I’ve been studying the Book of Ruth recently. I’ve been drawn to read and study the women of the Old Testament ever since I started this journey with my music. Ruth was next in line in my Women’s Devotional anyway for studying the Bible in a year...I still have not read the entire Bible in one year. I guess my brain needs more time to digest certain things. Did I mention I’m also a mom of a very active 3-year old? I digress.
I truly feel MY story needs to be told in its fullest capacity to really understand where I’m going and where God has taken me thus far. In order for that to happen...I’ll need to dive into my older teenage self and share with you the struggles at that time. We will get there. I promise. Let me tell you a little about Ruth first.
Ruth is a woman from the Old Testament of the Bible. Before Ruth, we have Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law. Naomi’s husband dies in battle shortly after the Battle of Jericho, along with her two sons. Naomi and her two daughters-in-law are left after the tragedy of their husbands’ death. Ruth decides to stay with Naomi in Moab out of loyalty to her mother-in-law. Naomi along with Ruth decides to leave Moab to start a new life in Bethlehem. A new life would not be easy. Here are two women, Naomi and Ruth, headed out to a new village. Ruth is barren, a widower, and a foreigner to this new land. She likely feels very much like the modern day woman of today. She likely feels undeserving and less than. She feels unwanted in a new place. I don’t know how women get these silly little ideas in their heads, but it still happens today. Now, put yourself in Ruth’s shoes. Just imagine if you were in the same situation as Ruth with only your mother-in-law going into an unfamiliar place. How would you feel? Now, let’s head back to my story now that I've set the stage.
It’s fall of 2006. I’m in my senior year of high school. My first love had just broken up with me, due to some personal things that were going on in my life at the time. I was at a very sad time in my life. I missed my friends that had graduated in the class prior to mine. I was really feeling, for lack of better words, less than as a human being. Just like Ruth, I felt alone, abandoned, and just incomplete. To top that, I had been struggling heavily with anxiety since my freshman year of high school. This was also the very reason my boyfriend at the time had just broken up with me. I thought if he wouldn’t accept me, then who would? My standards became lower and lower at that point.
I was heavily made fun of as a teen often for my faith, even by my ex-boyfriend. I’ll tell you though, it was the only thing I could hold on to as I went through teenage years. I remember reading my Bible at the lunch table. It was the thing that would get me through the tough teenage days. That and boys. Somehow, if I was accepted by a very cute boy, I was suddenly worth something. Again, I don’t know how these seeds of thought get planted in our brains as women, but they do. I was struggling to have a relationship with my father as well. We were not nearly as close as we are today, I regret to say. I don’t like telling that part of the story, but I will in order to give a better idea of where I was mentally as a teen. My dad and I are much closer now than ever before and I owe it all to my Heavenly Father for that. This is just where I was at the time. Ladies, what do we do when we are desperate for attention and can’t seem to get it? We look for it in all the wrong places…
Much like Ruth, I was feeling abandoned in a new place of uncertainty with my senior year. I was scared of going to college. The one place I did feel safe in high school was with my marching band friends. Now that the older ones had graduated, I felt even less safe. I was even struggling to get along with many of the ones closer to my age. There was a squabble within my clarinet section about who was going to be the new section leader for the upcoming year. I hated confrontation, so I joined the color guard to get out of the mess. They always looked like they had so much fun...but I even felt out of place and unwanted there.
One night I was warming up before the football game started. I came across this guy who had graduated a couple of years ahead of me. Somehow he ended up in the band room with some other band mates. He looked ragged and worn down with scruff on his face from lack of shaving. He needed some money to get into the football game. Some of us in the band were trying to help him out. I got what little change I had in my wallet and gave it to him with a smile. He looked at me and said “thank you” with a little bit of slurred speech. THAT should have been my first red flag right? I saw him later after the game and felt very sorry for him somehow. “Hmmm, a new project,” I thought. There was something about his chain-smoking, carefree attitude that attracted me heavily to this guy...what attracted me to most guys actually.
Let me just take a moment and address the whole “a good woman can change a fallen man” thing. For me, those seeds were planted when I saw the movie A Walk to Remember based on the Nicholas Sparks book. Even before that, there was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I fell in LOVE with those movies. To me, I was very much like Jamie seeking her “bad boy Landen” to change and come to know Jesus or Belle saving the Beast from his own demise. Let me just say, these are BOTH FICTION STORIES. Yes, it probably does happen, but a woman changing a man out of love is NOT REALISTIC, at least in the journey I have walked. A man can absolutely change, but it is through God’s love and a heart change that it happens. It also takes A LOT of time. HE also has to be willing to make the change himself. HE has to be willing to put in the work.
So, any of you ladies that are sitting around hoping and wishing that your man is going to change because of your love for him...you are most likely wasting your time. You deserve BETTER. ONLY GOD can change that man. If you really want him to change, then lift him up in prayer every day. I’ve been in those situations as a child AND as an adult. I’m here to say...you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. God CAN! You CAN’T. I hate Hollywood for planting these kinds of seeds into young women’s minds. It is not realistic and leads to a path of inner turmoil. If you, as a reader, have had a different experience, I would love to hear your story. This is just where I am today and what I have experienced on my journey.
Even if you have a man that is a saint...you CANNOT change him. Men, you CANNOT change your wife. Parents, you CANNOT change your children. That thing that you hate so much about any of those relationships with people mentioned, you CANNOT change it no matter how much you try or manipulate. Step #1 in Celebrate Recovery’s program states: Realize I’m not God. STOP RIGHT THERE. Read that again. REALIZE YOU ARE NOT GOD. No, the world does not revolve around you. No, you cannot manipulate a person. What CAN you do? Let me give you a quick guide from my own journey:
#1-Accept the situation for what it is. Accept the person for where they are in their own
journey. Accept they are a child of God. Accept they make mistakes just like you
know you do!
#2-If you are being mistreated, abused, or manipulated...set boundaries. A boundary is
defined as “a line that marks the limits of an area.” I highly recommend Boundaries
by Dr. Cloud and Townsend. You can find it at most bookstores. Do
NOT accept mistreatment and abuse for yourself. You were bought with a price with
Jesus’ blood. Remember that and don’t throw it away!
#3-If that person has hurt you in some way, forgive them. Release them of your anger.
Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. You are not God, remember? Jesus died for you
and everyone else on this Earth for a REASON. He forgives their flaws just like He
forgives YOUR flaws and faults. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. This
doesn’t mean that person is getting off scot free. It means, you are letting the Lord
handle things instead of yourself. He WILL handle it as He sees fit. Vengeance is
mine saith the Lord. Their day will come just like yours will. Do you want to be held
accountable for taking their wrongdoings into your hands by holding on to it?
Release it, friend. Do yourself a favor. Release them.
#4-Pray for that person. Even if they are a so-called “saint”. They still have their issues
and need the Lord just as much as anybody. I’ve seen time and time again what
praying for someone’s heart can do for a relationship. Does it always happen how
we hope it will? No. At the end of the day, we are not God’s puppets. He gave
us freewill for a reason. He cannot and WILL not impose himself where He is not
wanted. He is a gentleman. That being said, the person or persons who have
wronged you have to WANT to change. They have to hit some sort of rock bottom
or realization that what they are doing is not ok, and then WANT to change
themself. You, my friend, cannot do that FOR them. If they don’t, that is on them.
WARNING! It WILL HURT. That leads me to my last guide…
#5-Pray for peace for your heart. Pray for God to take away the pain. He loves you
and wants to take away that pain. Just like He rose Lazareth from the dead. Just
like Jesus rose on the 3rd day. Just like he fed the 5,000 with barely enough to
feed 5. HE CAN and HE WILL. But you have to let Him in, friend. Cry out to Him in
anger or sadness, whichever comes first. They are likely to repeat each other
Ok...rant over. I HAD to get that out of my system…Back to my story…
Long story short, this “carefree, chain smoking guy” and I started dating. He had this very coy way about him that I can’t describe. Let’s just say he always knew what words to say at the right time. I felt like I had this secret weapon. I was dating an OLDER guy as a senior. I was dating a very worldly guy at that. I began to have this confidence that I couldn’t explain. It took my mind off of any sort of stress with college approaching or any bullying I might have encountered. I had this older guy I could talk to and confide in.
Looking back, I see that he was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He was very much a pretender, a user, and could easily talk his way out of any situation. You all probably know what I’m talking about without having to go any further. Odds are you have encountered someone like this or have dated someone like this yourself. He also “said” he would change for me. Ladies, isn’t that what we ALWAYS want to hear and see? “You made me want to be better.” Right? Alright, let them get better. Let them walk with the Lord in their recovery and actually GET BETTER. Let them go to counseling and do the work that they need to do in order to deserve what YOU have to offer. I sure wish I had. But then again, if I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this story and inspiring you. Hindsight is 20/20.
My parents saw who this guy was before I did. They saw it a mile away even. I refused to listen to them though. I even broke up with him for a time. But, he seemed like my only chance of getting married and having a family at the time. I also didn’t want to be alone again. That was a miserable feeling I had before. He had also fully convinced me that he was changing. He said he was something on the outside, but on the inside, still the same. They were only words. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When he asked me to marry him at the age of 18, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to be a married woman, have a wedding, and be a mother so badly that I almost didn’t care how. This man made me feel worthy. He made me feel desirable when I didn’t feel that inside. He was also very forward physically. I had gone too far with him in the physical department, and felt an obligation to marry him. It was that or God would not forgive me.
I was in my freshman year of college when we decided to get married. My parents did everything they could to stop the wedding. I was so very angry at my parents for things that I have finally resolved as an adult. This was just the icing on the cake. I was determined to prove they were wrong. Even after we were married one month, I wanted out...but I stayed in order to prove a point to my parents. I was going to make this marriage work. I was still angry at them for divorcing in the first place and hadn’t really let that out. I was going to show them just how to make a marriage to work.
About a year later, I couldn’t hide behind the smiles anymore. I dropped out of college so I could work full time since my new husband apparently “had a hard time finding a job”. True, it was in the midst of the recession. However, he had left out details about a bad job history. It was supposed to be temporary but the situation became permanent somehow. He became angrier and angrier it seemed all the time. He was irresponsible with money. It seemed we always owed some sort of debt. He had unpaid medical bills. We didn’t even have a place of our own. It got so bad that we couldn’t afford my anxiety meds anymore...so I got off of them cold turkey. I got really sick. I remember him telling me that if I prayed more, I wouldn’t need the meds. Also, that I didn’t have an anxiety disorder. It was all because my parents had “brainwashed” me. When it was he himself that was doing the brainwashing.
Now even though he never physically harmed me, he manipulated me and mentally abused me. There was also sexual abuse even though we were married...yes there can be sexual abuse in a marriage. His temper was terrible. There were times when he would get so angry that he would punch a wall...and then have it need to be repaired afterwards. To say the least, things were bad. I stayed for all the many reasons women stay in these situations. 1-fear of the unknown, 2-hope that he would change, and 3-stubborness, and 4-I was told at some point that “good” Christian women don’t give up on their marriage. I didn’t want to, but I knew things had to change, regardless. I just didn’t quite have the strength to walk away yet.
It was almost our first wedding anniversary when I had taken a new job at a new preschool that had opened up. The pay was better plus my mom’s close friend from college was going to be the director. I wasn’t satisfied at the preschool where I was. I didn’t know at the time that my new director, let’s just call her Marie out of anonymity’s sake, would be keeping an eye out for me when I would come and go from work. My mom knew in her gut things were bad in my marriage, but she knew I wouldn’t open up about it. There is one day I will forever remember until the day I die...the day I finally had the strength to walk away. That is where I will leave you until next time friends.