(Alstroemeria/my favorite. 3/2018)
Today marks four months since a blind date with the wonderful man I now call boyfriend. It has flown by and yet, by the same token, I feel as if I have known him all my life. We are so in tune with one another and there is such an ease to communicating. We connected quickly and were surprised by the many random things we had in common.
I’m in love. I’m in love with a living, breathing, man who loves me back. He doesn’t love some blown up concept of me. I’m not some fake ideal of a woman standing on a pedestal. He cares about the real me, the me that goes without makeup sometimes, who has a consistently cluttered house, the me that cries for stupid reasons. He can hang with the wounds of my widowhood. He knows I do not see him as a replacement or a comparison. He’s his own man and I love him for that. He’s respectful and kind. He’s loving to my daughters. He’s been a dad for several years longer than I have been a mom, so we can talk parenting. He’s committed to Christ. He isn’t perfect but I don’t need him to be just as he doesn’t need me to be.
Those closest to me know that I can be very difficult to love at times. When I am anxious I tend to close off and shut down emotionally. I push away those who care as hard as I can, by any means necessary—typically with the brutal cut of my sharp tongue. This has been rearing its ugly head in my new relationship because I have so many fears.
Since my husband’s death, the small amount of dating I did before this led to heartbreak. Autumn of 2017 I resolved to never date again; I would raise my little girls entirely alone. I could not risk ever putting myself through the trauma of another breakup. The thing about having a man break up with me was that it reopened the feelings of abandonment I felt from having my husband die…
This means although I’ve been dating someone wonderful, kind, and fully invested for the last four months, I’ve been terrified. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve been sure that although he’s given me no reason to mistrust him, he’s going to simply wake up one day and decide that I’m not good enough. I’ve been scared that he’ll realize I’m too broken or too much or too little or too “whatever” and he will simply cut his losses.
Recently I was spending time with this wonderful man and I was thinking to myself, “I am completely happy. I’m happy in all aspects of my life right now. My kids are at better ages than ever before, I’ve applied for midwife school, and I have a boyfriend that really, truly, sacrificially loves me. I’m just happy.”
Quite suddenly the happiness was replaced with a feeling of trepidation. I was completely overwhelmed by fear. He saw it on my face instantly, as if a cloud had covered the sun. He asked me what was wrong. Though I knew I was afraid, I wasn’t completely certain why. I admitted I was scared and began to cry. I asked him to hold me tight and tell me I was safe. He did as I asked, as I cried and talked it out.
“I’m terrified. I’m afraid that you’re going to leave me or that you won’t want me, or that you’ll die. I’m not afraid that you’ll leave because of anything you’ve done—you’ve given me no reasons to worry. You’ve made it clear you’re in this. This is just my brokenness and my anxiety… I guess I’m terrified to be happy because if I’m happy something catastrophic is going to happen. The last time I was as happy as I am right now, my family members started to die. I’m just so scared.”
He continued to cling to me in my irrational talk, the fears informed as a result of the trauma I’ve been through. He reminded me that he wants to be with me and no one else… that he chooses me. He reminded me that he is not going to quit pursuing me even when I try to push him away in fear because he cares about me. It was (and is uncanny) the way this man was able to read me like a book. He was patient with my fear and yet, addressed it head on, reminding me that the anxiety was a liar. He told me, again and again, that it was okay to be happy and that I should not be afraid to feel that way.
This morning in church the worship leader led us in the song “Extravagant” which speaks to the love of God for his creation, people. Though the lyrics are simple, it’s a song that is incredibly meaningful to me. It hits on the theme of the Lord doing the unthinkable in loving and pursuing his undeserving creation with total fervor and passion. There were a couple lines in the song that struck me today:
When You pull me close
No, I won't resist it
I’ve been afraid, even as I have been in this relationship, to allow myself to be loved. I’ve been headstrong and stubborn. I’ve been closed-off at times and resistant to sharing what was on my heart because of fears: fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, or fear of happiness (because of the expectation it would end in tragedy). Though this song was speaking to submitting to the love of God, I believe these lyrics are meaningful to the situation in my life as well. Human love was given to us in part that we might have a concept (albeit an imperfect one) of the love of God for us. As I listened to and sang with the song, I felt a need to let go… to let go of my need to be in control… and to allow myself to be loved. After all, I am in love with a wonderful man.