The Space Between

"It was in the small room at Duke University Hospital ... where I had first made the decision that love was worth the pain. That there would be a Kaylyn, a Riley, and a Ben." (Excerpt, The Gift of Ben, Chapter 36)

Shortly after being diagnosed with manic depression at the age of 23, I sat eye-to-eye with a perinatologist specializing in psychiatric disorders at Duke, with one fundamental question swirling in the stale air around us. With manic depression, could I, should I have children? What were the risks? I wanted to have children, a house brimming with laughter and energy. But, had God made me in such a way that would allow for this, and was love worth the pain? I would ultimately decide yes, an answer that would initiate a stream of events forever changing my life.

This Easter was a quiet contemplation for me. A sweet surrendering of mind and body. My heart returned to that fundamental question asked in the dim light at Duke: If you knew ahead of time that you would lose, is love worth the pain? In the Christian tradition, God's son, Jesus, ultimately returned to him through resurrection on Easter. However, some theorize that God did experience the pain of sorrow in Jesus' crucifixion. And, as I sat on our deck Easter Sunday, I remained unsure whether love is worth the suffering one experiences through loss or sorrow.

In a movie I watched recently, high school students sat in a classroom analyzing this concept. They were left to answer questions such as: What does it mean that your heart is missing something? If there is love at first sight and you do not speak, is there something less or more in your heart? Such as with regret. The student answered that there was "something less." I disagree. Whether you are experiencing the loss of a relationship, death, a dream, or anything else, I believe there is more that remains once the ephemeral is gone. Something tangible.

We learn by experiencing the earthly world around us, through experimentation, reading, analysis, observation. But, what if we also learn and grow from the experience of the opposite -- a consummate emptiness? A moment brimming with possibility, swimming in the unknown. For me, loss turned an emotion into a form more real. The deposition of something invisible in concept only, into something solid and strong. I felt as if the vines of love grew to encapsulate my entire body, engulfing me all at once. I fell directly into love, understood it. Felt it in a deeper place. I had actually lived.

What does it mean when your heart is missing something?

It means there is something more, not less. It means that through loss, love grows, bringing with it a truer understanding of life, meaning, and purpose. The space between loss and love brings us closer to God.

Yes, love is worth the pain. In return, we become more real.