It’s a typical romance: the girl was betrayed in her past, deeply wounded at the hands of another man. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to believe in love after having her heart broken in such a devastating way.
Then she meets a man who’s different from all the other ones. He’s willing to pick her up, restore her heart, and convince her of the reality of true love. Through his faithful love and kind words, she learns to trust again.
And they live happily ever after.
Oh, how I wish this was the way it really worked.
It’d be so lovely to be able to say, “Yes, Grant has healed me. I was betrayed and deeply wounded. I lost all trust in men. I lost all trust in love. But he came into my life and showed me that love is good and still real. He patched up my broken heart and all that was wounded is now as good as new.”
But that’d be a boldfaced lie. Because Grant doesn’t have the ability to heal me. No man does. The lies I believed before falling in love with Grant I still am having to fight today. The wounds I received before him are still not fully healed.
And he’s tried. He really has. He puts forth such gallant efforts, consistently pursuing my trust. Sometimes it even feels like progress is being made. But because he lets me down and makes mistakes at times, like every human on this planet, I end up back at square one.
Fearful. Untrusting. Deeply hurt. Empty and broken.
Recently I’ve had to be hit in the face with the fact that Grant can’t heal me. I’m having to learn that I’ve been doing things all wrong. The things I believed deep down about love and the purpose of relationships have been wrong. They must be wrong. Otherwise, what is God’s offer of healing good for? Why have a heavenly Savior you can’t necessarily see and feel when you can have an earthly savior who seems to do it all and more?
There can be no such thing as an earthly savior.
I trick myself into thinking that all I’m doing by looking to Grant for the things I need is “learning to love again,” but the truth is, I’m trying to make someone make me whole. I’m trying to get somebody just as weak and broken as I am to save me from my weakness and brokenness.
I can’t deny that Grant was my “rebound.” He knows it full well. I had only been out of a relationship for two months when I began dating him, and it’s no surprise I brought a ton of baggage with me. I didn’t give myself the time to properly heal. I didn’t bring my wounds to God and let him take care of me.
Seeking Grant during this time of hurt and heartbreak was a mistake — a mistake I don’t regret because of God’s powerful grace and ability to bring good out of all things, but a mistake nonetheless.
Does that mean my relationship with Grant is wrong and deserving to be cut off? No, it doesn’t. It mostly means we have a whole boatload of problems we both have to deal with — problems that I’ve wasted so much time bringing to his feet instead of Jesus’.
Here’s where the freeing truth comes in (because this does sound quite like a downer, doesn’t it?).
I can’t find healing from Grant, but Grant can help me find healing in God.
He can encourage me to seek the healing I need through his ability to point me to the Cross. He can fight for me with prayer when I’m feeling weak. He can hold me with his strong arms when I feel like collapsing.
Yes, he can do all these things and more, but he cannot heal me.
And if you’re a woman and all of this sounds to you like the most obvious thing in the world because you’ve been told in Christian nonfiction books and countless sermons that men can’t heal you or fulfill you, then good for you. Maybe you really do have it all figured out.
But maybe not.
I thought I had it all figured out, too. If someone had asked me, “Do you think Grant can heal you or fix you or fulfill you?”, I would’ve said with no hesitation, “No way.” I’ve read and heard the truth about man’s inability to make a woman whole many times. Heck, I’ve read Captivating from cover to cover twice in a row.
But there’s a difference between knowing it and accepting it.
No matter how much I knew this hunt for healing from any other source but God would be pointless, I didn’t want to believe it. I still thought there was hope. Doesn’t it sound so romantic to be able to look into the eyes of the man you love and be able to say, “I believe in love again because of you”?
A year later, I finally am accepting that it really doesn’t work that way. After a year of trying to get my act together and pushing Grant more than he ever deserved, I’ve realized that Grant hasn’t fixed a single thing about me. There’s still a whole ton of brokenness. If anything, I’ve been broken even more.
Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Grant is an amazing partner who loves me very much. It’s my skewed idea of what a man’s love can and should do that has led to much disappointment, hurt, and anger in our relationship. It’s because of the lies I haven’t been consistently running to God with that I sometimes believe Grant is a poor lover or untrustworthy partner. What else is this broken, silly girl supposed to think when she hasn’t fully grasped the truth she needs?
The truth is I have been allowing myself to look to Grant for things that he has no ability to give. And I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused in his life because of it.
I’m sharing all of this because I think I’ve finally begun accepting what I so long denied: No one can be responsible for my healing except for God. He’s the only one who can complete the work. He’s the only one who can restore my broken heart.
And maybe you need to be reminded of this truth today, too. Maybe this thing that once seemed so common sense is starting to feel more like a foreign concept to you. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, perhaps you’ve been clinging to a man in hopes of being healed in his arms. Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing from another woman that THIS DOESN’T WORK.
The truth kind of sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?
Yet there’s hope that we will finally learn our lesson and bring our wounds to God for the healing we so long for.
What does this look like in a realistic, applicable way? For me, it looks like not running to Grant for answers or comfort or support before I run to God. This is hard for me to do. It really is. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve woken up from a nightmare and instantly called Grant without realizing. It’s become instinct. But Grant can’t do much from the other line. Sometimes he tells me stories to get me to relax or he’ll pray for me or remain silent as I try to fall back to sleep, but this has become a habit that isn’t beneficial for either of us. I’m keeping him from his sleep and I’m not allowing myself to fight forces of evil on my own.
I’m a daughter of God who has the power to cast away nightmares and all manifestations of darkness, but I’m not choosing to wield that power.
This also looks like not putting such heavy expectations on Grant. I somehow have come to believe that the only way Grant can love me and pursue me is if he’s perfect. This is the saddest, most debilitating belief I can have in our relationship because it makes him feel so inadequate. He tries so hard, yet can’t compete with my idea of what romance and relationships should look like. He has wounds, too, you know. My nagging and complaining and arguing only make his wounds deeper. It’s not his job to cure me of my insecurities. And when I make it his job, I only add onto his.
I’m a daughter of God who has access to a perfect, loving Savior, but I take my expectations and demands to a man who can’t meet them.
I must surrender my desire to feel secure in a man’s arms. This sounds like a beautiful and lovely thing to desire, but it does more harm than good. Grant isn’t always going to be there when I need him. He has work and things to do and a life to live. Oh, how I loathe when he has to tend to other matters. I cry and throw fits at the thought of taking care of myself while he’s gone. And I know this sounds pathetic, but please understand that any pitiful actions I partake in stem from my crippling fears instilled in me from past betrayal and heartache. I’ve told everyone before and I’ll say it again: I’m messed up. I’m in the long process of being healed, but I’m still messed up.
Instead of searching for security with Grant, I should be searching for security with God. He’s the one who will uphold me when no one’s around. He’s the one who will comfort me when I am alone.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:26-27).
Instead of waiting for Grant to heal me, I should be waiting for my true Healer to do his work. Jesus is the one who paid for my sins with his shed blood. He defeated death and darkness. Does this not include the lies that afflict me and the hurt that tries to hinder me?
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken (Psalm 34:17-20).
When I accept these truths, I will finally be able to love Grant in the way I should have been loving him all along: patiently, kindly, without pride or selfishness or grudge-holding. And then Grant, too, will be able to love me in the way he should have been loving me all along: protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering.
I’ve been hindering his ability to love me with my faulty expectations and demands. I’ve been hindering my own ability to receive his love and protection and comfort. I’ve been trying to fill my God-sized desires with a human-sized love. But how much freedom will be had between the two of us when I am able to receive healing from the superior source!
I’m a work in progress, I know that full well. Yet I am still a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I know the wounds I have don’t have to be so powerful in my life anymore. Not as long as God’s in control (and I let him be).
Take heart, my dear lovelies, if you’re anything like me. God is working in your life. He desires healing for your heart. Bring your God-sized desires to God alone. You and I are meant to love and be loved here on this earth, but we can’t afford to forget the source of it all.
We are meant to keep our gaze fixed heavenward as we walk hand-in-hand with the companions God brings into our lives.
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.
The other day I realized one thing I absolutely cannot say I was ever wrong about.
I have never been wrong about loving.
I have never regretted loving a person, no matter how that person has treated me.
And I know not everyone can understand or agree with that because there are some cruel heart-breakers out there. It’s safe to say we’ve all been hurt at one time or other- some emotionally, others physically.
I am no exception. I have been hurt by friends and boys and classmates and family. I have received the devastating effects of loving and not being loved in return.
Yet not one person can I deem as less than worthy of my love. NOT ONE.
No toxic friendship or damaging relationship has made me change my mind on who I ought to love. No deception, heartbreak, betrayal, or fall-out has made me question if I should love the way I do.
Yes, I should have guarded my heart better. But guarding your heart doesn’t mean you don’t feel. I have always welcomed love in my heart because I can’t imagine anything better taking its place.
If God is love and God is alive in me, then that must mean love is alive in me.
And something that is true and beautiful like love can’t possibly be regarded as a mistake. Even if that love was “irresponsibly” given to another without regard to the risks or pain it could bring.
You see, it’s not love that brings pain. It’s how people respond to our love that brings pain.
Does that mean we should stop giving love, then? No. Because to love and be hurt is brighter and more fulfilling than not loving at all.
When we aren’t loving, we aren’t fulfilling our most real and beautiful calling. We aren’t letting God be fully alive in us. We aren’t able to bring fruit into our lives or into anyone else’s.
Love is just about as essential to living as the air we breathe. And so closing ourselves off from loving would be like letting ourselves die.
No, I have never been wrong for loving. PEOPLE have wronged me, but love never has.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:7-19