“Hadn’t I wanted this? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life. So why didn’t I see myself in any of it? The only thing more impossible than staying… was leaving. I didn’t want to hurt anybody, I wanted to slip quietly out the back door and not stop running until I reached Greenland.” – Eat, Pray, Love
Well, I didn’t run to Greenland but I did run away to California. I’ll never forget the day I slipped the engagement ring off my finger and said goodbye. We had just nailed down the reception hall and picked out our wedding cake. I had even found my dream gown and set a date for my bridal shower. Everything was set according to plan. All I needed to do was meet him at the altar, but throughout the duration of all the wedding planning, something was seriously wrong. I knew I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t do it. The wedding was off. I couldn’t believe I was actually walking away from someone I truly loved and from something I thought I wanted.
I know a lot of women in relationships where everything seems perfect. Women who are deeply in love, but also deeply in turmoil. I know women in relationships feeling like they are too far along in their love story, beyond the point of no return, so they make excuses for the relationship’s shortcomings. Some of you are taken care of financially and it all looks good on the outside, but spiritually you’re in starvation mode. Others are in relationships that are just so comfortable that you’re afraid to get uncomfortable and make a change. Maybe you don’t think you’re strong enough to leave because you don’t know what your identity would be without him. You see so much potential in the man you love. You’re confident he’ll change one day. You’re sweeping problems under the rug. Here’s my story of how I found my strength to leave something comfortable and nearly set in stone; and put myself in God’s hands instead of a man’s.
Growing up I always thought I was making my family proud by sticking to our family tradition of living at home until marriage and never living with a boyfriend. I wasn’t even allowed to live with my fiancé and I was okay with that because it helped portray us as a Godly couple. As a little girl, I was taught to hope for a prince charming that would respect these traditions and take care of my heart. It was hard to see that my relationship with my fiancé lacked God at all. I mean, we were both Catholic, I attended Catechism starting in preschool, was a peer group leader, an avid volunteer at my church and received all of my sacraments in my church as well. Matrimony would be the final step. We prayed before every meal, and did the sign of the cross before taking a drive. All the outward signs were there. We were doing everything right…weren’t we?
On the surface we looked like the perfectly happy couple. We were following all the rules in our premarital classes at church, but following rules of the righteous doesn’t mean your heart is righteous. Anyone can follow rules, but just going through the motions isn’t the kind of relationship God wants with us. He wants something deeper, and Deep in my heart I knew we were not using God as our relational foundation. I can honestly say that I loved this man more than I loved God. I didn’t even realize all the ways I was putting my relationship with my fiancé first and God second. How could I possibly love a man the way he is meant to be loved if I’m not honoring God first? I didn’t even realize I had put God second. It just happened because I was going through the motions.
It all seemed ok when things were going smoothly, but the problems were exposed when things were difficult. Our explosive and manipulative ways of handling and covering up our problems was an issue. I loved him so much that I just wanted to forget about our problems rather than address them in a healthy way as God calls us to do. To honor and respect your partner is to trust that your mutual love for God will allow problem solving to be productive and effective. You allow bumps in the road to transform into milestones instead. It’s not supposed to be easy to deal with problems, but we shouldn’t run from them! That’s what Satan wants us to do. Rather than seeking God to help us during these difficult times, we became jaded. These are all things that are not of God. 1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us that love is patient, kind, keeps no record of wrong doing, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. I admittedly played my part in not doing these things. I kept record of his wrongdoings and we lost trust in one another completely. Hope and perseverance died a little bit more every day as the wedding got closer. Despite the seemingly perfect blueprint we had, I still found myself feeling insecure and unprotected.
I would have to tell friends and family the wedding was officially off. It was incredibly difficult to explain because of how magical things appeared. My fiancé was incredibly successful, intelligent and selflessly hardworking. I admired the heck out his diligence and still do. Because of his strong work ethic, I wouldn’t have had to work a day in my life and could be a stay at home mom and focus on philanthropy and volunteering my time with charities. It all sounded so amazing and comfortable but, truthfully, I had been in denial of our issues for a long time and kept the truth to myself. This is why our break up came out of nowhere for many and there was a lot of confusion, hurt and anger from those who had invested their hearts and money into our love story. When people began asking me “why?” or “what went wrong?” I just wanted to hide in my room and sleep away the pain and humiliation. How was I supposed to explain how God was not present in our relationship with the perfect picture we had painted around it? I jumped into the Bible more fervently and searching for comfort and peace. Although it was an extremely difficult time, I made it through, and gathered the strength to look for a fresh start. The only thing giving me the strength to pick up and move was Jesus. I was off to California for good.
I’ll never forget the feeling of packing up my stuff into boxes filled with links to my childhood and the safe life I would soon be leaving behind. That’s when it really hit me that I was leaving my future in the hands of God and surrendering everything to Him. This would be the first time I was stepping out of my comfort zone and leaning on our Heavenly Father. “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” in Proverbs 31 was a scripture that really resonated with me and provided solace to my heart. I wanted desperately to be a Proverbs 31 woman who really could laugh with no fear of the future. I had literally gone from what appeared to be a perfectly planned out life to an unpredictable future with many unknowns. I was definitely scared out of my mind, but I relied on Matthew 6:25 which told me “do not worry” and Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you.” These words made my heart smile when my face simply couldn’t.
Little did I know that the “plans” He had for me included a new man just around the corner who I met shortly after my move to Los Angeles. We instantly became best friends and I knew he was an exceptional person with a lot to offer this world – kindness, patience, intellect, gentleness and most of all an open heart for God. We made it a point to make God the pillar of our friendship. Very naturally and effortlessly, he respected and harvested my fragile and healing heart. Eventually our friendship grew into more. Falling in love with this man has been completely God-breathed. This is the type of fairy tale that should be every little girls dream. I know that because he loves God first, he can love me abundantly more than my wildest dreams. Likewise, it’s because I love God more than my partner that I can truly grow into a woman who can love and respect a man as he deserves to be loved.
Now, I can let my guard down and am able to be myself entirely, knowing he’ll love me anyway. There is no covering up or sweeping under the rug, just total transparency and love. Almost daily, he sends me scriptures in the morning and will ask to pray with me before falling asleep at night. He is my leader when it comes to going to church too. It’s clear we aren’t just going through the motions and trying to look good on the surface. Our spiritual connection is deep and unlike anything I have experienced before. I know God placed him in my life to show me true chivalry and that true comfort is having spiritual security over everything else.
It’s been remarkable to experience a God-centered relationship. No matter where our journey takes us, I know he and I will always share a mutual respect for one another simply because we love God so intimately. The guilt and shame I felt from my past dies a little more every day through prayer and by having a man who wants to bring me closer to Jesus. We are not perfect by any means and we make mistakes. Like any couple, we endure tough times and of course, we argue, but it’s not explosive. Instead, he leads us to prayer for problem solving and is incredibly gentle and respectful in the way he talks to me. It has been a true illustration of how God-centered relationships are the real treasure. He stood by my side throughout a long process of healing and self-doubt and has encouraged me to always love God more than I love him. I feel like a princess by the way he treats my spirit, and that’s all the security I need.