99% of me wants this story to be different. 1% of me knows better. And that 1% of me is writing this post.
It's hard not to compare. I've read all the amazing love stories featured here on Danielle's blog for the last two years and I would be lying if I said that I didn't sometimes want to trade mine for one of those. My husband and I will be married fifteen years this summer. And when you start being able to measure the length of a marriage by decades, you start to see the years as if they're flattened together into a big stack, and you can stand back from them enough to see the seasons. Sometimes, I wish our love story was simple and sweet and romantic, one long season of happiness. And at times, it has been. But instead, for about a decade, I longed for love. God knew all I ever wanted was to be loved, and somehow it was the very thing that continued to elude me.
But let me back up. One night, when I was in college, living in an amazing beach house with my two best friends, I remember lying in the dark, curled up on my bed, literally aching from loneliness. I was dating my now husband at the time, and I was certain that getting married - finally sharing our lives - would alleviate that ache. I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that it didn't. We spent the better part of ten years continually trying hard not to disappoint the other person. Naturally. That's what you do with your loved ones. Try hard not to hurt them. But the problem was that we still did. We were broken and immature and not whole.
And how can someone who is not whole themselves fill up someone else who is equally needy?
Around year 11, I remember Valentine's Day. It had gone badly. The scar tissue in our hearts by this time was interfering with each of our abilities to love and be loved. Our relationship was a train wreck. I stood at the bathroom sink, washing my face before bed, and I wept into the water, letting the noise of the water drown out my sobs.
I was past all valiant efforts at fixing this. All the really great ideas that I read in all the really great books had failed. I had prayed everything I knew to pray. I had worked so hard to change things, and I was at the end of myself.
The only remaining choices were giving up, or putting my face into the carpet and asking God what He was going to do with the mess. I chose the latter. And here is where I find myself at a loss for words (and I am pretty much never at a loss for words). Jesus met me there, on the ground. He spoke into my heart of hearts the value and affirmation and love I so desperately needed. He quieted my chaos, covered me with grace, and hid me in the shadow of His wing.
This was over several nights, and through many tears. Just He and I, when everyone else was asleep. He took my hand and walked me to the edge of the cliff where together, we stared into my deepest fears, and He asked, "Do you trust me?" He overwhelmed me with a supernatural love like I've never known, and said, "Do you know that my love is the only kind that can satisfy you, that is able to heal you and make you whole?" And in my heart, with all that I had left, I said, "I do."
It was like reading a book when you think it's that one guy all along who will win her heart, who will be the hero. But suddenly, when you least expect it, a different guy pulls off the rescue. The One for whom she was intended all along. The One she never knew she needed. That is the best kind of love story.
That is the kind of story in which I am the heroine. One exciting part, following my series of nights on the carpet, was when I became totally freed up to love my husband as the regular guy he was because I was whole. I had a God, so I stopped expecting him to be one, to love me in a way that he couldn't. My heart changed dramatically. I can confidently say that Jesus healed my woundedness without a single thing changing in my circumstances. It was nothing short of miraculous, and that work is not over. Jesus is still authoring my story. I still desperately need Him to counsel me, speak worth to me, and bandage every injury to my tender heart. Every day, I try to walk closely with Him.
This love story has little to do with my marriage, at the end of the day. I dearly love my husband, but it was through the love withheld from me that I learned what true love - epic love - really was. Thinking back to who I was early on in our marriage compared to now, I wouldn't alter one page in that story. Yes, it was quite the page-turner, and I didn't know how it would end. I still wonder, to be honest, because the story isn't over. But I am loved with a never stopping, never changing, never giving up love. And I'm a living, thriving part of the adventure for which I was made.
As for my husband, he's a part of his own adventure. His story is unfolding alongside mine, and it is a beautiful one as well. Equally surprising, equally miraculous. It is such a blessing to be married, if only to intimately witness how God's love transforms us from the inside out.
I'm so thankful for the love story I'm in with Jesus and the story He's writing in our marriage. Those are the stories I will always tell.
Leslie blogs at Top of the Page.