The pain of the past

Woman at Target Checkout lineDear sweet woman at the checkout line in Target yesterday, here’s the hug I should have given you.  I’m so sorry I didn’t.

I had to run in Target yesterday afternoon.  The line at check out was crazy long.  There was a quiet older man working our lane.

When it became my turn to check out, I asked him how he was doing today.

He grumbled, Not very good.

I inquired further (like I sometimes do, welcome or not) only to find out that it was work, not his personal life making him miserable.  He was frustrated that it was so busy  and there weren’t more checkers.  He made it very clear that at home, things are peaceful.  He’d been married 30 years and gets to rest at home.  There’s no stress for him at home.

Then in a moment of jest, he said, Why? Are you wanting me to get a divorce?

Everyone in line laughed.  In what had now become a very public conversation, I said, No!  I want you to stay married.  He asked if I was divorced and I said, No.  I’m working hard to stay married.  Then a tall, beautiful older lady further back in the line chimed in.  Stay married. I’ve been divorced 20 years and it still hurts. If he doesn’t beat you or drink the rent money, stay with him.  

I quickly assured her I had zero plans of getting a divorce.

We all had a good laugh and I headed to the car with my purchase.

As I sat down in the driver’s seat though, I couldn’t stop thinking about that beautiful lady.  I wished I would have hugged her.  I wish I would have stopped and waited for her.  She had so much pain in her eyes when she talked about it.

She told us all about it, right there in line.  She’d never remarried.  She had two kids and three grandkids.

She was walking around with a heavy heart, full of pain.  

You would have never known it, passing her in the aisle.  Unless you looked into her eyes.  She seemed content and happy from the outside, yet the pain was still so real that she was willing to talk about it with a line of strangers at Target.

That’s the thing about the past.  

If you let it, it can ruin the present.  It can spoil your future.  The shame, anger, bitterness and regret over experiences or choices can become the story you believe about yourself, instead of just the story of an experience in your past.  It’s easy to let that story play on repeat in your mind.

When that happens, 100% of the time, it will shape your future.

It will guide all the choices you make.  It will frame your worldview.  It will change your parenting, your work, your friendships and your health.

Ultimately, those stories will direct the course of your life.  

If you’re carrying around some old stories today that you know are shaping your life in a negative way, please start talking with someone.

We are designed to heal in the context of relationship.

We were made for connection.  

I don’t necessarily suggest group therapy in the checkout line of Target, but I do suggest you find a safe place.  Maybe a friend, a spouse, a therapist, a mentor or leader from your church.  Someone you know and trust.

It actually doesn’t have to be a big, heavy conversation.  Just start by having more intentional, more authentic conversations about where you are.  The stories will come out.  They’re too pervasive not to.

Sometimes, they’re so much a part of who we are, we don’t even realize they’re there.

At least until a younger woman in the checkout line strikes a nerve.

Carrying those stories is hard work.

Find a friend and start to lay them down sister.

We need you to believe you’re enough.

We need your course set for all the big things you’re meant to do in this world, not staying stuck in a story from the past.

We belong to each other.  

To more love,



  1. love this one Crystal. I needed this message–TODAY actually.

    1. I’m so glad to hear the timing was right for you Michelle!

  2. Such a sweet, touching story. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you Cassy. Of course! Thanks so much for reading.

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