Growing up, my friends used to tease me for my “crushes of the week.” I was a typical middle school girl who enjoyed socializing and healthy attention from boys. But as I got older, letting someone into my heart was too risky. I might get hurt again. And I had no desire to go there. Sometime around high school, I cut off my heart completely from any risk associated with love.
Love was a confusing thing to me then, and if I’m honest, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me even now. Love from my father felt unsafe. Love from other family figures was conditional, and love from my mother was about to be absent. I saw myself as the only common denominator and felt utterly incapable of being loved.
I saw myself as the only common denominator and felt utterly incapable of being loved.
As I got older, it became increasingly hard for me in the Christian community to remain happily single, and pressure mounted on every side for me to date. Still, I wanted nothing to do with opening myself up to any type of love. News headlines, divorce in the church, friends having affairs—there was plenty of brokenness around me to confirm my fears. And if my own family couldn’t love me as a child growing up, then why would I have any reason to think a man would stick around for me if they saw me as my true self? So it is when our hearts are trained not to lament. We begin to see ourselves as the protectors and keepers of our hearts instead of leaving that responsibility to God in faith.
And then he entered.
Handsome in every way, but his looks were truly secondary to the way he esteemed others above himself. Jonathan was different from all the rest. He pursued me slowly, in a way that felt safe to me, and I enjoyed getting to know him. As we began spending more time together, I felt sure he was “the one.” We clicked. It didn’t take a lot of effort. My positive feelings were greater than my fears. For the first time, letting someone know me was fun.
Surely this man was the one for me.
I was fresh out of college, and people around us started to take notice. Each of us would receive phone calls from pastors, leaders, and mutual friends encouraging our relationship. It was like other people were seeing the “rightness” of it too. Surely this man was the one for me. I began praying for him day and night, and I even saw some of the things I prayed for come to pass. The leading to pray for him was so strong that I felt God wanted me to get a journal and write down my prayers. It had taken me years to write in a journal again—surely God wouldn’t bring a man into my life who was not “the one”! And surely God wouldn’t have me journal the mushy-gushy feelings if it were all for naught. Hadn’t I been through enough pain?
Jonathan and I sought God and wise counsel from others. We both prayed that God’s will would be done. But as life happened and we took jobs in different locations, we did not come to the same conclusion about one another. How could this be? I had prayed; I had sought God; I even had prophetic words spoken to me about him. I had heard from God.
Or so I thought.
But the relationship fell apart. Jonathan asked why I couldn’t open up to him. He asked why I rarely made time to see him face-to-face. He asked if work was always going to be my number one priority.
What did he mean? Hadn’t I let him know me more than any other man? I had prayed about us so much and thought God was telling me he was “the one.” Was I really still so guarded? Even worse than that, was I still so undesirable?
My thoughts went into a tailspin, and doubts flooded my heart and mind.
When the relationship ended, I was unbearably confused. My thoughts went into a tailspin, and doubts flooded my heart and mind. I didn’t understand it then, and I’m not quite sure I understand it now, but my if/then statements about God were wrong.
“If I follow God, then He will bring the right man for me.”
This may sound like a shallow and superficial statement, but they didn’t feel that way as I labored hours, days, weeks, and even years praying about this relationship. I felt I had wasted years praying for the wrong thing and for the wrong person. I questioned my ability to hear God correctly. This was devastating to my faith.
Do you have any wrong if/then statements about God? Have you ever put your heart on the line, only to fail to get the outcome you thought God promised you? Maybe it was a romantic relationship, or maybe it was an adoption that fell through. Maybe it was a divorce you never planned for or a death you were not ready for or a dream that was denied.
Faking fine keeps us stuck in the vicious cycle of the wrong if/then statements we were holding on to to begin with.
Faking fine keeps us stuck in the vicious cycle of the wrong if/then statements we were holding on to to begin with. God wants to help our hearts get unshackled from these chains.
To hear Esther’s inspiring story, check out her new White Chair Film: