It’s taken me a very long time to get to this point of openness and honesty, and it’s still a work in progress. Ask my best friends, my boyfriend, or my parents: I have been a mystery, fighting off inquiries for a very long time, and I’m just now learning what it means to be intimate and known.
I feel like you’ve been able to see this journey for yourself, as well. I began this blog in 2010 as a new believer, fresh out of sophomore year of high school. My writing was light. A lot of surface-level stuff. I talked about God, about what I thought He might be teaching me. I advised and encouraged. I told stories and created metaphors.
But it was only in this past year that I finally talked about me. I finally showed the world who Jessie Nyland was. And even then, it was just small glimpses, never a full story.
Right now that’s all I really have to offer: small glimpses of who I am.
I’m still discovering who I am for myself. The hardest thing is that I’m always changing, always maturing. How am I supposed to know who I am if I’m different tomorrow than I am today?
But some things remain intact: my past, my hardships mostly.
And there’s something so concrete about myself that I find imperative for you to know:
I come from a line of strong women, but I have lost my own strength in another person and I’m just now getting that back.
This is why I write about women, about being confident and embracing imperfections. It’s because for years I haven’t been confident, at least not confident enough to maintain my integrity and dignity in the relationship I fought both for and against for three long years. Definitely not confident enough to have faith in myself and my worth.
I loved somebody and I ended up losing myself in the process. I don’t think I really knew who I was in the first place, anyway.
This relationship that I coveted and worked for wasn’t good. It had its good moments, but we didn’t really know how to treat each other right. We were both abused and abusers. I knew deep down I was worth more than the way I allowed myself to treated, but I exchanged my strength for cowardice and neediness. And he could say the exact same thing, only vice versa.
He made the move to end things before I had the sense to. It was good for things to end, but I found myself heartbroken and didn’t know what to do with that.
What do you do when the person you thought you were going to have around forever is suddenly choosing to walk away? And nothing you can do or say can make them turn around and come back.
There really isn’t much to do except try to heal.
Here’s what I’ve learned from that awful ordeal: strength is found in God alone.
I thought strength could come from this person. I thought he’d be the one to keep me safe so I relied on him more and more. When I was needing something, he’d be the one I expected to come through– attention, affection, affirmation, everything. But to have one person be your everything… it never ends well. No one can be another person’s everything. Flawed human beings can’t be perfect partners.
But you see, I didn’t understand that.
I thought he could save me. I thought he could do it all. And in my effort to make sure he was perfect, I grasped on to him even tighter, choking him in the process.
He left because I didn’t know how to let him breathe.
I couldn’t let him breathe because I thought he was my life source, my strength, my everything. I was stealing his own chance to live.
If I could go back in time, I would let go of the hold I had over him. I would stop expecting, stop complaining, stop tearing down. I would let him be happy and not make him make ME happy.
And no, I wouldn’t want to fix the relationship; it was broken from the beginning. Unbeknownst to me, our relationship was built on lies. Then there was the manipulation and controlling behavior on both ends that I only recognized in hindsight. We were toxic to each other.
There’s no way I could’ve fixed that. The only thing I could’ve done was left (but I was never really good at leaving). He had to call it quits for both of our sakes. I loathed him for that, but I also secretly envied him after a while. He got to be the strong, cold-hearted dumper and I was left as the pathetic, sobbing dumpee. It felt like I lost my dignity that day. Surely following someone around, begging and bargaining, after they repeatedly tell you to get lost is a sign of a loss of something. Sanity, maybe?
When he did leave and I saw he wasn’t coming back, I then thought strength could come from myself. I thought I could pick myself up from my boot straps and move on with my life. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Sleep was all I could bear to do, and even then I stained my pillows with tears for many nights. Food didn’t seem appetizing, friends didn’t seem encouraging, and everything just seemed to lose meaning.
After three years of having someone around to take care of me, I kind of forgot what it was like to take care of myself.
Time stopped for a few months. I call that time my grieving period.
But after realizing that 1) strength can’t come from him, and 2) strength can’t come from myself, I finally looked for strength in God.
A lot of my efforts to find strength in God looked like me yelling at the sky with tears streaming down my face. Why didn’t you warn me? Why did you let this happen? What can I do to make things better?
And a lot of his efforts to give me strength looked like nothing.
I was still heartbroken and confused. I was still vulnerable and an emotional wreck. I was like a little child throwing a tantrum for four straight months, and it felt like God was a detached Parent watching me from afar, just waiting for me to quit.
But all along, He was doing something. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but he was showing me a better way.
He showed me what a relief it was to be out of that damaging relationship. He showed me the things I so badly needed to escape from, the things that were ignored, excused, or left unidentified for years.
He showed me what love is in the form of pursuit– pursuit by Him and pursuit by the ones who love me most. My parents came and cuddled with me in bed when I couldn’t stop crying. My Grammie bought me a “boo-boo” teddy bear. My friends gave me the typical “you were too good for him” lines. And then when the time was right, that pursuit came in the form of another man, one who’s treated me so well and has been so understanding as I continue to heal from what’s been done and said.
I needed all of that, all of that relentless pursuit. I needed that love from them, the love that I know comes from a strength of their own.
Everyone’s been hurt, but there are those who find their strength again. Again, I come from a line of strong women, and I know it’s because I also come from a line of women who have endured much.
God gave me beautiful people to see me through that brutal time.
He is my strength, I discovered.
Strength is found in God because that’s where true love is found, too. His love gave me strength to move on. His love gave me strength to keep loving. And that very same love is still doing so much in my life, more than I can even see right now.
I’m still on the road to healing. Ask my best friend or my boyfriend and they’ll be able to tell you that I have some things to work through– some insecurities from long ago, some fears I can’t seem to shake off. When you’re in real deep with someone and then that person leaves, sometimes they take pieces of you with them.
But I am fighting for those pieces back. One by one.
I come from a long line of strong women, and I see how they have handled hurt and betrayal, rejection and heartbreak. They made it through, as can I.
I am learning how to hold on to peace from the God-fearing people around me. I am figuring out what love is when I see it played out before my eyes in marriages, friendships, and in the church.
They are my guiding stars, gently urging me back to wholeness (which I know now is really just another word for God’s loving arms).
This is me. Not the whole me, but a pretty large chunk. I’m handing this piece of me over to you now, trusting that it’ll be taken care of and not abused. I’m laying down my pride and shame to share these things because I find healing in letting myself be known.
I’m letting myself be known by you, whoever you are, because I feel free.