2018: A Year For Hope (Week 29)

Throughout the eight years that I have been blogging, I have shared snippets of my life nestled in posts about faith, hope, and what the Lord has taught me over the years. Then, this spring, I encountered a young woman crying outside of a Big Box store (week 14) that changed the direction of my current blogging. She told me of a recent rape and of the haunting fear she had that the world was falling apart (judging by the nightly news, who could blame her). We spoke, we prayed, and when her dad arrived to pick her up I gave her my phone number and referred her to my blog so that she could read through my story and be encouraged that while some terrible things also happened to me, they did not define me. Neither did her experiences have to define her … God was big enough to walk her through this season and bring her out safely on the other side.

But upon returning home and browsing through some of my older posts, it occurred to me that I’d never really shared my whole story, but rather just bits and pieces. And so starting in week 20, I began writing a chronological summary of my testimony and transformation. Here we are … 9 weeks in and hopefully only a few more weeks to go. Yet before I pick up the story where I left off in 1984, I need to add a few disclaimers:

• Out of respect for the privacy of other people involved (including siblings, children and grandchildren) I am being very selective about what scenes and details are included. Some things just don’t need to be memorialized in writing, but are better shared over a cup of coffee in a spirit led conversation.

• Furthermore, I am trying not to involve family members to any significant degree. Again, some things just don’t need to be memorialized, especially if sharing them would bring discomfort or embarrassment to people that I love. My family members have their own stories to tell, their own testimonies to share. Rather, I am trying to focus on my portion of the events that took place and document my testimony of transformation and healing.

• Finally, I have spent a lot of emotional energy distancing myself from these events. Or more truthfully, releasing and forgetting them. As I have sought to reconstruct details and timelines, I’ve thrilled to discover that my memories are a little blurry. Isn’t that amazing! There was a time when these events were hard-seared in my mind and psyche … and now I’m having difficulty remembering details and timelines! What a gracious and kind God I serve! How grand is His love for me! How immeasurable His ability to go into the deepest places of soul and spirit, identify unhealthy growths of sin and shame, and remove them with the skill of a surgeon!

So with that understanding, I shall continue…..

It was 1984, I was 24, on my 2nd marriage and raising three step-children, and pregnant with my first child. My precious daughter was born that May, and she was to me the most amazing miracle I’d ever experienced. Still is!

For the most part, I was happy. The happiest I can ever recall being, because I finally had a family of my own and someone who would love me forever and always. By this time, “T” and the kids were attending church with me, I was actually leading worship at our little Baptist church (yup, they were desperate!), and my oldest two step-kids had accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. It felt like my deepest prayers had been answered, and while there were some issues … for the most part, I was happy.

Now is where things really start getting kind of fuzzy for me. For it was shortly after the birth of my oldest daughter that my world really turned upside down, and then started spiraling downward. Try as I might, I can’t quite recall the order of events … rather the next few years just sort of clump together in what I will call the pre -“SHE” period

I was not enough
• After the birth of my daughter, we scraped up the money for “T” to fly to South America for a few weeks to visit family. Shortly after he returned, he started pressuring me that we needed to get a Nanny to help with the house and kids. I refused, but that did not stop him from continuing to bring it up on a regular basis with increasing intensity each time.
• We started arguing more. He was super focused on physical fitness and appearance and was always criticizing me because I had put on so much baby weight and didn’t loose it quickly. Of course, I resented being objectified and so the more he criticized me, the more I pushed back. And pushing back against “T” usually didn’t end well, so over time I relented and traded going to church on Sundays with workouts and family soccer games to stay fit. God knew my heart, surely He would understand … especially because it seemed necessary to keep my husband happy and our marriage peaceful.

The family secret revealed
• It was late 1984 or perhaps early 1985 that my dad had been rushed into the ER to try to repair a ruptured aorta. With a very low probably of pulling through, my mom and siblings gathered at the hospital to await the news. Miraculously, he made it! But while in ICU over the next few days, one of my sisters refused to visit him. This really bothered me, and I told her so. That’s when she told my mom about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of my dad as a young girl. That conversation led my mom to talk to my other two sisters, who both told a similar story. Then they asked me…. had dad every approached me sexually? Of course not! (I had the perfect childhood. Remember?)

The ugly side of “T”
• A subtle threat of violence:
o One evening while telling me how frustrated he was with the maneuvering of the mother of his youngest child, he made a comment about arranging for her to have an accident. [Lesson: don’t mess with “T”, he can be dangerous]
o He was relentless when he wanted something. I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but I remember being in our bedroom, and he backed me up against the wall, got about 3 inches from my face with one hand on either side of my head, and yelled on and on and on. I remember trying to get away, managing to get the door opened part way, and with fingers holding onto the door frame and trying to pull myself out while screaming “let me go, let me go” (as if one of the kids might come to save me??). It was pointless … he was stronger and wouldn’t let me go. Eventually, you just had to agree with “T” or it would never end. [Lesson: don’t mess with “T”, he is relentless]
• Integrity is not a virtue:
o I think it might have been after “the secret” came out, but I could be wrong. Anyways, he began to challenge and mock me about my integrity. “I bet you’d even turn in your own brother if he robbed a bank.” (Yes, I think I would … because it’s against the law.). “I bet you’d even turn in me if I broke the law.” (Yes, if you broke the law, I probably would … because you broke the law). The implication was that my adherence to the law was somehow disloyal to family, and as a result I was in the wrong. Family was supposed to trump everything, even the law.
• It’s just sex
o Somewhere along the line, I don’t exactly recall where/when, he began pestering/pressuring me about giving him permission to have sex with whomever he wanted. His logic was simple: It was ME that he loved, but if I couldn’t satisfy him sexually, he wanted me to give my blessing to his finding sexual fulfillment elsewhere. Of course, I refused. If he truly loved me, he would only want to have sex with me. But on and on and on and on he went. Weeks. Months. And again, when “T” wants something, he is relentless. To my utter shame, eventually I agreed on the following stipulations:

1)  I would NEVER know about it.
2) It must be far away, to ensure my children/family would NEVER know about it.
3) He would give me the “ILLUSION” of a happy marriage.

(What a load of crap!)

o While my family was torn apart by the revelation of incest, “T” didn’t seem all that terribly bothered by it. In fact, I remember his commenting once that “Some people would consider it a kindness for a father to teach his daughter about how to be with a man. That it would be better if her first experience was with her dad” and so on. This was fairly soon after the revelation, and I remember yelling “That’s disgusting! Don’t you ever say anything like that again to me! Ever!” He didn’t … but between the subtle and not-so-subtle threats of violence, the shaming for not putting family over lawfulness, the forced permission to let him have sex with whomever he wanted, and now this … What had I gotten myself into?!?!?!

The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”.    puttinghopetowork.com

Just bullet points, but I think you can begin to get a feel for what my life and marriage looked like during this season.

Who Am I
Who Am I

It saddens me to look back and see that I had utterly and completely given “T” the power to determine my value as a human being …  instead of taking my self worth and value from the God who created me.  

I would like to tell you this was the worst of it, but it would be another 4 or so years before I hit rock bottom and left.

But in the mean time, God used the blessings of my two little girls to begin teaching me about His love for me and slowly reshaping my perception of who He is.  I’ll write more of that and continue on in my next post.

Have you ever given (knowingly or unknowingly) another person the power to determine your value/worth?   I’d love to hear a little of your story.

 

 

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 28)

By the grand old age of 20, and after less than two years of marriage, I was on my way to becoming a divorcee. Having married right out of high school, I was making a very modest hourly wage – certainly not enough to live on my own. My parents graciously received me back into their home while I got back on my feet again, and while I’m grateful for their kindness, it was uncomfortable for all of us.

Soon after I filed for divorce, I left my data-processing job at a semiconductor company and I started anew as Receptionist at a small manufacturing company. This was an exciting new environment for me and my strong administrative skills were quickly noted by the President and Sales Manager, affording me several opportunities for advancement within the company. It was also while at this company that I started dating again.

Why is it that after a divorce (or break up of any long-term relationship) we are so quick to “get back in the game”? Under what reasoning do we think that we can process the searing pain, relational loss and likely also some sense of betrayal in a matter of 3-9 months? Where were the counselors to caution me about dating again so quickly? Certainly not at home, for my mom was in full support of my return to the dating world. After all, I’d already “tasted the forbidden fruit” and so naturally I would have desires that demanded to be satisfied again. And isn’t self-gratification more important than taking the time to process your emotions, evaluate the mistakes made, and experience at least some level of spiritual and emotional healing?

I didn’t even wait until AFTER my divorce, I started dating DURING my divorce! Lord almighty! But this is what the world tells us to do … to “Get back up on that horse!”

Try
Colbie Caillat

Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

It was 1980 and I was a young blue-eyed, blond-haired woman-child in the age of “Enjoli” commercials telling me that I could and should have it all; love, career, and financial success. I quickly captured the attention of the two single engineers that worked on the other side of the reception area. They regularly flirted with me and I ate it up. “J” took me on a few dates, but it quickly became obvious that he was only interested in one thing, which by the way he was already getting from his on/off girlfriend. And while tempting, I didn’t want to be used in that way. I’d already had a taste of that … I knew better (or so I told myself) than to go that path again, and so I refused any further invitations from him.

“T” however. Well, “T” was another species the likes of which I’d never encountered before. He was from South America and literally oozed sensuality. He was a smooth operator, but in the most charming of ways. At first he flirted with me from a distance while his buddy “J” had a run at me. He was sizing me up, laying the groundwork.

The women in the office talked about “T”. They said he was a womanizer. They said he had kids in South America and was looking for a ticket to bring them to the US. They said to steer clear of him.

But “T” made me feel attractive and desirable. He admitted he had kids in South America that he wanted to bring to the US. But he also said he had “sown all his wild oats” and that he now wanted to settle down and have a family with a special woman … a woman like me. He told me everything I wanted to hear … everything I needed to hear … and I agreed to go on a date with him.

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley’s message “Three Myths, Part 1, ‘How to make sure next time is better than last time.’” We all experience unpleasant endings in life … job endings, relationship endings, etc. And if we will take the time to evaluate our experiences that led to those unpleasant endings, we just might successfully course correct so that our next time is better than our last time. But that takes energy, honesty and personal responsibility. It also takes time – time to process, time to heal. And when you’re young, who has time for that.

While tempted by “J’s” smooth talking ways, the remembrance of my upbringing and desire to be a “good Christian” helped me to exercise some modicum of self-control. But all that went completely out the window with “T”. I am utterly ashamed of the way I behaved during our first date. Thankfully, mobile phones with cameras hadn’t been invented yet and so no one was able to document our scandalous behavior as I gave way to the torrent of desire that he (12+ years my senior) so artfully stirred up in me. It is by the sheer grace of God that despite his persistent and seductive invitations, I managed to get myself into my car after he brought me back to his place (a small house which he rented with 2 other guys, one who just happened to be “J”). * Sigh *

I clearly remember the image of him in the rearview mirror, wearing a red sweater over a white shirt tucked into well-fitted jeans as he watched me drive away. I said to myself “that man is the devil himself” and then I drove off before I behaved even more atrociously than I already had. I had no idea how true those words would prove true over the course of the next 10 years.

What kind of lies do you tell yourself? What won’t you see because if you saw it, it would derail the fantasy you are trying so hard to live out?

Date number two didn’t end “T” in the rearview mirror. I stayed that night, and a few other nights after that. He asked me to move in with him, and told me he loved me. It was music to my ears, and when I was with him I felt like the most beautiful woman-girl on the planet.

Whereas “M” left me feeling used, betrayed and undesirable, “T” adored me, hungered for me, and promised me the very thing that I wanted more than anything else. A family! He wanted to live with me, for me to be mother to his children (once we brought them up from South America), and he promised to marry me as soon as my divorce finalized.

Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?
Wait a second,
Why, should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing
You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

With our pitiful combined incomes we somehow managed to find a 3 bedroom house to rent and moved in together while my divorce was being processed. I sold my custom made diamond wedding set (to one of my sisters to wear as a stunning pinky ring) and with the funds we purchased airline tickets and flew his kids up. And in preparation for their arrival, my sisters helped me sew curtains out of decorative bedding and turn the little dump we rented into something modestly welcoming and homey. Before the kids arrived, I had made a “welcome home banner” for them, and had their rooms staged with gently used stuffed animals and other yard-sale finds appropriate for their ages. We were going to be a family and I was finally going to be seen, heard, and loved unconditionally.

“KNOWING better doesn’t mean you have the strength, or power, or self control to DO better.” ~Andy Stanley

I had married “T” on my 21st birthday just two weeks after my divorce finalized. Red flags started going off almost immediately, but I ignored them. I had to. Acknowledging that I might have made a mistake would have meant that I’d be alone again, that I’d be a failure again. And my battered psyche just couldn’t handle that. I needed him, because I needed to be needed and he made me feel needed. So when he started disappearing for long periods of time on Saturday mornings, I quickly accepted his explanations that he was just handing out with friends after Karate practice. Sure it bothered me that one of those friends was a woman, but he promised me they were just friends. He loved me!

True, it infuriated me when I saw him knock the legs out from under his 10-year old daughter because she didn’t wash the dishes right … layed her flat out on the floor with a sweeping leg kick. But I yelled at him – told him I’d not put up with that, and he promised not to do it again.

And I was uncomfortable with some of the things that happened between us behind closed doors – but the Bible says that happens ‘in the marriage bed’ is OK, right?

Besides, by this time we had already moved his son and daughter (ages 13 and 10) up, and I had a family to call my own. The voice of shame spoke to me and said “You made your bed, now lie in it.” I obliged.

His Saturday morning delays grew longer, much longer, and eventually he told me about a 3rd child. He had also been spending Saturdays visiting his youngest son who lived with his ex-wife just a few towns over. Well I wanted a family, right? Imagine this … before my 22nd birthday, I was on my second marriage and was now raising a 13 year old stepson, a 10 year old stepdaughter, and a 2 year old stepson on the weekends.

Over the next few years we both experienced some professional success. We managed to buy our first house in 1983, a tiny little 2 bedroom place that was just big enough. And then I got pregnant, a dream come true!! With tremendous excitement for the life growing within me, we flipped that tiny house and moved a little farther out towards the east side of town and into a 3BR 2 BA split level ranch that had a large partially finished lower floor that could be finished off to add 2 more bedrooms. We were in love. We were a family. And we were having a baby. Everything was falling into place, and I was finally going to be happy.

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
‘Cause I like you

Before I continue with my story I want to share this beautiful song by Colbie Caillat called “TRY”, which has an even more powerful video. I’ve listened/watched to it about 10 times while writing this post.

Friends, are you TRYing? Are you TRYing to be what someone else wants you to be, or what you think you should/need to be in to be loved and accepted? Are you TRYing to please your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife? Are you TRYing to please a boss or seeking the approval of a parent? Man or woman, young or old, gay or straight, pause a moment and please hear this. You don’t have to TRY.

You are beautiful.
You are loved.
You are valuable.
You, today, now … just where you are, and just the way you are.
Because Jesus loves you!
Just where you are, and just the way you are.
He doesn’t need you to clean-up, pretty-up, dress-up, or fake-up in order to love you.
He just loves you. And try as you might, you can’t come up with a reason for Him not to love you.
He loves you with a perfect and all-consuming love, today and right now.
In your messiness. In your imperfection.
His arms are open to you, and He is inviting you in.
And as you draw near, if you listen … you will hear Him say this:
“I’ve already paid the price for you, son/daughter. Rest in me. You don’t have to try anymore.”

Two final notes. Last week I shared a preview of my next painting, intended for this weeks post. But it is really more appropriate for next weeks’ post, because it’s in 1984 when things really started to unravel and “The Nightmare that was Mr T” began.

Secondly, while I’m trying to write my testimony in a (relatively) chronological order, I may not have all the timing right and perhaps even misremember some of the details. In truth, I have spent the last 25 years trying to distance myself from this part of my life and so if you notice some inconsistencies between these posts and perhaps something written back in 2014 or 2015, please know that it is not intentional. I’m being as truthful as I can with the details as best as I can remember them.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 27)

 

Please excuse the delay in posting.  With the mid-week celebration of Independence Day, I got a little off track and off schedule.

And also, to be quite honest, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to write this anymore.  Not the blog in general, just my story – my testimony.  Up ’til now, I’ve shared about the childhood I remembered, the aching need for love and acceptance that had me searching for a husband at age 14, and the consequences of making choices based on emotional need.

And that was OK, a little sad at times, but it’s all in the past and in hindsight I can look back, sigh, and say “Thank you Lord that I’m not that girl anymore”.

Call Me Beautiful
by Ginny Owens

I’ve been waiting
For a hero who’s brave and strong
Someone to love me
Someone to tell me I belong
So I pretend I’m satisfied
And I stand watching from the sidelines
Till You pull me into the light
And say “It’s Your turn now
Welcome to your life!”

And you call me beautiful
And say You’ve loved me all along
And you’ve always held the keys to unlock my soul
Oh you call me beautiful

I’m sure you’ve got parts of your life you’re not all that proud of either.  We all do.  But a trusted friend would understand that’s part of your past and not judge you for it.  They’d see you for who you are now.  I’m hoping you will do the same.

In this next part of my story …. well, there is a lot about it that I am ashamed of.  Ashamed of my behavior, ashamed of what I let happen to me, and of what I let happen to those that I love.    And I wonder what will be the consequence and impact of my being so bold as to uncover these details of my past (or the details that are appropriate to share in this type of setting).   Will it shift how people see me in my day-job?  Will some people close doors because they’re uncomfortable knowing this much about me?  Will my honesty have any negative impact on my loved ones?

I know.  That’s all the voice of fear speaking, and I shouldn’t be listening to him.

But that’s a big part of the reason why I didn’t post on Thursday as scheduled.

Instead I painted.  Here is a preview of the artwork for the next section of my story.

The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was Mr. T”  http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

 

Now to breath deeply, pray, and start writing about the worst parts of my life with hope that by doing so, someone might recognize themselves in my story … and more importantly recognize the LIFELINE that is Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

(continuation)

There’s a smile on my face
And a brand new light in my eyes
It’s a new day
And I’ve never felt so alive
I feel as if I could conquer anything
Oh that’s what your love has done for me
And now all I want to be
Is everything you want me to be

And you call me beautiful
And say you’ve loved me all along
And you’ve always held the keys
To unlock my soul, but I didn’t know
Now I can finally start to live
Take those chances I have missed
Things will be much different
Now that I know
You call me beautiful

The story is better than I could dream after all
Now this is reality
To know you and to hear you call me beautiful
Call me beautiful
Now I can finally start to live
Take those chances I have missed
Things will be much different
Now that I know
Now that I know
You call me beautiful

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

Promise Made

When launching Inspire! Art, I made a public promise to charitable giving.

” We believe in giving of our time, talent and treasure.  In addition to free e-color books, every purchase of Inspire! Art products helps to provide free product and/or financial support to programs serving elderly adults as well as children with special needs”.

Last week I spent some time with Sharon Lazerson of Kimball Farms Lifecare in Lenox MA.  Sharon invited me to join one of her “Memories In The Making” sessions, a program of the Alzheimer’s Association internationally used as a tool to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and other similar forms of dementia.  It is designed to give those with impacted cognitive abilities a creative and emotional outlet that could improve self-esteem and focus; reduce isolation and reconnect loved ones by providing a new avenue for communication to tap into new discoveries and past memories.

IMG_20180627_122837906_HDR

So often we think that in order to make a difference, we need to do something “big”.  Not so.

I brought a basket full of Inspire! Art Watercolor Paint Brush Sets, a smiling face, and a listening ear.

Simply by showing kindness and by taking the time ‘to see and hear’ the lives of my fellow art students (instead of ‘see over and dismiss’), I definitely got more than I gave that day!

I’ve got many more sets to donate.  Hope to have another share soon.

#puttinghopetowork #InspireArt #InspireArt_phtw #watercolorbrushpen #watercolorart #sketching #dogoodthings #givingback

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 26)

Emotions are sneaky little buggers! So often they hide behind activities and the general busyness of life, and then when you’re least expecting them – whoosh! They jump out from hiding, completely surprising and overtaking you! It was like that for me this week.

While reflecting on my 14-year old self, my first love, and the heartbreaks of that love I was surprised by a wave of emotion. Or more truthfully, I was surprised by a revelation.

I met “M” at church when I was 14 ½. We were both in the choir, he sang Tenor and I sang 1st Soprano. I can only assume that it was because we met in church and his family was rather well known, that my mother decided it was reasonable and acceptable that I be allowed to date an 18-year-old Senior. What was she thinking?!?!?

While he was technically my second boyfriend, he was really my first (as my “real” first romance only lasted up until the time that he stole a kiss from me during a John Denver concert on TV. I was in love with John Denver and didn’t appreciate the interruption. I broke up with him 2 days later.)

Well if I wasn’t ready for a kiss, I surely wasn’t ready for “M”, nor all the feelings he would awake in me.

I still remember the first time he held my hand. We were riding in the back seat of his parent’s car (I think we were driving to their house for Sunday Supper) and oh so slowly his fingers worked their way closer and closer, until they intertwined with mine on the space of the leather upholstery between us. Fireworks folks!

The first time he took me out on a date, he took me to a French restaurant to impress me. I was impressed alright. I was also hungry as all get out afterwards! I’d never been served such a tiny amount of food for dinner in my life!

He played the saxophone … not as good as Kenny G, but good enough.

In no time at all, he completely captured my heart … and in a slow progression of compromises to my Christian morals, eventually my body.

Now before I go any farther, please understand I’m not writing this post to demonize “M”. There is a natural course of exploration and discovery that every young person will experience, we (he and I) were no different. In hind sight, I do wish my mom had put more of an effort to protect my innocence a bit longer (or at least prepared me for what I would encounter), but hormones would eventually awaken regardless of who I was dating. It is not youthful passion, nor our failure to manage that passion in a way that reflected our professed faith that made us such a mismatch. It was need. Specifically, my desperate need to be loved.

As I shared in a prior post, somehow in the unhappiness of my youth, I had come to the brilliant conclusion that everything that was wrong in my life (the emotional abandonment I felt, the emptiness, the rejection) would be resolved and disappear once I got married.

I would be unconditionally loved … when I got married.
I would be fulfilled … when I got married.
I would be happy … when I got married.

“M’s” strong physical desire for me proved he loved me (right?), and once we married all those sexual “compromises” I had made would somehow be erased from heaven’s record book. Thus marrying “M” became my goal.

Fractured HeartFrom my current vantage point, I can see that the poor guy never really had a chance. For every sexual compromise I made, I extracted a promise from him to make me an honest woman girl by vowing to marry me. And the closer I got to age 18, the more intense the concessions each of us made to secure what we wanted from the other. We married 3 months after my 18th birthday. Unfortunately, all our best days were prior to our marriage. Seems that bullying someone into marrying you (like bullying someone for sex) doesn’t lay a good foundation for a healthy relationship, and we both went into the marriage feeling that we (each of us) were owed some form of restitution from the other for all that we endured on the journey. Disappointments surfaced almost immediately, leading to emotional gameplay. Within a year, he began to confide in a married female friend of ours (obviously more his friend than mine), who graciously offered me some advice on ‘how to please my husband’. Awkward! And of course, I was too clueless (or perhaps just unwilling to acknowledge) the depth of their friendship. I needed to feel loved, he needed sex. Nothing wrong with either of those two desires, and in a healthy relationship they usually complement each other. But our marriage wasn’t built on anything healthy, and I’m certain that had I not badgered him into marriage we never would have married in the first place. We were barely two years into our marriage when he started “working late” with a female colleague. A few months later, I found a Valentines card he’d written to her. Soon thereafter I told him I was going to leave by the end of the month if he didn’t break it off and ask me to stay. Over the course of the next few weeks, he watched me pack, coordinate with family members, and physically walk out the front door of the little house we rented. It was absolutely devastating to me.

Marriage was supposed to fix everything, it was supposed to mean forever and always. And yet there I was, 20 years old and so completely unloved and unwanted that my husband watched me move out without doing a single thing to stop me.

“Off they went to the shores of Loneliness, and Much-Afraid now had to endure a time of dreadful assaults. It is true that her enemies soon discovered that this was not the same Much-afraid with whom they had to deal. They could never get within close reach because she kept so near to Sorrow and Suffering and accepted their assistance so much more willingly than before. However, they kept appearing before her, shouting out their horrid suggestions and mocking her until it really seemed that wherever she went one or another popped up (there are so many hiding-places for them along the rocks) and hurled their darts at her.”
~Hinds Feet On High Places

While considering what to include and what to leave out of the story of my first marriage, I was surprised by the wave of emotion that emerged from hiding to ambush me, revealing that regardless of how many years have passed, not much has changed. I mentioned at the beginning of this post a revelation. Here it is.

My 57-year-old heart isn’t all that much different from my 14 ½ year old heart.

I am still longingly waiting for someone to love me, for my “happily ever after”. And while most days are joy-filled and emotionally grounded in the love I enjoy from friends and family, there are still “hiding places” in my heart where decades old unfulfilled longings cry out in desperation to be satisfied.

The difference is that my name is no longer “Much-Afraid” and I now know that there is only One who can truly satisfy my deepest need to be loved. We have journeyed long and hard together, my Love and I, and I have changed much along the journey. His love has brought healing to the deepest and most desperate places of my soul.

“And now for the promise”, said he, “that when Love flowers in your heart you shall be loved again.” Taking her hand in his, he said, “Behold, I have set my love upon thee and thou art mine. .. yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). After that he said, “Give me the bag of stones of remembrance that you have gathered on your journey..” ~Hinds Feet On High Places

When I was a child, I used to think of myself as being “one half”, that my desired husband would fulfill the role the “other half”, and that together we would make “one”. Now I know that a healthy relationship requires two “whole” people. Sadly, as damaged as I was going into my first marriage, I didn’t become a whole person until long after a second marriage that left me bruised and bloodied. But that’s a story for another week.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love – out of faithfulness I have drawn you close. And so it shall be again, My virgin Israel; I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt. ” (Jeremiah 31:3-4, The Voice translation)

Friends, whatever your marital status … single, married, widowed, divorced … and whatever the condition of your love life, let our prayer be that we would take our deepest need, our most desperate and raw need for unconditional love and acceptance, to our own Good Shepherd, our Abba (Daddy-God). For no matter how wonderful your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife … they are flawed and limited, and it is quite unfair to set that type of burden upon their shoulders. They will disappoint. How can they not?

But there is One who will never disappoint. His Love is without condition and without measure, and able to reach into the deepest cracks and crevices of your fractured heart. He alone can quiet the noises of unfilled longings, and bring joy and peace in the process of transforming you and I from “one half-ness” to “wholeness”.

He is the One, and His name is Jesus.

 

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