When all of your flaws and all of my flaws
are laid out one by one
The wonderful part of the mess that we made
We pick ourselves undone
“Flaws” — Bastille
There’s something about vulnerability (okay, A LOT of things) that I still don’t understand. Like why it’s so dang hard.
Today I was asked why I want to get married, and instead of giving the shorthand answer, “we feel like it’s the next step” or the hyper-spiritual answer, “because God says it’s not good for man to be alone, etc,” I gave the real one.
I want to get married because I know I can’t do as much on my own as I can with Grant. He brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst) and I bring the best out of him (and sometimes his worst). We are compatible — not because we are the same and we perfectly relate, but because he and I are amazed at how many ways we are able to complement each other.
But for some reason, despite the truth of this statement, there’s still so much holding me back in my relationship. I can see the fruit that comes from being vulnerable. I have experienced the warmth of his support and encouragement in times of honest communication. Yet there are some topics I deem “off-limits,” some things I veer away from.
I was discussing how difficult it can be for me to be vulnerable with Grant with my counselor today, and she pointed out that I don’t usually feel this way with my girlfriends. I love sharing all things with my friends; I can be messy and explicit and wear my heart on my sleeve with those people.
With Grant it’s a different story. And it’s a different story because romantic relationships and marriages seem so much more risky to me. They’re risky and frightening because they’re supposed to be permanent, but sometimes they aren’t. Like the time I was dumped by my ex-boyfriend when I thought we would soon be getting engaged. They’re scary because you want them to last, but there are some things out of your control. Like the times I thought Grant and I could instantly resolve arguments and we could both wake up as new people who would stop hurting each other.
I’ve always had the philosophy, “friends come and go, but relationships are forever.” And I know that that’s counterintuitive to those who preach “bros before hoes” and “chicks before… well you know.” But that’s just the way this hopeless romantic has always felt. I’ve always put romantic relationships above friendships. I somehow understood the sacred nature of marriage long before I really knew God’s intent for it.
And here I am — about to get married, about to really put those philosophies into action, about to commit myself to what I deem permanent.
And I’m kinda, sorta terrified.
Because yes… this is for forever.
And what if that thing Grant says he loves about me he no longer loves tomorrow?
What if the stuff I tell him today he uses against me next week?
What if the issues I have now that he says he will support me through will one day end up destroying what we have?
What if the things I ask him to fix for us he never ends up fixing?
But here’s what I’m needing to be reminded of: I will never be able to see my vision for marriage — that beautiful union where each partner learns to bring the best out of the other — if I do not let Grant see ALL OF ME.
How can we grow together in our walk with Christ if I remove him from all things pertaining to my walk with Christ?
How can he encourage me to become my best self when I’m only showing him the parts I think he’ll like or the parts that mistakenly slip out?
If I’m really going to benefit from this union, if I’m really going to have the best marriage I could possibly imagine, I’m going to have to make a choice day after day.
I’m going to have to choose to be seen.
My friends, I know that there are so many secrets we are still holding onto, so many fears we’re still afraid of sharing. We’re embarrassed to admit our weaknesses and we cling tightly to our flaws instead of bare them in front of the ones we say we love.
But how can people love us if they don’t know who we are?
How can people support us if they don’t know where we are weak?
How can people lift us up when they don’t know that we have fallen?
Vulnerability does not come easy for most of us, but it IS possible.
I have to believe that it’s possible; otherwise, why am I getting married? It would all be for nothing. Because no glory can come to God through two people promising partnership when there is no actual partnership. No Christ-like love can be shown through a marriage that is still comprised of two people hiding behind defense mechanisms.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25).
I am making the commitment to submit myself to Grant. This does not mean I am a servant to be stepped on. This does not mean I will no longer be seen. It’s the exact opposite, actually. I submit myself to Grant by allowing myself to be seen, by making myself vulnerable and trusting that he will not harm me.
And if Grant will hold up his end of the bargain (which I believe he will), he will love me with the same unconditional, all-knowing, grace-saturated love that Christ loves me with.
This is what I want our marriage to be founded on — this idea that we can love and serve each other boldly and with vulnerability.
But I have to start making the choice to do so now.
Will you please pray with me as I venture into the unknown, as I lay down my pride and fears and allow my partner to see me as I am?
And today, will you please allow yourself to be seen? Will you let yourself believe that you have things to offer this world, and the world has things to offer to you?
Because life without love, or rather life without vulnerability, is no life at all.
And I want you to live. I want you to live with all you have, with all the gusto you can muster. Love boldly. Love unashamedly. Love wisely. And let yourself be loved in return.
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.
As many of you may know, I spent this past summer in Clarkston, GA as an intern with an organization aimed at aiding refugees in the area and showing the love of Christ. As an intern returnee (I had spent a summer in Clarkston two years before), I was sure this summer was going to be grand. After all, I had been there before and came back with more joyful and God-filled memories than I knew what to do with.
But this summer was not fun for me and I want to explain why.
I should first start off by saying that I didn’t have many meaningful interactions with any of the refugees, which was my own fault and responsibility. I didn’t feel like I contributed very much, except what was expected of me and the little things that needed to get done for the team. My best work was setting out lunch for the outreach teams every day. And I felt a little pathetic as I watched them come back sweaty and exhausted and with good stories to share because I knew that by choice all I did was roll up lunchmeat and cut up carrots. There, I said it.
You see, something not good was in me. Something that didn’t want me out in the community. Something that didn’t want me to give this my all. Something that just wanted to be as far away from where I was as possible.
I was homesick like I’ve never been homesick before. The kind of homesick where any mention of someone’s mom brought tears to my eyes because I missed my own. The kind of homesick where I would go home any chance I could get and then cry when I would have to return.
Don’t get me wrong. Clarkston is an AMAZING place. There’s no other place like it. And God moves in this city. Prayer covers this city and wild things have happened.
But the most wild thing that happened involving me this summer was just how badly I missed my home.
. . . . . .
When I returned home at the end of July, I had a lot of people asking how my summer was. Because I didn’t really know how to explain what happened to me while I was there, I usually just mentioned being homesick and how I was glad to be back.
But here’s the more complete version:
While I was there, I saw myself for who I was.
I saw a daughter deeply longing for her parents and the comfort of home. I saw a romantic counting down the days until she could be back in her best friend’s arms. I saw a girl whose heart was rooted someplace else.
I didn’t know before I left that I would miss my family, my town, my job, and my boyfriend the way I did. I didn’t realize until I left just how precious the things I was leaving behind were. I had no idea that my heart had changed that vastly; it went from wanting to move on from these people and this life just a couple short years ago (maybe even months ago) to wanting to preserve the goodness of it all and never let go.
As I wept for the absence of my mom, I realized I have fallen more in love with my family.
As my soul leaped for joy on the Sunday I was able to visit the middle schoolers I had been leading and loving for two years, I realized I have grown into a ministry of my own.
As the man I love supported me throughout the summer and pushed me to persevere like I never had to persevere before, I knew I have found a good man.
You know that saying, “you never know what you have until it’s gone”?
That was me this summer. And even though most of this summer felt like a waste as I wished for things other than what was in front of me, it also felt like a reminder of who I was.
I am a blessed girl with a heart full of beautiful people.
. . . . . .
But there’s more to the story than just that.
I didn’t just see myself for who I was; I saw my calling for what it was.
I didn’t tell many people why I ended up coming back to Clarkston this summer, but I’m telling you all the truth now: I returned just in case.
I wanted to be sure that there wasn’t a future for me somewhere in there. Maybe that inkling of a missionary’s calling would resonate in my soul again and all would be clear as day. I used to dream of living in the Middle East, swapping stories with women in Arabic and dedicating my life to the heart restoration of the region’s people.
Two weeks in and I already knew — This is not the calling God has for me.
I’ve been afraid of voicing that to people because if you had asked a former version of Jessie, she would say hands-down that that was where she was headed. She was so passionate and determined. I didn’t know how to tell people that it felt like my dreams were changing and God was leading me in a different direction.
I didn’t know that I could be passionate for those things without feeling called to those things.
I know now. This past summer in Clarkston revealed that to me.
Do you want to know where I think my future is headed now?
I believe God has been molding me more and more into a storyteller. A writer.
All summer long I felt the urge to write. I was being inspired left and right and it felt like I didn’t have enough time in a day to make something out of all that my mind and heart was churning with. I longed for peace and quiet, a moment of solitude to get my hands to work so it could craft stories. The writer in me was so anxious, I didn’t know what to do.
(And I just want to take a moment to thank my readers for reading some of the things I birthed during this difficult summer as I was away. I use the verb “birth” because writing required me to push like I had never pushed before. And the result was beautiful. I especially loved receiving feedback on what became my most popular post to date: Christianity Didn’t Fix Me. This summer, I also produced my first post featuring my current relationship and a very important person who you now know as my wonderful boyfriend, Grant. You first meet Grant in When Relationships Are Hard.)
This summer, God continued pushing me towards writing, and after years of guesswork, I finally began seeing more of His calling for my life. And it doesn’t involve a plane ticket; it involves a pen.
. . . . . .
The last thing I want to address about this summer is the stuff that began to surface shortly after I arrived.
I realized while I was in Clarkston that I am a woman of a multitude of wounds. I knew it before, but it had never felt so clear to me until I had nowhere else to run.
Back in January, I knew that this year was going to be a year of healing for me. God said enough is enough. And I guess I finally acquiesced to the idea of letting Him take care of some of this. No more harboring this crap.
And no, in case you’re wondering, being in Clarkston didn’t heal me.
It just showed me how badly I needed it.
It wasn’t pleasant at the time– seeing my weaknesses spread out before me and not having a single idea of how to move past them. Lord, I need you. I painstakingly prayed every day. I didn’t want to look at my wounds in the eye, but I knew it was what I had to do.
And I did. I finally did. Part of facing my past hurt was writing about it, which would explain the darker nature of my posts from this summer. If that made you sad or uncomfortable, I hope you can find joy in knowing that God has been preparing me for greater things and beginning to heal me in several areas. If I hadn’t been in Clarkston this summer, away from my comforts and my home, I don’t think I would’ve been able to see just how badly I needed God to step in.
And He has stepped in.
God did something good with this summer. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it’s becoming clearer now.
. . . . . .
We are in the ninth month of this year. I just celebrated my twentieth birthday and am a month into my third year of college. Time has been passing quickly and there are now things coming up ahead.
I’ve reflected on my summer and now it’s time to look forward to the future.
I don’t know where God is taking me, but I know where I’m hoping it’ll go– a book, an engagement, a full-time job. But regardless of whether these things come to pass this year, I will hold onto this truth: God is good.
Guys, He is so good. I didn’t know if I would make it out of this summer. I knew I’d survive it. But I didn’t know if I would come out of it with my heart still intact.
Well, guess what. I did. And I know God used this summer for His purposes. Sure, my stubbornness and selfishness stood in the way of some potentially great things, but there’s grace for that. I was still meant to be there. I don’t know where I’d be if I had chosen to stay home and not go at all.
I certainly wouldn’t be here writing all of these things now.
Friends and family, thank you for your love and support while I was gone. I truly did miss you.
I wish I had more to offer to you than just this. I wish I could have a handful of awesome stories to share with you about this summer. I wish I did more. I wish I pushed myself harder. Not just for me, but for you. You were cheering me on and I was too depressed and homesick to hear it.
But I hope and pray that after reading this you can understand what this summer meant to me and how it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’m writing this to show you that I made it. I’m back. I’m alive. I’m different.
And there are good things ahead.
Dear friend who just relapsed,
I heard you gave in to the lies again. You were holding out for a while and fighting pretty hard, but the voices in your head just got so loud and you didn’t know what to do. So you caved last night.
And now you’re hating yourself for it. Thinking you were so clean for so long and now it’s all gone to waste. Now you don’t know if you can stop again.
You broke promises to your loved ones. You broke promises to yourself. You broke promises to God.
You feel like the damage is irreparable now.
You feel weak. You feel defeated. You feel selfish and stupid.
But you’re still loved.
My feelings haven’t changed for you. God’s feelings haven’t changed for you.
You’re tired of feeling so weak, but let me tell you that you’re a fighter.
You weren’t defeated. You just lost a battle. But the war doesn’t have to be over. You don’t have to raise your white flag.
I know it’s hard to convince yourself to keep going, but you did it once and you can do it again. You can hold onto freedom. Christ died so you could.
. . . . . .
I’m so sorry you were hurting so bad that you didn’t know what to do but return to your former life. I wish I could’ve been there the minute you decided so I could’ve reminded you just how hard you’ve worked to be okay and how damn much you wanted to be okay.
You want to be okay. And you are.
It doesn’t feel like it right now. But you are.
Today was just one day. It was just one time. And yes, one time can change everything. It can make everything fall apart. It can lead to another time and another and another.
But it doesn’t have to.
You will still be hurting, the ones around you will still be sad, but you will have made a decision that will ultimately save you. If you would only just pick your resolve back up like I know you can.
. . . . . .
Let me remind you of who you are: you are a redeemed child of God. You are important. Do you know the lives you have impacted just by simply being you? By smiling that smile? By offering that listening ear, that compassionate heart? You are special. And that’s not something to be ashamed of. You feel things more deeply than most, and that is simply beautiful. Yes, you are beautiful. You are a beautiful being comprised of gifts and talents and love and grace.
You are also comprised of genes. And I know you hate your genes. You hate your chemical makeup. You hate that it feels like there’s so much crap you can’t do a darn thing about.
But despite the way it feels, it’s simply not true.
You can make a choice. Just like you did that solemn, brave day when you decided you wanted a better life and you knew God could get you there.
You’re not forgotten. God’s still pushing you forward. He has a plan for you, and it doesn’t involve this mess. You can still get there. I promise. God’s holding out his hand and I can be your cheerleader on the sidelines. Just one more step. And then another. I got you.
I love you.
Let me tell you something about my headaches.
I get these things called cluster headaches every now and again, and they’re called cluster headaches because they only come once a year and they often come in a large (and largely painful) quantity.
I wake up with them usually. And it takes me a minute to realize what they are, but once I do, I sprint out of bed for pills and a bottle of cold water. And then I have to run to the bathroom before the pills I just took and the water I just drank are puked up all over the floor. When I am able enough to get up from the bathroom floor, I put a Bed Buddy cold pack on my forehead and drag myself to bed. I usually writhe for a little bit, stop to cry and pray and scream and vomit and whimper. Light kills me. Standing kills me. Even sitting up kills me.
All I can do is just wait it out. Fortunately, cluster headaches don’t last longer than two hours. Sometimes they’re only fifteen minutes long. But the pain is still the same and I have that voice in my head that tells me this is never going to end.
Did I mention that cluster headaches have another name? Suicide headaches. Cluster headaches are considered one of the worst pains known to mankind and having them increases a person’s risk for suicide. Pleasant, right?
I’m explaining all of this to you because I had one this morning. The first one like this in a year. I probably could’ve expected it, but you always hope you never have to have one of those dreadful headaches again. This is my third year and it’s the exact same thing with the exact same thoughts running through my head.
Thoughts like I HATE YOU SATAN AND ALL YOUR STUPID DEMONS AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF GOD AND I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO SEND ALL OF YOU BACK TO THE PITS OF HELL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST.
And then thoughts like JESUS, PLEASE HEAL ME. HEAL ME. PLEASE…PLEASE… PLEASE… PLEASE (and so on and so forth).
And then thoughts like LET ME DIE. JUST KILL ME. I CAN’T DO THIS.
And then thoughts like MY VOMIT TASTES LIKE GINGER ALE.
But you know what I think upsets me the most about these headaches? It’s not that they’re the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not that I can’t stand or sit up or keep my food down. It’s not that I’m wanting to die. It’s not that my boyfriend is seeing this happen to me and has to hold my tangled hair back from my contorted, puffy-eyed face.
What upsets me the most is that I KNOW I have been given authority to command my body to be better and I KNOW God is good and delights in healing His children, but I can’t seem to get either of those things to happen.
My prayers felt powerless coming out of my mouth as the pain remained and nothing changed.
I had absolutely no control.
And that’s a scary thing to me because I almost always am in control (or at least I think I am). I don’t have much of a say in what the world does, but I can manage my own life and my own body and my own health and what I say or do. If I’m sick, I can go to the doctor and get medicine to make me better. If I don’t like a person, I can tell them to leave me alone and walk away. If I’m feeling something too strongly, I can write it out in a blog post or in my journal or in a song.
But today was a day in which I just couldn’t control things. I couldn’t control these bastardly headaches and I couldn’t control these ghastly thoughts and I couldn’t control the demons afflicting me or the God I expected to save me.
THAT is what upset me the most.
And that’s when the thoughts turned into WHAT KIND OF GOD WATCHES HIS CHILD SUFFER THIS TYPE OF PAIN AND NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? WHAT KIND OF GOD HEARS HIS HURTING DAUGHTER’S PRAYERS AND REQUESTS AND DECIDES TO NOT GRANT THEM? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING? ARE MY PRAYERS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
And I wish I could say that He gave me this awesome revelation or I was healed right then and there. But I cried and vomited and rolled around for some time after these things transpired. I am feeling better now, but the healing wasn’t instantaneous and I didn’t walk away feeling as good as new.
But is God still good? Yes.
Do I still have faith? Always.
Do these headaches still suck? You bet.
But do I get through them alive? Every time.
This is not a post about God being cruel. This isn’t a post about how He chose to not heal me when I asked Him to and how that was so utterly wrong of Him. This isn’t a post about how there’s suffering in the world and nothing’s happening about it.
This is a post on time. That one thing NO ONE can control.
God authored time. A clockmaker gets a clock to tick, but whether or not that clock is working, time is still moving forward as we continue to orbit. And God lets this happen because time is HIS and His alone.
Why did I get this headache on a Tuesday morning versus any other day of the week? I don’t know. Why does this happen year after year? I don’t know. Why didn’t my headache go away the moment I called out his name? I don’t know.
And I don’t think I ever will know.
Just like I don’t know why death has to come early for some people and why he waits so many years before giving us the things we’ve been earnestly praying for.
All I know is that God is good and He has been faithful to me even in my wondering and questioning and faithlessness.
His decision to not heal me of my headache instantly is not an indicator of a lack of power or goodness or love. It is rather an expression of his power and goodness and love.
Why would I want to serve and follow a God who does everything I ask of Him the minute I ask it? If He did, I’d be engaged to a man I now know I didn’t have a chance of having a good relationship with. If He did, I would be knee-deep in a career I now know I wouldn’t enjoy. If He did, I would be the most impatient and faithLESS girl in the world.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11:1-2).
The ancients– Noah, Abraham, Joseph, the marchers of Jericho, and many others– were not commended for how quickly their prayers were answered. They were commended for how faithful they remained when there appeared to be no answers. And what joy they must have received when their prayers were not only answered, but God was given the glory! He IS a God of power and goodness and love, they must have exclaimed.
If everything was done their way and in their timing, things wouldn’t have been the same. We would not know such ancients, such faithful warriors and servants of Christ. We would only know quick-fix prayers, which may do good for the body but not for the soul.
My soul has been healed this morning because I am reminded that God is the Master of time and He is a good one.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18-22).
I want to be like Abraham. I don’t want to stare at unanswered prayers and questions with skepticism and halfhearted hope. I want to stare at God, my good and faithful God, and I want to not waver in my belief.
I am persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. And He could’ve given me supernatural physical strength to send that blasted headache away forever, but He chose to gave me supernatural spiritual strength for my soul. That strength is faith. And I don’t see Him as a bad Father for that. No, He’s a very good one indeed.
I am healed.
God is not enough for me.
He IS, but by the looks of my life and a true assessment of my heart, I live as though He’s not.
And It pains me to write that because I so badly want Him to be.
I know that the life I’m living and the life I’m seeking often demonstrates a hidden, subtle insecurity stemmed in the belief that God cannot fill me. He cannot provide me with my needs. He cannot and perhaps WILL not give me the life I desire when I desire it.
And that is a difficult place to be in because I know that’s not how things should be.
I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to love God more than anything (with all my heart, soul, and mind, to be exact). I’m supposed to desire His will above my own. I’m supposed to find fullness and joy in Him, not look to other things or people in this life to satisfy me.
But I’d be lying if I said I am doing any of those things.
There are times when I do love God more. But when I step off of that altar of surrender and worship, life goes on and I find myself whisked away again by love for myself. You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I know my own heart. And I know that a lot of what I do is to fulfill MY wants and needs prior to God’s or anyone else’s.
There are times when I do desire His will first and foremost. I say it in my prayers, most definitely. But if I really did always desire His will first, then I’d stop trying to control my life. I’d stop resisting the work He’s doing in me, the little acts of obedience He has called me to do.
There are times when I am filled with the absolute joy of Christ. It’s like time stops and I’m just caught up in His love and wonderful embrace. But it never lasts. The song ends, the dance comes to a halt, and I’m left waiting for the next punch in the stomach. Or even worse: indifference washes over me.
Sometimes the hardest thing about being a Christ-follower is accepting that some things don’t last. Distractions, sorrow, and frustrations are always lurking around the corner, waiting for me to take my eyes off of Jesus. I feel like I just have to constantly look up at the sky and beg for more: more patience, more focus, more joy, more peace, more EVERYTHING.
What do I do, friends? How do I escape this life of constant longing?
I have no answers. I have a few theories, but I’m starting to think this is how life is. It’s hard, it’s slow. It cycles through various seasons, as do our emotions and relationship with God.
I can beg God to take my desires away, to strip me of all feeling and all longing for the future or for anything besides Him. I can ask Him to direct my eyes to be on Him and Him alone for the rest of my life.
But I don’t think He will.
Part of the reason we are given this life is to BE ALIVE. And being alive involves feeling, wanting, needing (and yes, hurting). The same goes for being alive in Him. These things don’t go away. I actually think they’re amplified. But it’s a good kind of amplification, the kind of volume that you know you want to live your life at forever. You don’t want to quiet the love you feel, the longing for Jesus that is suddenly stronger than anything you’d ever known.
I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was (and still is) alive. He walked this earth. He knew no sin, yet he knew pain. If he could walk this earth now, I’d like to think that he might find me and hug me. He’d hold me close, whisper into my ear and heart, “It’s okay. I know.” I’d stain his robe with my tears, all the tears of longing and wondering and confusion. And I think He’d cherish each of those tears that fell from my eye because He knows they come from a place of desire for HIM.
You see, I am pained by my lack of absolute dedication, focus, and love for God, but that in itself tells me I’m doing something right.
I WANT to want Him.
And sometimes I get that want. Not always. Not completely.
But when I behold His glory and His worthiness… boy, how I want to be with Him and follow Him more than anything else! The thought crosses my mind: He IS enough.
The thought leaves, but it was there. And I will find it again. And again.
That’s all I have to hold on to.
I can’t always fathom how God can be enough for me, but maybe for now that is enough for Him.
He wants me anyway. He beckons me anyway.
And if Jesus were physically here, I think he’d hold me anyway, too.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ … my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16: 2,9-11)
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.