Lately I’ve been revisiting the past few years of my life, seeing how I got from point A to point B, from the girl I was to the woman I am. I’ve thought of the periods of grief, of joy, of growing. I’ve looked back and I’ve seen purpose. I’ve seen God’s hand in every season of my life. I see how He worked out every horrible thing into something good – even if the only good that came out if it was to relate to someone else.
If I were to tell you everything that God’s hand has been in, every bad situation that He turned for the good, it would take writing a book. Instead, I’m going to tell you today about just one area.
Since I was a Freshman in high school I had a tendency to get myself into toxic relationships – not all of them were, but some. It started when I got my first boyfriend. I was fourteen, naive, and honestly just didn’t know that the way I was being treated was awful.
I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do.
I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be talked to like I wasn’t a person.
I didn’t know that I was being manipulated.
I just didn’t know, but when I figured out – with the help of my best friend – that the way I was being treated was not okay, I ended the relationship. And the three months that I was in that relationship impacted me for years.
I then dated someone else and he broke up with me because I stood my ground. Though I was heart broken, I moved on with a sense of dignity.
My Sophomore year of high school I got into a relationship that I was in for nearly two years. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t meant to be. But when it ended, I was heart broken so badly I didn’t know how I would go on; however, though I had been following Jesus for a few years at this point, He truly became my anchor at this time.
Despite that I began to trust Jesus and rely on Him so much more during this season of my life, I still wasn’t truly content in Him. Almost a year after that relationship ended, I dated someone else, someone I really shouldn’t have.
Things were okay at first and then red flags started popping up. I should have left, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be alone. But because I didn’t want to be alone, I allowed myself to be treated horribly.
I set standards and boundaries.
He said he agreed.
Then he pushed them.
I pretended everything was fine.
The stress of dealing with – and hiding – the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred in the relationship left me physically ill.
It got to the point where I wasn’t staying because I didn’t want to be alone, I stayed because I was scared to leave.
Finally, after breaking down and telling my best friend what had really been going on, I ended the relationship.
The aftermath of that first relationship was nothing compared to this one. It left me so broken, so scared, so untrusting, that when I began dating my husband, I was terrified – even though I knew from being friends with him and knowing his character that he wouldn’t treat me like the others that came before him.
If I had to change plans, I prepared myself for the backlash – it never came.
If things were moving too fast emotionally and I told him we needed to slow down, I waited for him to get upset and tell me how stupid I was being – he never did.
He took everything at my pace. He was so patient, kind, and loving. It was amazing – and strange.
He accepted my past and took me as I was.
It was a beautiful display of selfless love.
But it still wasn’t enough.
I was still hurting. I was still scared. I still hadn’t truly given it over to Christ. So for much of the time that we were dating and engaged, I started giving Christ the pieces of my past, and for every piece I gave Him, He returned it with a peace of His own.
I truly forgave.
I truly moved on.
I have been married to my sweet husband for four months now. I am at peace with my past. If it starts to try to work its way to the surface, I remind myself that it served a purpose.
Because of that last, awful relationship I learned what it meant to be content in Christ.
I learned to trust God with my relationships.
And, in a roundabout way, my best friend ended up dating her husband because of it!
One of the most important purposes I have found looking back on this time is the empathy I’ve gained because of it.
When I see someone in a toxic relationship, I no longer wonder critically why they don’t leave.
I look and I know that there are so many reasons why they might not, and it breaks my heart.
I look and I know what it feels like to be treated like you are less than human.
I look and know what it feels like to not know how to get out.
I look and I know that there is hope found in Jesus to heal their brokenness.
This post wasn’t easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for some time. Though I have forgiven, moved on, and healed, it is still not easy to relive; however, it’s still part of my testimony. It’s a part of my life that screams about God’s faithfulness. So I sat down and wrote to share hope. Hope that God works in even some of the worst times in our lives. Hope that we are not alone in these dark times that we’ve gone through. Hope that someone out there understands. And, most importantly, hope that Christ is Lord even in the dark times, and He is the Healer of all broken things – including hearts.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Photo credit: unsplash-logoKristof Rasschaert