Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Want Love

I was at my friend Rachel's house for a sleepover towards the end of 4th grade.  We lay giggling in the dark and ventured into previously uncharted conversation territory: boys.  I thought our classmate Brad was so cute and we laughingly plotted how Brad would fall in love with me and we would get married and live happily ever after.  What do 10 year olds need to know about love and marriage beyond a particular boy's cuteness?

I had no idea how Brad felt about me but a year later I got a glimpse.  A friend came up to me on the playground and told me Brad had been talking about me.  Hope welled from within.  The ever so hunky Brad was talking about me?  Indeed he had.  He said that I was RAD.  Before I could fathom that such a cute popular boy might like me, my confidence was dashed.  RAD, my friend informed me, stood for Retarded and Dumb. 

I deflated.  And there planted the seed that I was ugly, unlovable, and the host of other Given Names I would use to identify myself with a couple of years later.

The other seeds I must have sowed myself, maybe attached too much meaning to words that were spoken or unspoken.  I came to believe that a relationship would make me whole.  I would be Beautiful if someone loved me.  Life would be Grand if I was married or at least dating.  Every year of junior high, high school, and college was measured by guys' interest or lack thereof.  And when each year didn't bear the fruit of a romantic relationship, I chalked it up to God not caring about me.
"I didn't doubt His existence- I just doubted His presence in my life." -Your Secret Name, p. 83
Because I didn't have a boyfriend and because I didn't believe God cared, because I was convinced that I was Ugly and Unlovable, I began to toy with suicidal ideation.  I had ideas, plans, and the self-righteous belief that no one would care when I was gone.

In some ways, the private grammar school I attended saved my life.  I couldn't access the things or people that would further my self-destructive habits.  Even though I hated my school and the cliques and the emphasis on money (when my parents sacrificed to send me and my brother there), I shudder to think of who I would be if I'd attended public school.  But grammar school alone was not enough to save me.  If you had looked at me during junior high, you would never have guessed how much I loathed myself.  As a good Christian girl, I knew all the right answers and how to behave.   
"Many of us war our masks far too frequently- and we've lost touch with our potential for who God created us to be." -Your Secret Name, p. 60
By college I realized that the masks no longer served their purpose. I had to start dealing with the pain or else die trying.  I began therapy and, shortly before that, began keeping an affirmation log.  I thought if I wrote down what everyone else liked about me, I would start believing it myself.  That log made a world of difference but then a few years later, I realized it was more important for me to see myself the way God saw me.  We all know that human perception is flighty and this was not a foundation upon which I could base my self-esteem.

I never went through with my suicidal plans by God's grace.  I worked through my depression and self-esteem issues.  And yet, I still define myself by the lack of a romantic relationship.  I'm beginning to realize how intertwined my marital status is with my self-esteem, even after all this time and effort.  Even though I fight against it, in my lowest moments I'm tempted to believe God is withholding a husband as some form of punishment or because He doesn't love me.

In my better moments, I realize that God protected me from what would have been poor dating relationships in the past.  In junior high and high school especially I would have been consumed with being the perfect girlfriend and letting someone else dictate my life and decisions. 

I'm not that girl anymore though.  It's puzzling to me and to my loved ones as to why I haven't met the right guy.  It may be timing.  Or it may just not be in the cards for me.  Either way, I don't want to believe that I am less than just because I don't have a spouse.

This is something I struggle with: I don't understand why I'm single yet I also believe that God doesn't promise we'll always get what we want and therefore marriage may never be a part of my future.  I believe I will be an excellent wife and mother and it is something that I desire.  I don't yearn for it the way I used to.  I no longer believe that marriage or a man will transform life into daily sunshine, rainbows, and ice cream.  Life on earth will never be perfect and no one can satisfy our deepest longings but God.  I don't know why I'm still single but I am striving to be content and to accept that this is where I'm meant to be for now.

I don't want my singleness to become a wedge between me and God.  I don't want my past depression to resurface because of discontent.

It's difficult to reimagine your life when you've believed the past 20 years that marriage and family would already be a part of it at this point.  By no means have I put my life on hold while waiting for Mr. Right to appear but I am unsure how to move beyond this insecurity.
"We get a tiny peek at what could be- the possible- while taking a vacation from what is- the actual...The following days, years, and perhaps even decades help us hone in on that original vision we received. Time brings clarity. Yet for the moment we must be content to simply understand where we are and how far we must travel in order to arrive at our destination." -Your Secret Name, p. 90
Right now I don't know what the What Could Be is.   I don't have a clue what lies between here and eternity.  I don't know what my Secret Name could be that would redeem the insecurity and uncertainty that taunt me but I will continue to press forward.  I want love, yes. However, I want to know and experience the all-surpassing, unconditional love of Christ first and foremost.

May that be my prayer, may that be my guide.

This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.

10 comments:

  1. oh, friend. i love this. and i love you. this is so beautiful, first of all, but also so beautifully written. who knows what all this singleness business is about except for god? meanwhile, we get to be all about his business. no answers, friend (not that you were looking for them). only love. xo

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  2. What a heartfelt, honest post. You sound like you are in a better place in your life now. It's amazing how a thoughtless word from a child can affect us so much when we are children.

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  3. Leigh, this is so, so, so, so beautiful. And I know it will be an encouragement to so many people. It can't be easy to share something so deeply personal. I'm praying God blesses you like crazy today for your obedience in letting him use your story. Love you!

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  4. Wow...what a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart. As Marla said, it will be an encouragement to many.

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  5. I can identify with much you have written, and am glad to see God's protection over you and encouragement of you.

    so sweet to hear your heart. you are very brave. *HUG*

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  6. thank you for sharing your heart with us. i was in your place about 5 years ago.

    "I don't want my singleness to become a wedge between me and God." that's exactly what happened to me and i made some bad choices "I'll show Him." Somehow I thought going it alone would prove something to God.

    The upside? Now I know without a doubt He loves me, even when I'm stupid.

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  7. on my lunch break, i remembered back when i was in the fourth grade and my friend sarah passed me a note 'from david', who was my on-again/off-again boyfriend who i was going to marry one day and i was madly in love with him. (i was 9.)

    i wrote him a note back, professing my reciprocated love/like and sarah gave it to him.

    and then she told me that SHE had actually written the note as a joke.

    i. was. MORTIFIED.

    david ran over to me at lunchtime, threw the note in my face, and screamed, 'I. HATE. YOOOUUUU!'

    it makes me laugh now -it did then, too. but now i'm thinking, 'that was sort of a strong response from him, no?'

    anyway, it just made me laugh in the car today (and is right now). thought it would give you a lift also. :)

    xo

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  8. I was where you are. I so relate. While God doesn't promise everything we want, I do believe he is a God of perfect surprises, and truly when we are not looking he reveals a dream come true far better than our plans for ourselves. Praying that for you!

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  9. Oh my gracious, y'all! I am blown away by all of the encouragement you've extended to me. I tried to sit down to write this post a few times over the weekend and had to pray my way through it last night. I have no qualms about sharing my past depression because it's been dealt with but talking about what trips me up today? A whole other story.

    That God might use this to encourage others is a powerful thought. No matter how my story ends, I want to be ever open to His leading.

    Thank you for all the love, prayers, and support!

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  10. Leigh, I absolutely love reading your blog. Thank you so much for being so open and honest. You have encouraged me in so many ways, just through your writings. Keep holding on to His Strong Love. Praying for you, friend!
    Kristi

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