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.
From 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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