It’s that time of the year again: a time to love and be loved; a time of romance and friendship. From childhood, women are indirectly taught to wait for a knight in shining armor who will sweep them off their feet, eradicate their distress and they will live happily ever after. Our end all-be all becomes conveniently stumbling upon the man of our dreams in the hopes of attaining wholeness.
Thankfully, this is not that story. My nobleman was not my reward, but rather the loyal compass at my side, always pointing north. I met my husband, Richard, at the lowest, most vulnerable point in my life. Just because I was saved by grace, didn’t mean I wouldn’t fall from it. I wasn’t who I thought I was. In the midst of an identity crisis, filled with shame and anger, I also hated looking at myself-
inside and out.
Before I met Rich back in 2014, I was in a toxic, complicated relationship with a man nearly 20 years older than me. We’ll call him Robert Benson. I’ll spare you the cliché details, but imagine that Lifetime movie where Mr. Benson pursues the office intern, yet is already in a committed relationship with children involved. I know. Could it be any more predictable? What many people do not know is that we are all capable of anything. Even to this day, God is healing its lasting effects.
I have experienced so much loss during the sensitive years of late childhood and into early adolescence. Deeply rooted trauma developed scar tissue so thick that it inevitably became a part of me. It published itself in my heart as my Ultimate Survival Guide. My parents split at the age of 11 and we were kicked out of our home. Followed by years of crashing with friends and family until mom could stand on her own two feet taught us truth that leaves no room for ignorance. Eventually, not only was our family torn, but the remnants of what once was my life-toys and treasures collected and cherished over the years-were quite literally drowned. We moved around so much, I even went to two different schools in one year. We didn’t live in an area long enough to establish community roots or even neighborly friendships. In the beginning, I got to see my father on a bi-weekly basis, but that quickly changed and evolved to the point that I’m lucky if I get to see him once a year now. To put things in perspective: my father still hasn’t even officially met Richard face to face.
Despite all of that, I am thankful for the fatherly figures God placed in my way in the meantime.
Through it all, I did not veer away from the path my missionary parents had taught me. Instead of turning my back on God, I clung to Him even more. However, His grace preserved my faith so well, that I could no longer distinguish who to give credit to. That’s when things became dangerous.
Fast forward to early adulthood, after that year and a half adultery, I completely cut ties with Rob. Things ended like a script: we went our separate ways after he had no more use of me. I was left broken and disappointed in myself. Who was I if I had done the one thing I told myself I’d never do? I wanted no one to look at me-to see that I was just one gentle breeze away from completely falling apart. I spent almost every church service crying. When the wells dried up, leaving me with no tears to spare, my soul became a ghost that sits at the edge of my mind and stares off into the hollow paces of my heart.
Then I met him. He accompanied a mutual, dear friend of ours to my church’s anniversary service. I was too embarrassed, wounded and fearful of condemnation to lean on those close to me for support. I always had it together. I always did the right thing, and even when I didn’t, I always acknowledged my faults. There was pressure to live up to expectations of being the perfect prototype of a “born and raised” Christian with no testimony of addiction, reckless living or exaggerated rebellion. I needed genuine prayer from an unbiased source. It was the Holy Spirit who singled him out among the ministers that night. He kindly fulfilled my request for prayer and we exchanged emails. We didn’t think much of each other after that night. He must’ve emailed me invites to special services at his church for about three months until I finally decided to visit with a friend and fellow brother in Christ. May 29th started our never ending conversation. We texted and called every day since then and have never said goodbye or goodnight. He was an interesting young man-not like any I’ve ever met. He was wise beyond his years and knew exactly who he was and where he was going. He was just the stability I needed at that time of deterioration.
I wish I can say that things were perfect from there-that after a few months of friendship, we began to steadily court and eventually marry with no conflicts or issues along the way. I wish I could say our hearts were open to love and be loved. I wish I could say there were never tears, always laughter, and no insecurities or fear. I wish I could even be able to tell a story where a stranger prophesied that we were meant for each other, melting away all fear. But, the hardest lesson of faith is risk.
We did get married, victoriously on March 19th, 2017, and fortunately for me, the path was rocky enough to violently shatter all barriers and limits on love. Richard knew he loved me way before I even allowed myself to admit that I liked him. He said he saw me through God’s eyes: who I was created to be and not a fragile victim that hauntingly looked back at me in every mirror. I’ve never experienced a love from another human being that was as resilient and relentless as his. The day I decided I did not want to live a life without him was the day I realized I’d lose him too if I didn’t fully let him in. My crumbled heart shifted into my infamous Survival Mode. I constantly pushed him away because of something he said that triggered an emotional flashback and defensive reflex, or simply because of the mental struggle with rotting, demonic lies.
I was able to love him because he nurtured me back to a place of loving myself. I could love myself again because he was God’s pursuant love; living and active in my life. It was no longer this far off, distant idea or intangible concept. While I was a sinner, He still loved me. Richard became my loyal friend, my greatest confidant, my wise counselor, my knowledgeable teacher and my loudest cheerleader. He turned my gaze away from my loss and toward the Rock that is higher than I-my Strong Tower. I am the woman I am because he made the choice to love me where I was and into my queenly position. God, so mindful of me, graciously gave me a gift that transformed my life from dead end to no end through the presence of just one person who was crazy enough to guide my hand back to holding His. Richard wasn’t the destination, but rather a trusty co-pilot that joined along the way, soaring under the shadow of His wings-together.