My love story. How do I even begin to share it? It is a daunting dask. You see, my love story is an epic one, at least to me. It is a story of the best gift in my life. A season where I can now see God’s hand on my life, arranging details to show me how much He loves me. As I sit here typing, my mind is distracted by the smell of spit-up on my shirt, the mountain of laundry on the couch, and the whiny little darlings screaming in the background. I doubt I will do this story the justice it deserves in my sleep-deprived state. But I will do my best.
My love story. It begins long before Matt and I even met. Long before I even thought about husbands, or the future. When I was still struggling to survive in the present. I grew up with two parents who loved me despite all the flaws in their marriage (flaws that left deep wounds). And after my dad passed away when I was seven, I was lucky to gain a loving stepfather a few years later who loved me as if I were his own daughter.
Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t be with me always. And sadly, circumstance and bad fortune led me through a dark path. I witnessed and experienced things that no child should, but far too many do. As life went on, open wounds turned to scars to be pricked open and turned to open wounds again. I silently bled forward through life and soon began to sample from every worldly pleasure I could find. Sex, black-out inducing drinking, and other mind-altering substances. But mostly sex and drinking. These became my outlets. Wild parties where I felt as high as can be that hours later led to being a curled-up mess on the bathroom floor, crying, and contemplating adding another scar to the faded ones on my upper thigh, the place on my body where I had chosen to receive the brunt of my self-harm. Have you ever had that dream where you are desperately running towards or from something, but your feet just don’t move, or worse, are sinking into the ground? That is what life felt like for me. Sometimes I felt like I wanted to end it all, and considered doing so on more than one occasion. Not seriously, though. As tempting as it seemed at times, I was never fully committed to the idea. Because underneath it all, I was desperate for life. I thirsted for it, and I searched for it as I crawled from one metaphorical gutter to the next.
Everything changed when I was 23 years old and living in a small town in Texas. On July 2, 2006, I accepted Chirst into my heart, and I was saved! That is another epic tale, but too long to share here. Ask me for coffee sometime and I’ll tell you about it. However, despite being a new creation in Christ, the wounds remained.
I spent two years in Texas being discipled by godly people before moving back home and looking for a church in Phoenix. And here is where the love of my life enters my story. Or as he would tell it, I enter his. As Matt has told me, he remembers the first time he laid eyes on me. I showed up at a young adult group at a local church and I caught his eye. As fate would have it, or God would have it, we both ended up at a small church plant where we were two of the only young unmarried people our age. And as I didn’t have a lot of friends since I moved back, I began to spend time with a few people from the church, including Matt.
After a month of knowing each other, he finally did what he had wanted to do since he first saw me. He asked me out. To mini-golf. Over the phone. I had not dated anyone since I had become a Christian, and the idea terrified me. I didn’t know if I could trust him, but more importantly, I didn’t know if I could trust myself. And on top of all that, hello!, I had only known the guy for a month. What kind of girl did he think I was? I told him I would call him back. And I made the poor guy wait for four hours before I called him back with my response. I gently said no. As soon as I hung up the phone, I cringed with guilt as I logged onto Facebook and discovered that it was his birthday. What kind of guy asks a girl out on his birthday? I had definitely made the right decision turning him down.
As the months passed, much to our dismay, various people in our small church kept trying to play matchmaker with us. But, instead, we started to become close friends. We got to the point where we talked daily and I eagerly looked forward to seeing him. Always just as friends, though. But things started to get complicated. Other girls were showing interest. And was that a bit of jealousy I was feeling at their attention to him? A year of being the closest of friends passed before he confessed that his feelings for me had never faded and had actually grown. It hurt him to feel so strongly for me and know that I wanted nothing more. Friendship just wasnt enough for him anymore. So he put the ultimatum on the table. We would either move forward in a dating relationship or we had to end our friendship. After a long week of praying about it, I realized that I would rather face my fears and move forward than not have him in my life.
As we started dating, I realized how completely oblivious I was to the fact that I also had feelings for Matt, and they were strong. But I was also terrified. In my eyes, Matt was perfect. He was godly, kind, patient, responsible, the list goes on. And, he was pure. I felt tainted and insufficient beside him. I was afaid to move forward only for him to realize how unworthy I was. So about a week into our dating relationship, I shared absolutely every awful thing I had ever done in my life with him. His response: God must love you so much to pursue you through so much darkness to bring you to light. Wow. Was he too good to be true? Possibly. So I told him that, on top of all that, I didn’t like his hair. So he buzzed it!! And that was the type of man Matt was. He bent over backward to love me and prove his love to me daily. And that’s how we were (and still are). Our dating relationship is like the sappiest romance movie you have ever seen. And it was a whirlwind. We were married later that same year.
Marriage. Where the rubber meets the road. Marriage is where love can truly blossom or shrivel up and die. Although I knew that Matt loved me and was completely devoted to me, there was a huge wound in my heart that still ached. The wound was angry and raw, and it contained every insecurity and doubt I had ever felt. But Matt was steady in his love for me. And his love was like a soothing balm on my wounds. And slowly, I healed. Matt became my rock.
Something happend a year into our marriage that changed things. We lost three babies to miscarriage, and I grieved. And in my time of need, for the first time Matt was not what I needed him to be. I was devastated. I cried and I lashed out at God. And Matt dutifully sat beside me, prayed for me, and comforted me. But that was the problem. He was consoling me, but he wasn’t grieving with me. I became angry with him for not being broken with me. And through bitter, loud, and sometime quiet, arguments we discovered something about Matt. He had walls. As I grieved through ocean-deep sorrows, his grieving happend in shallow pools. He just wasn’t capable of experiencing emotion to the same depth as I was. He confessed that he hadn’t even cried since he was about eight years old. There were walls that went up for him to protect him from hurt. My perfect husband, although perfect for me, wasn’t perfect at all. He also had wounds. So we prayed. For months we prayed that God would give him the ability to feel emotion deeply, and all the richness that it brings to life.
One day, months later, we heard a very sad story and I began to tear up. All of a sudden, Matt rushed over to me pointing at his eye and saying, “Look, look!” He had tears in his eyes! We started laughing and praising God together. Matt could cry once again! And I felt gratitude to God for that moment. Because through that moment, He showed me that Matt is not the only one healing me with his love. But I am healing him with mine. That is why I say our love story began before we met. Because as he was being molded to tend to my wounds, I was molded to tend to his.
So here we are, six years into our marriage. We’ve been working hard at loving each other, especially on the days when loving each other is not so easy. We make each other want to be better people. And as iron sharpens iron, so do we. We love each other more every year, and I can honestly say that we were meant to be together. God has shown me so much about Himself through Matt’s love for me and has used him to heal many of my wounds. I couldn’t imagine a better partner for this life I’m living.
Our love heals.