Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lesson #60: Who's More Important?

Today is our four-year anniversary, and nothing is the same.  We’ve gone through seven different jobs, found a church home, graduated from one college, started another college, totaled one car, purchased another car, moved to another apartment, and have been blessed with a tiny human who has yet to make her grand entrance.  All of this has happened since February 21, 2013, but none of these changes are as big as the changes that have taken place in our relationship.  I’ll leave it up to Lyndon to share his journey in our marriage.  I’ve learned oodles of things, but one stands above the rest.

My beauty and my worth are found in my Creator, not my husband.

I was raised in a Christian environment, so from an early age I was taught to find my beauty in God and not in man.  This was preached to me countless times, but it went through one ear and out the other.  I am fully aware that I could have taken matters into my own hands and figured it out on my own.  Looking back though, I desperately wish someone would have taken “impressionable me” and shown me how to find my beauty in Him.  Because I didn't have this foundation, I relied on others to reinforce my twisted idea of beauty.  I needed someone to tell me I was pretty even when I had zits all over my face (even though I wouldn't believe what he/she said anyway).  I would be genuinely upset if no one commented on my appearance after I had meticulously picked everything out and gotten ready.  I felt incredibly judged by everyone who laid eyes on me if my hair wasn't “just right.”  I had been sucked into this endless need for others to validate my beauty and my worth.

Lyndon didn't know me during my awkward years but still got my less awkward years.  He found me, flaws and all, to be beautiful, which I thought was completely unfathomable.  Instead of this reassurance building me up, it only served to pull me down deeper.  There he was, the answer to all of my problems.  If I ever felt down about my appearance or worth, I turned to him for a compliment to keep my head up until I needed him again.  I relied on him for everything, one hundred percent.

About a year before all hell broke loose in our marriage, I began to realize what I had done to our relationship.  My pregnant brain can’t think of the right term other than the “jaws of life,” so it took the “jaws of life” to get me to write it down.  I was terrified of losing him because I knew I relied on him for everything in my life.  If I lost him, would I still know I was taken care of because my God has told me He would do just that?  It took even more out of me to realize that the answer to that question was a resounding “no.”  Lyndon came before God, and I had not only let this happen but encouraged it.
Then that fateful day happened.  The man I relied on to validate my worth confessed to a number of unimaginable, horrific things.  This news would have knocked anyone down, but because I needed him to feel good about myself, my reaction was even more tumultuous.

I was worthless.

I gave my heart to him, and he stomped on it before throwing it in the trash.  Everything good that I felt about myself was founded in him, so what was left to value?  I stopped looking in mirrors because how I looked didn't matter: he had cheated on me.  I wasn't important to him, so why would I be important to anyone else?  He had ruined me, and I had let him.

The days that have followed have not been easy.  This was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I knew I couldn't return to my previous behavior.  I was forced to finally figure out how to find my worth in my Creator and not in the man I married.  Not only was I forced to change but I refused to let this happen again.  He might have been the one who cheated, but I was the one who gave him the burden of my beauty and worth.  Things would have been much different had I not allowed that to happen in the first place.

And so I started a process that I have yet to finish: finding my beauty in my Creator and not my husband.  It took a long time to stop being angry at God.  Why had He sat by and let Lyndon do this to me?  If He loved me, why did He let someone hurt me so deeply?  Where was He in all of this?  I didn't want to work on my relationship with Him because both He and Lyndon had deserted me.  A lot of angry prayers and tears later, and I finally understood: all of this had to happen.  I had become so reliant on Lyndon that He had to show me what happens when I put him before Him.  He knew it was going to hurt me, but I had repeatedly refused to choose Him over Lyndon.  The first big step towards healing that He showed me was finding a book many people have heard of and read, a book called Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.  I have to be honest and say that I still haven’t finished it yet, but that’s simply because the words have been so profound and life-changing.

“He made you you—on purpose. You are the only you—ever. Becoming ourselves means we are actively cooperating with God's intention for our lives, not fighting him or ourselves. He looks at us with pleasure and with mercy, and he wants us to look at ourselves with pleasure and mercy too!”

“God not only accepts us, he embraces us.” 

“Jesus weeps for you and with you, longs for you, hopes for you, dreams of you, and rejoices over you with singing. He is the One who has battled all the forces of hell to free you and who battles still.” 

“And in this beautiful, heartbreaking world, God—the eternal, omniscient, amazing One—loves human beings. Including you. Especially you.  You are amazing.” 

I could quote the entire book; that’s how impactful it has been on my life.  That sounds a bit illegal though, so I’ll refrain.

God is bigger, more powerful, and more beautiful than I could ever imagine, and He delights in me.  He delighted in the women of the Bible and used them for incredible things.  He wants to do the same thing with me.  Why would I need to seek worth from man when He found me beautiful before I was even born?  Admittedly, this is still a process.  My self-esteem remains shaky, but I’m learning to plant its roots in Him and not in Lyndon.  It’s a burden my dear husband was never meant to carry.  I want him to find me beautiful but only because he sees my beauty through God’s eyes.  I want him to find me worthy not because he has deemed it so but because I’m so precious to God.

Despite the deep pain that is still healing, I'm actually thankful that all of this happened.  Our marriage is no longer a lie.  We're more honest and open with each other than ever before.  We're still working on it, but we don't rely on each other when we should be leaning on Him.  Our marriage is slowly changing focus from inward to upward.  I shudder to think of what we would be bringing our daughter into had none of this happened.

Matters have been complicated by this whole pregnancy thing.  It’s changed my hair into an even hotter mess.  Stretch marks are a very real thing.  My calves barely taper off to form ankles.  I wear the same things every week because those are all that fit me.  I look a little different.  It’s been hard work, keeping myself in the right frame of mind.  Lyndon can attest to the fact that I've not always been able to do that.  He’s had to gently remind me that while I don’t look the same, what is happening to me is still a beautiful thing and completely worth it.  A few tears and a few deep breaths later, I’m fine because I don’t hold my earthly beauty as highly as I used to hold it.  This little girl has already changed everything, and I know there are more changes to come.  We’re going to have to learn a lot about being parents, and we’re going to have to teach her many things.  One lesson I refuse to let slip by is how deeply she is valued by the One who made her.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lesson #59: Moving Forward Hurts

It's not all that surprising that I haven't written anything in these past few months.  Honestly, I never was quite good at keeping up with this blog anyway.  In light of this year's events, however, I had wanted to change that.  I suppose I was hoping to track our days, remind myself of good things, maybe help someone else who finds herself in this position.  I sat in front of this screen on many occasions, ready to write something.  Anything.  When it came down to it, the words never came.  The hurt runs deep, and I couldn't figure out how to express that to you properly.  You see, the pain is the same.  Who wants to read that over and over again?  I even had to stop writing for myself because I had run out of ways to say that I'm not okay.

Days have gotten better, don't get me wrong.  Lyndon continues to love me, and we continue to mend our relationship.  I can confidently say that there are now days when I don't think about it at all.  It used to consume my every thought, my every second.  At least I've moved on from that.

There are other days though.  Days when my self esteem is low and one reminder keeps me from looking in any mirrors.  Days when my inability to trust him gets the better of me.  Days when merely seeing something sparks a memory that sends me stumbling down the same dark path I've walked many times.

I intended for this blog to be a fun way to let you all in on our first few years of marriage.  I had wanted to start sharing silly things like recipes and my DIY disasters.  I'd even considered the possibility of sharing our lives when children came onto the scene.  Having a blog like that, even though there are millions that are exactly the same, was something that excited me.

But everything has changed.  I've experienced hurt like I never have before.  I was so looking forward to healing and moving on from all of this.  I never knew healing would hurt this much.