Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed:
“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
~Ezra 9:5-7 New International Version (NIV)~
Sometimes I forget that I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago. It is a scary place to find myself because twenty years ago, I was at the most broken point I’ve ever been in my life. Twenty years ago, I was depressed and was at a place where I didn’t believe God would ever accept me again. At that point in time, I didn’t know how much worse it could be. I only felt alone and had decided that I didn’t want to bother God with my pain any longer. At that point, I thought that since He’d allowed me to hurt so much up to then that He didn’t really care. I didn’t understand that He was waiting for me to understand who He was and who I was in Him.
I was about nineteen years old and I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had graduated from high school and my plans to go into the military had fallen apart due to some issues at home. I had decided to stay behind and work, though I had wanted more than anything to leave. There was a young man that I had started to care about and somewhere during that year I found out that he had been shot and killed. We hadn’t been an exclusive couple or anything, but we had gone out when he was in town after he had gone into the military. In any case, it wasn’t necessarily common knowledge that we were together, but when I found out that he had been killed it just broke my heart. It was such a tragic loss that I don’t think I ever really came to terms with it. Even today when I think about it, it stirs up such feelings of regret that I can hardly deal with it. Oddly, this secret that seems insignificant I’m sure to anyone out there but me, has always had a place in my heart and mind as I have entered into any kind of relationship. Even that far back, I had developed a tendency to not want to get close to people because I was scared to death that once I cared about them, they would disappear.
Subconsciously, I think I picked the types of relationships that ultimately came to an abrupt and unexplainable end out of some kind of guilt feelings I had over losing him. If only I’d been more attentive or pressed the issue of being together more often. Maybe he would have been with me instead of out where he could get hurt. It’s not very good logic, but these are the thoughts that emerge from the brokenhearted. I’m finding now that this monster crept out whenever I started to like someone and sometimes, tended to be too much for them. Sometimes, they felt smothered or otherwise oppressed by the outpouring of concern or affection that was meant only to ensure that they knew they had a safe place with me. This is where I went wrong. Their safe place should not be with me, but in Christ. If the people I care about find their safety in Christ, I don’t have to work so hard to protect them. Easy to say. Easy to see. But not so easy to put into action.
There was a not so brief moment in my life when I seem to have abandoned that compulsion to protect and actually settled into a rather long relationship and marriage. For nearly eleven years, I was able to give up that need to protect the one I loved. I’m not sure why I was able to do that or what it was replaced with. I loved my husband and truly wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. But things happen and we wake up from our slumber. We look around our relationship and see that we’ve gotten lost in it and that’s when we find that we were so comfortable with what we were in that we completely forgot to protect ourselves in the process. I “woke up” when I gave birth to my daughter and the need to play the role of protector resurfaced. And that’s really the only time it has made any sense to me in my entire life. Once I saw that protecting my daughter was something I would feel the need to do for the rest of my life, it seemed really stupid that I would ever be put in a position to have to protect any man who was in my life. I mean, shouldn’t they want to protect me?
As I have begun to date in the six months or so, I’m finding that there are more people out there who are looking to be mothered than there are men who are looking for good women. There are more guys out there who seem to be focused on getting everything they want without ever sacrificing anything for another person in their lives. I’m smart enough to know that all men aren’t like this, but from where I’m standing today, it certainly doesn’t look promising. When I was younger, I found these qualities attractive because I wanted so badly to be someone’s protector. I wanted to have a do-over so that I could make myself understand and believe once and for all that losing my friend so many years ago wasn’t the result of my inability to be a good partner. As the years pass, I see that I’m really not the same girl who needed to do that. While I still hurt when I think about him, I understand now that it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to change that outcome. Constantly reliving it won’t make it happen differently. Going back and trying to do things the way I used to because I’m afraid to completely change is also not going to bring me the happiness I seek. I am a new person in Christ. The old has passed away. My sins have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. When I finally allow myself to understand this, I will find the reward that God has for me. Until then, I hope that I will at least learn something from each mistake I make along the way and that I will accept that I am who He says I am.
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”