I have said more times than I can count that this man who I fell in love with is a good man. And he is.
And yet, there is this one little piece that, if given too much weight, has the power to take me down permanently. (Not something specific he did, just some emotional fallout on my end.)
You see, here is the very brief version of our story.
We communicated long-distance for months. We got along. We clicked. We laid all our bad cards out on the table first, and then revealed the good along the way. We accepted each other. We laughed together. We built each other up. We were good to each other and for each other. It was very sweet, a gift.
And then we met. And we had fun. And it was easy. And I fell harder. And afterward I told my girls that he felt like home.
And then he told me, gently, that he didn’t see a future for us.
I need to press pause here to remind you a bit of my story, or more specifically of two of the three stories (or lies) I’ve been telling myself over and over and over my entire life.
Story: I must convince a man to love me.
Story: Simply because of who I am, I cannot keep a man in my life.
So now – though he outright told me the last thing he wanted me to do was to take this all to mean that I am lacking in any way, which in and of itself was super kind of him to care about – I am in a battle for my heart.
What I choose to do with this recent relationship ending and what I choose to believe is paramount. Will I hold up this circumstance and hold up these two stories and see how they match up, how they seemingly overlay so perfectly, counting it as further proof, evidence that the lies are indeed truth?
Or can I get my heart and mind to truly believe that this isn’t about me or anything I lack?
I was listening to a sermon by Shauna Niequist when she spoke at Mars Hill recently called Change the Story. She talked about how she has told herself since she was a child that she wasn’t strong and capable and that she decided that she didn’t want to listen to that story anymore so she changed that old story by running the Chicago Marathon a couple years back. And how now, when the voice whispers to her, But you’re not strong, remember?, she can stop it and say, I’ve got some beat-up running shoes and a medal that say otherwise. And I get that. And that’s beautiful.
Trust me, I want to tell myself a different story. I would do practically anything to make those old stories of mine up and disappear. With everything in me, I do not want that lie-song that men cannot bear to love me to be hummed over my heart and life anymore. But my reality – my daily ALONE men-don’t-stay reality – is my truth.
And it’s not just that men give me a passing glance and go, nah. I mean men who have gotten to know me, who have held my heart in their hands, who have held me in their arms, have then said NO. Men see me and then they leave me. They say no to who I am as a woman, as a person. I know it’s only been a few men, but it only takes a few men. (AlAnon even says once is just once, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. We’re going on pattern here, people.)
My truth is – my track record is – that I cannot keep a man, one who treats me poorly or one who treats me well. And how do you argue with actual no-men-around-for-miles reality?
Shauna was able to craft a new story for herself that counteracted the old lie. But how do I tell myself a different story other than go out and hunt down a man and beg him to marry me and keep him married to me forever? (But then I’d be corroborating the story that I must convince a man to love me.)
Is there a way to heal this in me and change that story while my circumstances remain the same? While there is nothing I personally can actually do about it? While I now can count several significant walking-aways?
And I know that God loves me. I do. I don’t need to hear what God thinks of me. (I don’t say that disrespectfully or as if I’m discounting the largeness of importance of God’s view of me.) I say that because I know what God thinks of me. I believe what God says about me. (I even teach on all this….I know all of this.)
That he loves me.
That I’m precious and honored in his sight.
That I am enough.
That he sings songs of delight over me.
But he does that with everyone. He feels that way about everyone.
My issue – my wound – is that I believe I was created for partnership. I crave it. (And I very well may never get it.) I crave one man to hold my heart and my gaze and my hand and say…well…whatever the opposite of goodbye is. I don’t even know what that is. (Totally crying right now as I type.)
I want a different story. But I don’t know how to create it or find it.
And so today, I am at a crossroads…what am I going to believe?
Part II…from my journal later that same day…
Are these stories YOUR stories for me? Did you look at me while creating me and think, “Yes, Beth will repel the men that she loves to the point that they will leave her?” No. For whatever reason, you allowed this men-leaving pattern. But I do not believe you initiated it or wanted that as one of my stories.
I think you want me to lay my craving for a man’s love and affection and affirmation down.
I think you want me to lay my desire for partnership down.
I think you don’t want me to care about what ____ or ____ or ____ or ____ think about me.
I think you want me to believe what I teach and write.
I think you want me to look at myself gently and with such grace and to try to see myself the way you see me.
I think you want me to feel beautiful and enough and hopeful and loved.
I think you want me to only care what you think of me.
I think you want me to finally, once and for all, daily, over and over, find my identity in you and not in a relationship or a role or my work.
I think you want me to stop trying so hard and to just let it all go.
I think you want me to rest.
I think you want to heal me.
I think you want me to be whole.
I think you want me free.
Lord, may it be so.
Sweet one, what old lie do you need to refute? What new story do you need to start telling yourself?
If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.
Beth, excellent as usual. Am I allowed to copy a little excerpt into my personal journal?
Yes, Vera, of course…please do so. Thank you.
You sure weren’t reading my mind when you wrote this? Except for the recent heart break?
Leona, pretty sure. 🙂 -Elisabeth
Elisabeth, I could have written this exactly for myself – these words are exactly what is in my heart about myself. Thanks for the courage to wrtite it for you and for us.
Joyce, thank you for saying that. I never know really if when I write something, let alone something so intimate, if people are just going to think I’m nuts. I appreciate the affirmation. -Elisabeth
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me today. I have those exact same lies/stories running through my head daily. I am very lonely and crave that partnership, too. I know in my head that my value is found in Christ, but my heart just doesn’t feel it most days. Thank you for sharing your journey. “Lord, may it be so.” Very powerful.
You are not alone, Angie. Thanks for reading and commenting! -Elisabeth
I love this post…you put beautifully into words how I feel as I end my 2nd year of being alone (not totally alone…I have two amazing teenagers and family and friends…but alone in my bed at night and in the place in my heart that yearns for an earthly man to love and cherish me and for me to do the same). I feel very much like God wants me to rest…to heal…to focus on Him and my children…and that maybe, one day, He will bring me that wonderful person to fill that place in my heart.
Nicole, I love that you know that God wants you to rest and heal. That’s just beautiful. -Elisabeth
God is using you in such a powerful and mighty way to help other women heal….and women like me actually take responsibility for their failings in a marriage and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. With your help and the help of a trusted counsellor who believes in God and that love will conquer all, my marriage is being restored and it will be better than ever. It needed to be because it did not look so good for the past few years. God is at work in me, through you and other faithful people. I know this may not be helpful but if you had not gone through what you did and written what you have…..and if you were not still going through it….who would save so many women and marriages? Thank you for your obedience. Thank you for how special you are. Thank you for putting others before yourself. I am convinced that God has a plan for your life that is GOOD and I pray that will be revealed to you in a mighty way. Bless you Elizabeth
Kathy, you might be the very first person to tell me that with my help, your marriage is being restored. This means more to me than you’ll ever know. Keep reading and keep me posted! -Elisabeth
Wow…I feel like you read my mind…why is it so hard to let go? The lies for me come out of fear. Fear of being alone forever. Although I truly don’t believe God has called that many people to singleness. I feel like in my mind I have let go of the distant outcome and I know God has a plan. I guess I just want it now and to go the way I want it to go. Guess there’s a piece of control still left to give up:) Sigh:)
Ahh yes, control. I have NO IDEA what it feels like to want to control things. (grin) Keep reading, Carrie. -Elisabeth
Dear Beth: Those are exactly what you described: lies. What happens is that we have to replace these with the truth, and the truth is, if you really want it, and you are sure you were made for it, you can do all that is in your power to make it happen– Be open to and working towards meeting new people, heal your heart, and each day become more like the marriable type of woman, improving yourself in order to become a better wife for your future husband. Boundless from Focus on the Family has great articles for singles that deal with those issues exactly, and has helped me a lot to see that I needed to change my view. The problem is that if we think it may not happen, it most likely never will.
This is a really good perspective, Melanie. Thank you. -Elisabeth
Bravo!!!! This has been me so many times. One minute I’m lamenting almost word for word as you wrote here, and then God speaks to my heart (after He lets me lament for a bit) and fully, completely affirms me. It’s a struggle from one minute to the next, but He is in it with me, with us.
He is in it with me, with us…yes, he is. Thank you for the reminder, Debbie. -Elisabeth
I totally agree with all of the “I think You want me to…”. Blessings!
Elisabeth. This is good, so so good. I’m facing this now in the fallout of a break up with a perfectly good man, post-divorce. The break up was his choice, not mine, and I respect him for making a very healthy decision and being mature and not dragging out something that would hurt more in the long run. And I can even see opportunity here for further growth and to heal my heart not just from this break up, but from the baggage I didn’t realize I was still carrying and that I took into the relationship.
I see my brokenness in a new lens because of this relationship. That is a gift. The relationship gave me the time and space to process something that maybe I wasn’t ready to process in the healing and counseling I went through after my divorce.
I am codependent. And I’ve learned that because I felt abandoned by my father, all I’ve ever wanted in this whole wide world is for someone to stick around. (In my head, that means, someone to love me enough even in my ugliest moments to stay and commit to me.) When my marriage ended, the pain was so much greater because I hadn’t dealt with the hurt and lies I learned to believe as a young person because of my father’s leaving. Now I have the opportunity to work through all of that, and to see the patterns that got me into these relationships in the first place, and then the patterns that led me to hurt the other person in the relationship. And most importantly I have the opportunity to truly heal from it all and move forward a whole, healthy person.
But dang, it hurts! And those lies don’t go away overnight. I have to believe that with time, hard work, and surrendering to Jesus, one day I will see that truth and not just know it in my head, but in the depths of my soul.
I know you know all of this, and I’m sure you’ve explored countless resources, but for anyone looking for something to help work through these kinds of issues, I highly recommend the book “Love is a Choice”. It has helped me immensely.