I haven’t dated anyone in two years.
Wait…before you pass over that sentence as if it’s not a big deal, let me explain. Over the course of my adult life, my sole quest was to find the person I could paint my story with. The country music song.
You know…supper on the stove, cool evenings spent telling stories on the back porch, and the laughter of my children running through the sprinkler. I desperately wanted that life —and that life included a man coming home at the end of the day.
I did my part. I moved to Florida, found myself a good country-boy who liked to fish and pick at the guitar…and I fell in love.
Three children later I realized I could no longer make sense of our lives together. He had struggled with addiction throughout our entire marriage, and my heart had grown weary of pawn shop receipts and disconnect notices.
This wasn’t the life I had envisioned.
This wasn’t the life I wanted.
So, I left. Good for me. I was strong.
Except I still wanted the back porch swing and the garden. I wanted Sunday picnics and the comfortable conversations two people have in bed at night as they stare at the ceiling together.
I wanted that.
And I set out to find it. Except I was damaged.
Damaged people find damaged things.
Born into a broken family system, I had never seen or experienced the kind of life I was looking for. Years of sexual and verbal abuse as a child, and all the shame and rejection that comes with this kind of trauma, left me feeling completely unloved and unnecessary. This, of course, set the bar pretty low for me as I was looking for a life partner. Anyone who looked at me more than once was a possibility. If you were the least bit kind, I was in love by day three.
This core, childhood trauma led to an array of jumbled and entangled emotions and problems most people neatly layer as “baggage” as they gently close the door behind them while tiptoeing out of the room.
Mine looked like:
Three failed marriages and at least 50 “serious” romantic relationships.
Addiction to alcohol.
Addiction to opiates.
A PTSD diagnosis.
An eating disorder.
Low self esteem.
High levels of anxiety.
Multiple phobias and social disorders.
An inability to make or maintain friendships.
Plus, my faithful companion: that constant, longing ache for unconditional love.
But let’s fast forward, before I get off track.
I haven’t dated in two years.
I haven’t dated in two years.
[Tweet “It’s amazing what happens when you give yourself a chance to breathe.”]
At the beginning of this two year stretch I went to treatment. I did this by myself and for myself. The damaged little girl had grown up into a damaged woman, and after the death of my father I found myself at a place where I no longer knew how to do life. I looked back at all of the wreckage and broken relationships, and the years of drinking to forget about it, drinking to take the edge off, and drinking to mask the pain, and I finally gave up.
After 78 days in an inpatient treatment facility, I started to make baby steps toward healing. The mask was off, for the first time ever in my life.
I was raw. Vulnerable. I no longer tried to cover up the broken places. My relationship with God grew stronger during the next year and a half. I could feel a new me emerging…but there was still so much junk.
I’m not sick…but I’m not well
That brings us to last week. God has been impressing upon my heart to ruthlessly remove everything in my life I’ve been using as a distraction from the pain.
Was I hearing Him right? What pain?
I didn’t have any more pain. I had prayed and gone through healing. I had intentionally and purposely forgiven everyone in my life, even myself.
So, basically, my response to God was confusion.
I didn’t receive a reply, but I agreed. So, for the past ten days I’ve refused to turn to anything as an “automatic response” to uncomfortable or restless feelings. You know what I’m talking about. It’s those moments when you get up from your desk, pace around, go stare in the refrigerator, smoke a cigarette, scroll Instagram for an hour, consider contacting an ex-boyfriend.
You know what I’m talking about.
God began to talk to me about these moments. He told me that’s where my pain lived. Half-believing it and half feeling crazy, I continued to agree with God’s gentle leading. For ten days I did not turn aside to anything besides God.
Feeling listless? Hello God.
Feeling antsy? Hello God.
Aggravated? Oh, Hi God.
Hungry for comfort food? Hi. Here I am again.
Pissed off that I can’t turn to anything else? Hello God.
I did this.
I spent more time with God than I ever have. Leaning on Him. Talking to Him. Not in a religious way, but in a “Okay, here is one of those moments when I walk to the refrigerator like a zombie….Instead I am trusting my emotions to You, God.”
I started to surrender everything, anything.
I did it willingly. I did it unwillingly. I just did it.
Every anxious, worried thought.
Every hurt feeling because someone talked to me wrong.
Every boring, listless, longing moment.
I gave them all to God.
And then something happened
I was driving down the road at some point during this ten day stretch and I saw a house. It wasn’t a great or beautiful house or anything, but I noticed a backyard full of trees, and then I spotted a tire swing as I drove past. Right at that moment I noticed that my heart hurt in a very odd, but familiar way…and I had gotten used to talking to God, so I said, “What is this? What am I feeling?” I didn’t immediately hear anything, so I dismissed it. But I remember wanting something right after that feeling….I wanted something soothing. Something other than God. Something to block it out. But I just kept driving. I was busy that day so I guess I forgot about it.
Until this morning.
I got up. I talked to God. I said out loud, “Thank you for a good day. Thank you for being my peace. You are my source. Thank you for healing me.”
And as I walked into the kitchen I remembered the tree swing from the other day, and there I was…doubled over, with tears I could not stop.
I stood there.
I just stood there and cried for so long.
I cried about all the things I missed. All the things I wanted.
I cried about the back porch swing I never had and the Sunday picnics that didn’t happen. I cried for the little girl in me, and for the children I had raised as a single mom.
I must have cried for an hour. It was like some internal dam had broken and everything I ever held back came rushing out of my eyes.
For a minute I wondered if I had gone crazy.
But some inner part of me knew that wasn’t what was happening at all.
I had spent so much time with God over the past two weeks that I could feel His hand in this.
It was the beginning of a life change.
It was a healing moment. A turning point.
The end of regret
I know there are so many people reading these words who are currently living in a state of longing and regret.
You don’t have to stay there.
I lived for decades in this weird place of pain-denial where my whole life seemed like a series of unhealed wounds half-scabbed over. I had come to the place where I thought to myself, “Okay, well, I can be sober. I can be a normal, respected human who isn’t freaking out or causing family problems all the time…but I’ll always be low-key damaged and in pain.”
But God said no.
He challenged me to hook up with Him…Not just a devotional here or there, or a tidy morning prayer. He said, “Listen. Turn to me. Attach yourself to me. Tie yourself to me like a couple of kids in a three-legged race and I’ll change your life.
[Tweet “God said, Tie yourself to me like a couple of kids in a three-legged race and I’ll change your life.”]
The only thing He required of me was to turn to Him 100% of the time.
A simple requirement.
A big requirement.
It hasn’t been pretty and it hasn’t been easy these last ten (now 11) days, but the pain of my past has been breaking off of me and I know (for the first time in my life) that I’m not keeping something deep in the core of my being. Nothing is stuffed in the corner, under the bed or in a drawer.
I feel light.
I guess that’s because baggage is heavy.
How will I keep this up?
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. —Isaiah 58: 11-12
I cannot provide you with answers that I haven’t experienced, but I do know this;
if I agree to continue,
if I keep surrendering,
if I keep tying myself to my Savior,
if I refuse to let him go,
I will not be disappointed.
And neither will you.
No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame. —Psalm 25:3
Maybe I’ll even have a date this year.