As a daughter of a 1952 Olympic athlete, I grew up knowing that the boys in my household had a destiny, and the girls got to cheer them on. That’s what girls did: cheer the boys on.
I did that cheerleading with all my heart and brought it into my marriage. My husband was a good voice for me as he freed me to do what I felt God called me to do. However, I did not feel comfortable in a role out front. I was much happier being the “wife of” as opposed to being something myself.
I bent into my husband to find meaning and purpose. Who he was made me important. Being part of a dynamic Christian movement made me something. Having grown up a survivor of sexual abuse and date rape, I felt marked as one who did not have worth. I believed I was good only for the pleasure of others, that who I was and what I thought was not relevant, that my worth was in what others could take from me.
My heart was closed to the idea that I was worth something or that my voice had meaning. I wasn’t a victim on the outside; you would never have known that I had any insecurities. I hid those well, even from myself.
When I was thirty-two I stepped into Living Waters and my life forever changed. I found healing in the area of my feminine response. I didn’t have to hide my heart and its responses from others to protect myself. My life was more than the people/men I was in relationship with. That was a new reality for me.
My husband played a big role in me coming out of hiding and sharing my heart. So when he, after twenty years of marriage, said that he wanted to leave, I faced the question: Who am I without him? There I was: not married to a leader, not having someone next to me, single for the first time since I was eighteen years old. My heart was challenged to learn to stand steady in the midst of new trauma.
I had to find my footing in the Lord and know that I had value even if my husband found me lacking. Knowing I had worth even if the dearest person to me walked away was a moment-by-moment battle. It’s not an easy thing, I can tell you, but God is kind if we are willing to walk through the hardships that show up at our doors. I fight for the knowledge that who I am matters, what I think has value and what’s in my heart is worthwhile.
This was a journey I wanted to walk out, and it required walking partners. Letting others into my heart was not an easy thing during those months; it was scary to open up when I was wounded so deeply. Yet I knew that was the only way forward. I needed people, and that was a good thing. God created us to need others.
At that point having other solid voices in my life helped me to see that not all men were bad like those who had wounded me in the past. It was a step-by-step, choice-by-choice and day-by-day reality. Everything seemed to hurt. Every word spoken to me could have been taken as a slight or insult, because when our hearts are wounded it is challenging to see things clearly. This is where we invite others in. I needed trusted others (and it matters that they were trustworthy) to help me process how I was taking in the words and actions of men and women around me.
I did not want to be a bitter woman, and yet I knew it would be an uphill battle. The Lord gives grace if we ask Him. He did for me. I found that bitterness is a root system that Hebrews 12:15 tells us to guard diligently against. I had to look at the ways in which I didn’t want to forgive or let go of the hurt. It seemed too much. I began to just speak, “Grace, grace” to the situation and all its components. That was all I could muster in the beginning. I found myself saying those words every other minute. That is the plain truth.
Then the minutes grew into hours and hours into days. I kept saying, “I trust you, Lord.” I listened to music that encouraged the same. I realized it mattered whom I was allowing to speak into my life. I wanted my heart free from pain and wounding. I knew I had to let go and trust that God knew and would defend me. So I continued to speak grace and forgive those who wounded me. Jesus had forgiven me; I could do no less.
I learned through my ordeal and pain that if I trusted God’s way forward by letting Him and others into the pain, He would be faithful to heal my wounded heart. He did. It has been thirteen years since my husband left, and I can say I’ve never been more alive. I love who I am and the destiny God has for me. I’m a middle-aged, single woman who is pouring herself out on behalf of others. They are finding freedom and so am I. My heart is free, happy and alive. I can fully say, “I’m successful, because God loves me and I love him back.” I want that for everyone!