Twenty-five years ago* a too-young bride of only twenty-four gripped her dad’s arm ever so tightly as they made their way up the church aisle.
Twenty-five years ago that young bride walked towards a life she only thought was in her dreams. Instead she walked straight into a life which very quickly turn into something she would never have imagined.
Twenty-five years ago, a quarter of a century ago…that young bride was me. And that life I ended up living for the next twenty years was — what is the right word? Unloving? Terrible? Heartbreaking? Destructive?
Abusive. Now there’s a word.
That word — abuse — was and still is rather hard to write let alone say out loud.
Abuse after all is about getting beaten, struck, punched, slapped, bruised…right? That wasn’t me, well, except for those rare moments of being pushed aside too roughly as he would brush past me a little too closely. But there were no fresh bruises or any tell-tale signs of healing bruises — my very fair complexion showed nothing more than the freckles lining my arms.
But my heart showed something more.
My heart was bruised and broken from the verbal assault on it. The very depth of my soul ached from being hit again and again with his words hurled at me like stones. Sarcastic remarks hissed in a hurtful often hateful tone, tearing at the very core of who I was. It didn’t take long for me to become disgusted with that person — that person who was me.
“Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”
Abuse comes in many forms and doesn’t always produce visible bruises and wounds. Often times the most extensive damage done is within our souls unseen by others.
Words do hurt.
Words hold great power.
Words have the ability to uplift or destroy. They can bless or curse, show love or hate.
“The tongue has the power of life and death…” ~Proverbs 18:21
Twenty-five years ago I didn’t have a word for what was happening. I just knew it was like living with a bully at times — and I’d endured enough of that in school to know how it felt. Being called names, laughed at and made fun of. It sure felt like bullying yet this was someone who supposedly loved and cared for me more than anyone else.
I would wonder what I was doing so wrong to deserve this type of treatment. But more astonishing to me now, is how I often wondered what I could do to be better so he would treat me nicer.
Now, I’m the first person, and I’m sure not the last to admit I’m not perfect. I make lots of mistakes and am by no means perfect — far from it actually. Although if you were to ask my husband today he would most likely tell you I am perfect — even though he really knows the truth! That’s just how he is. 😉
But even with all my imperfections there was no reason I should have been treated so abusively. Called names, laughed at in front of other people, made fun of for doing something “wrong”, at least according to him. Oh, and my favorite, ignoring me and not talking to me for a day or two. I now know that is called gaslighting and it was a regular part of that marriage.
Yet it wasn’t just the words spoken, it was his actions and looks that often would make me think, “If looks could kill…”
When we should have been on the same side, the same team, it often felt like we stood at opposite ends. Him against me — and he was not about to let me win. Ever. Not that marriage should be about winning or losing, but that is how it was. Him against me. He saw me as a foe instead of a friend. And interestingly, the one time we went to counseling at my insistence, he sneered at me as he got in the car and asked, “Are you ready to go to the fights?”
How often I used to brokenheartedly wish aloud for him to just like me and be my friend.
It was all so crazy.
After he left over five years ago and I did nothing to stop him (much to his amazement), my counselor had simply said to me, “It’s called crazy making.” What he did, is known as crazy making — a part of emotional abuse.
And in that moment when the counselor summed it all up in one simple statement — I wept. A weight was lifted from me and all those years of feeling crazy and having doubts fell away — and the tears began to fall too. Someone had finally named it and in that moment, I didn’t feel quite so crazy anymore.
The feeling I often had of being trapped in a crazy cycle — a never ending spin cycle — all became so clear now. I wasn’t the crazy one. It wasn’t me after all. I wasn’t perfect, but I certainly was not crazy.
Today as I look in the mirror, a woman twenty-five years older and I hope a little wiser, stares back at me — and I celebrate. Not a 25th anniversary celebration, but a celebration of being set free from an abusive marriage. A celebration of survival. A celebration of everything beautiful He has made.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11
Today I celebrate my true love story. The love story of my Savior and me. Oh how He loves me so. He calls me beautiful and wonderful, and He whispers words of encouragement and hope while continually loving on me despite my imperfections. And actually, He chooses not to dwell on my faults much like the amazing man He placed in my path four years ago.
Now there’s a reason to celebrate.
This weekend we will celebrate two and a half years of marriage, just because we’re like that — celebrating every little milestone in our relationship. 🙂 God brought this amazing man into my life at the perfect time as he always does. Just when I was not looking or expecting love, there he was.
This man who unselfishly and unconditionally loves me. Who knowingly sees past my faults and imperfections all the while choosing to love me. Even on my worst days, my most definitely imperfect days, my terrible unlovable days — both my husband and my Savior choose to continue loving on me.
Twenty-five years changes a person.
People will come and go throughout our lives, expectations will often go unmet, and hopes may get dashed upon the hidden rocks in this life called disappointment. But if I’ve learned anything in the past twenty-five years, since that day I held a little too tightly to my now deceased father’s arm, it’s this — the sun will rise each day — even if hidden behind stormy rain clouds on occasion — and life will go on.
It is up to each of us how we choose to navigate the roads laid out before us and how tightly we will hold onto our Father on this journey called life.
As I continue to journey through the life I’ve been given, I choose to give thanks even for the potholes and hold on ever so tightly to my travel companion.
And I choose to celebrate! A celebration of the life I’ve been given and His Grace to see me through.
May you hold on tight and find a reason to celebrate today, and every day!
*It’s now been 28 years ago, what seems like a lifetime ago