Isn’t it funny how we go through this world full of people and figure out which of those people is ours? Like, out of the SIX BILLION people on Earth, we just sort of pluck one out of the crowd, look at this person, and say, “You are my Squishy.”
Okay, so you might not quote Finding Nemo to your significant other on a daily basis like I do, but still. You get the idea. How is it that we are able to find the one puzzle piece in a huge mountain of puzzle pieces that fits just perfectly with our own? It’s amazing how God can lead two people, who’ve never known each other before, together and form a relationship that can span a lifetime. Valentines’ Day has never really meant much to me in the past. When I was a kid, it was a day that my grandpa would buy me Spongebob- or Pokemon-themed candy and ask if he could be my valentine. When I became older, I watched my friends with their boyfriends and thought, “Ugh. Gross.” And finally when I became an older teenager and young adult, Valentines’ Day was just another day to me. Honestly, I didn’t understand why people get so worked up over not having a valentine. It really didn’t bother me.
Perhaps that was because I didn’t really understand love. And until you have experienced true love, you can’t really grasp what it actually means. Society likes to tell you that sex = love, the world around you makes a big deal out of flowers and chocolates and giant teddy bears. Fellow students look at you funny if you don’t come to the dance with a date. When I was just a little bit younger, the advice I would have given you would have sounded something like this: “If you don’t have a date, don’t sweat it. It’s not the end of the world. You’re worth more than your lack of a lover.”
And I would still give you that advice today. You ARE worth more than your lack of a lover. It’s okay to not have one. But here’s why: because you are loved far more than you realize. You’re loved by your family, your friends, and you’re loved more than anything by your Creator. Even if having a husband or wife is never in the cards for you, God still has a plan for you. He doesn’t just look at you and go, “Ech. Made a mistake THERE. Hope nobody gets saddled with THAT guy.” God’s not like that.
Did you know that the prophet Jeremiah wasn’t allowed you have a wife? All he wanted was a family but God had more important things for Jeremiah to do. If you read the book of Jeremiah, you see that his job – warning God’s people of the impending doom they were about to witness – was far more important than having a lover. Just because you’re operating on your own doesn’t mean God isn’t with you.
And if you are blessed with finding your soul mate, that’s great too. God expresses His love for us through the people around us. When we find that one weirdo in the crowd of normal people whose weirdness clicks with our weirdness, we begin to see a whole new world of this thing we call love.
For me, I didn’t find that thing called love right away. Sure, I grew up knowing my parents loved me and knowing that God loved me. I’ve even struggled with believing those things were true. When I look at myself, I mean truly look at myself, I’m a yucky person. I have issues with my pride, I can be selfish, I get angry over things that don’t matter. Sometimes I can hate on myself pretty badly. How could anyone love this? I don’t deserve love. So how could I expect to ever find someone who actually loves me?
The relationships I had been in in the past probably didn’t help with that deep-down-darkness inside of me. When I was sixteen years old, I was goofy and silly and bubbly and cute. I would not have called myself beautiful and I probably wouldn’t have even called myself pretty. But I was okay with who I was. The very first person I ever dated was just as goofy as me and I thought we had a lot in common. But he wanted something that I did not want – physicality. Now, I didn’t think he was trying to get into my pants or anything, but he was obsessed with trying to kiss me. My parents didn’t want me kissing and, honestly, I thought the idea of kissing was rather gross myself. It didn’t take long (it actually only took a weekend, officially) before he dumped me. I didn’t really understand why. We’d been friends for quite some time and I still really liked him. Later I came to find out that he had been cheating on me with another girl. I am not privy to the knowledge of just how far that “cheating” went at sixteen and homeschooled, but regardless he was getting a physical relationship out of that girl that he did not get with me.
Immediately I began to wonder… is that what relationships are really about? Of course I had been given “the talk” by my parents and told that boys only had one thing on their minds, but to experience it first hand was a bit… well, shocking. It instantly made me feel bad about myself. Was the only reason he even wanted to be with me because he thought he could get something from me? Or did he genuinely like me but thought I wasn’t worth the trouble? Lots of things go through a teenager’s head when their boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with them. But I tried not to let it bother me and kept pressing on, being myself and remaining friends with my ex until this day.
After that, it was just a snowball effect. I dated loser after loser. One threatened to kill my family because of my faith, another stalked me online for a long time, and another used manipulation tactics in order to make me mad enough to break it off with them. I dated six guys. Only one of those was pretty okay.
Finally, we get to college. While I had entered college, officially, at sixteen, I didn’t move away to college until I was nineteen. While away from home, I began dating a guy, whom we will call “Alan” for this blog, pretty much as a rebound after my previously-failed relationship. I was feeling alone and secluded in another state, surrounded by students and faculty that did not share any part of my faith, morals, or background. I was having issues fighting with my family back home, I had no support group, and I was being forced into attending events and lectures that fought to warp my sense of truth. It was not a good position to be in.
Feeling lost, alone, and totally rejected after my previous relationship had ended, Alan welcomed me with open arms into a relationship that he promised to be wholesome and comforting. That was all a lie.
Never before had I ever been able to fully understand why a woman would stay in a relationship that was abusive. I simply couldn’t grasp, being the outsider, why someone would stay with a person who treated them like absolute crap. After being with Alan, I understand. He was extremely manipulative. Every word that came out of his mouth was either a lie or only a half-truth. Had he ever had sex before? He wouldn’t exactly say that. After all, what really constitutes as sex? Did he have a faith? Well, faith in what? Sure, he believed there was a God and that Jesus Christ was his son, but in no way, shape, or form did he live out that faith. What were his morals like? That answer depended on what you wanted to hear. A skilled silver tongue, Alan somehow managed to fool me into falling for all of this. Don’t ask me how, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. But fall I did, and just like abusive relationships often do, our relationship started out great. He was much bigger than me and strong. He protected me from total creepers (which I encountered a lot of in Kentucky…) and made me feel like the trophy.
But that is where things started to go awry. Because I was a trophy.
You see, girls like to be treated like they’re special. They want to be the only one their guy has eyes for. So, in a way, we like to be trophies that our men can show off and say, “Yup. That’s mine.” It makes us feel good. But when trophy becomes property, therein lies the problem.
Alan viewed me as his property. He played with my emotions. He manipulated me. He’s apparently one of the best salesmen in the world because I was not a gullible girl. I’m usually very good at reading people and I have good judgment. But he completely fooled me. He wasn’t protective, he was possessive. He hated it when I spoke to any other male besides himself. He was wary of lesbian students I hung out with even though he knew I had no interest in anyone else.
The possession turned to abuse. Emotional abuse. Verbal abuse. Even physical abuse a couple of times. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of it, but Alan convinced me to do things that I never would have done before. He used emotional manipulation and coercion to get exactly what he wanted. And all the while I was burning inside without really even knowing why. I constantly had silent conversations with God, asking Him what to do. I had such a huge conflict going on inside me between what I was doing and what I knew I should be doing, that I literally had a mental breakdown one day – a full-fledged panic attack where I locked myself in a bathroom and wouldn’t come out for two full hours.
I thought, “But this is what love is supposed to be, right? Aren’t I supposed to sacrifice for the one I love?” Sacrifice my morals? My ethics? My self-esteem? My physical well-being? Looking back on it now, I can tell you these things, but at the time I was so caught up in what was happening, in the confusion of my situation, that I couldn’t see what he was doing to me. Even when my friends commented on it, I still couldn’t see it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It was that I couldn’t.
Finally, somehow, in this huge mess, I reoriented myself. I had a long conversation with Alan about what our relationship had become and told him I thought it would be best if he took it a little slower and ended the physical nature of our relationship. This had an immediate effect, because he broke up with me three days later.
I was so full of heartache and abandonment. When I eventually came home from college, I went through all five stages of grief, which took about six months to fully get through. I had been bombarded with voices that were not of God, that were not of love, for so long that I had forgotten what love was supposed to be about. It took a lot of work to bounce back from that relationship. After that, I didn’t want to be involved with anyone anymore. I thought, well if SIX relationships didn’t work out, what’s to say the seventh will? I honestly was so tired of being dropped like an old toy when someone got bored with me that I stopped caring altogether.
I didn’t even want to date. It was too much work. I went on a couple of coffee dates here and there but my heart was never in it because I had built up so many walls around myself. That is not what God had wanted me to do, however.
Because God is good and He has a plan, no matter your circumstance.
See, God had somebody in store for me. At the time, I didn’t care. I told God that I would be perfectly happy being His next Jeremiah. No husband and kids for me? Great! At least I won’t have to deal with the hassle.
But here’s the thing about Him. God isn’t limited by your idea of who God is. He isn’t limited by your limitations. I saw the situation as very black and white: either I was going to get into another relationship that would fail or I just wasn’t going to get into a relationship. I chose the latter. Little did I know that God had scribbled all over my black and white world with a colorful marker.
On July 20th, 2012, The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters. Feeling a little bit more like myself, I dragged one of my friends along to the midnight premiere with me – of course cosplaying as Harley (myself) and Joker (my friend). We were a riot. While there were tons of people dressed in costume (surprisingly), we had the crowd’s attention because when I do something, I DO something. That was the very first night I had ever really taken on the character of Harley Quinn, and it earned me attention from all kinds of cosplayers. But one cosplayer stood out.
He was dressed like Batman and he walked up to take pictures with us. After conversing a bit, he asked if I had a Facebook page. At the time I didn’t (although now I do, so check it out!). Without really thinking, I offered him my phone number instead. I don’t know why, because I had never given out my number before. But I did. So we connected over Facebook. I found out that he was a local Batman cosplayer and that he was currently in a relationship.
Part of me felt a little disappointed by this, but after everything I had gone through the previous year, part of me also felt relieved. We became friends, and midnight premieres to movies weren’t the only things we were bumping into each other at. Local theatre, singing groups, cosplayer meet-ups and a short film that we both (separately) got roped into meant that we ended up spending a lot of unintentional time together. Eventually, over the course of a year and a half, we got to know each other pretty well. I found out he was a very faithful man, we agreed on all of the big stuff, and we had a lot in common (we’re both total nerds, can you tell?). Little by little, I began to wonder what it would be like to date him, but I never, ever made a move. Like I said at the start of this blog, I had been cheated on before. I never wanted to do that to someone else. So we remained friends.
Now, looking back on it, I can see how God was slowly chipping away at the walls I had placed around my heart and getting rid of this skewed, warped, and destroyed idea of love that I had. At the time, like most times when God is working, I had no idea what He was doing. Finally, this friend of mine ended the unhealthy relationship he’d had going with his previous girlfriend. Still, I was wary of even trying to start something. But God kind of sort of did this thing where He pushed this guy in my way. I couldn’t exactly ignore him, even if I wanted to.
He ended up spending New Year’s with me and my family, and immediately afterward I got grilled about why I wasn’t dating this guy! After years of being badgered with the opposite, that was quite surprising to me. We began to hang out more, kept our relationship casual, and went out for coffee a couple of times. I tried to avoid eye contact at all costs, but he never stopped staring at me. Later, he told me I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
Okay, dude. You got my attention. What do you want.
But still I didn’t want to budge. I was perfectly content being my crabby, old, single-for-the-rest-of-my-life-self and I was terrified to get into something like what I had been through in the past. I finally broke when I received a message that said, “you are the kind of woman that I think God has planned for me”.
Little had I known that our dating history had been very similar and that he was dealing with a lot of the same fears that I was. I finally said okay. I would see where this relationship took me. I would trust God in this.
And it’s been the best relationship I’ve ever had. Because David has taught me a lot about love. Sure, I knew it, but sometimes you have to physically experience things before they actually click. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is an action. Love is sacrificing all of yourself for another person not out of some sense of guilt or that you owe them and not out of some self-righteous sense of pride. Love is sacrificing simply because they exist and they mean something to you. David has shown this to me over and over again. God has used him in so many ways to exemplify Christ’s sacrificial love to me. Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling you get in your tummy when they’re around. Love is not buying them flowers or chocolate or big teddy bears on Valentines’ Day. Love is not giving your body away in order to please them.
Love is that hug that means the most when you feel like dirt. Love is working twelve hour shifts, during the graveyard shift, in order to provide for your significant other. Love is reminding your special someone that no matter what their circumstance, God is still caring for them, still loving them, and still has a plan for them.
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This is why love never fails. So even if you feel alone this Valentines Day, even if you haven’t found the one you’re hoping to meet some day, realize that what love truly is goes beyond the six billion puzzle pieces on this earth. Love is far more than you can imagine. Love is God. God is love. People will hurt you. People will warp your sense of self, of worth, and of love. Listen to the Voice of Truth. He will never fail you. And He will use people to show you that love. Don’t close yourself off to them. Don’t put up your walls. Take a chance on God and you won’t be disappointed.
Because love never fails.
Just keep swimming, guys, and leave the matters of the heart to the one that holds your heart.
I will continue my role playing blog series next time!