“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
Shortly after I separated from my ex-husband, I began recognizing places all over town that made me overwhelmingly sad; too sad to ever think of revisiting them. Everywhere I turned, I saw another restaurant, park, or theatre that reminded me of the life I had, and the love (I thought) we shared. Once I discovered his infidelity, these places became shrouded in disappointment and sorrow. That’s when I realized by choosing to avoid these places that triggered old memories, I was surrendering to fear. He had taken everything from me, even the restaurants I once enjoyed. Facing and embracing these places became what Reclaiming is all about (see my blog post on Reclaiming 101).
I began making a list of these places in my journal. Soon that list grew into a color-coded spreadsheet I could maintain and update on my phone. (Yeah, I’m that person). When I passed a location (or even thought about one) that pricked my heart in that painful way, I would jot down the name. Every time I felt sorrow associated with a memory with my ex-husband, I put the geographical spot on the list. That place needed to be Reclaimed.
In this way, Reclaiming became something practical I was going to do as part of my healing, I started with the easiest places, then graduated to more challenging ones as my confidence grew (See my practical Reclamation Flowchart).
One of the more challenging places was “Ward 6.” Located on the east side of St. Paul, Ward 6 was a local restaurant that was a convenient and cool date night destination for us. It was close to our house, has amazing food, an excellent beer list, and the most amazing adult milkshakes you’ll ever taste. We frequented it many times. Checking my spreadsheet one day, I just felt “ready” to conquer it. I called a few friends to join me (Check out my blog about Reclaiming Buddies) and we scheduled a time to Reclaim the restaurant.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I began scanning for his car. What if he was there? My accelerated heart rate revealed my fear. I ask my friend to do a quick once-over to insure he wasn’t inside. I sighed in relief; the coast was clear. But I was still afraid. I reminded myself that I could leave if I wanted to. After all, I had already faced other fears like this one and prevailed. Why stop short now? Strength is demonstrated by merely deciding to step back into old memories. At that point, I had already put myself in a place of power over the pain and sadness of his adultery; my pain is never the end of the story. That’s right, I’m a conqueror!
My friends and I found a seat in a familiar booth. I sat in sight of the door just in case. That’s when the stories began. The torrent of memories was overwhelming as I sat with my Reclaiming buddies. Although I was hesitant to begin recounting the stories, that part of the process is always one of the most important steps.
“This is where we sat the night we went to that concert.”
“I ordered that burger the last time we came here.”
“We always shared the fries.”
The memories brought an avalanche of emotions. Like a yo-yo, I rose and fell from anger to nostalgia, excitement to apathy, panic to hope. I tried to express to my friends each emotion in an unfiltered and unapologetic way. They faithfully attempted to follow the meandering path of my nonsensical feelings.
By the time our drinks arrived, and our dinner was ordered, I already felt more intimately bonded to my Reclaiming buddies. Up to that point, I had done most of the sharing; Reclaiming is a little self-centered, but my friends understood that. I took a step back and began to ask about their lives. Although I continued to interrupt with my stories and flooded emotions, everyone else around the table joined in and entrusted the troupe with their own struggles. Openness paves the way for more openness. That’s another fruit of Reclaiming.
My only goal in Reclaiming is to walk away from every pain-reminding place with a new and positive association. Mission Accomplished: When the check arrived, I raised my fist high in the air, and cried “Ward 6 is Reclaimed!”
Yes, I was deeply afraid of returning to Ward 6. What if I saw him there? What if I couldn’t stop crying? What if my friends didn’t understand? What if I just couldn’t do it? All these fears were and are completely valid, but I am stronger than those fears. Romans 8:37 says that I am more than a conqueror with the love of Jesus. That means that with Christ there’s absolutely nothing I cannot overcome; No restaurant, no memory, and no pain of betrayal is greater than the strength I have in Jesus.
I have gone again to Ward 6 since it was Reclaimed. I still remember my experiences there with my ex-husband. But now, I have new memories linked there. Remember, the purpose of Reclaiming is not to eliminate the old recollections, just to reposition them under God’s amazing ability to redefine our lives. Now, I remember Ward 6 as another place in time I decided I would never be a victim to my fears. After all, I am more than a conqueror.