faithfulness. Because some things may be destroyed, but new things are growing in their place. How do I know that?
Because I’m still here, and there’s a sprouting field in front of me.