So, if you’ve spent any time reading any of my recent blog posts, you might have noticed that I seem slightly obsessed with marriage. Particularly marriage to one particular guy, which is kind of a pickle, because we haven’t talked in over a month.
I can feel those eye rolls from here (maybe because it’s my eyes rolling): “Oh come ON, Anessa! Just get over him! There are other guys out there! Besides, you don’t need a man to complete you or validate your existence! Women can do whatever they want now and we don’t need men to do it!”
Yes, I agree with you, modern feminist brain. And no, I don’t agree with you.
Right after he broke up with me, my mentor told me that I was worthy, which in that moment made me cry harder. In my last “couple-y” text to Trent (we have exchanged a few, brief “dividing the assets” texts), I told him what she had said, and he replied with:
So, thank you for validating the thought that I am worthy, man. Tongue out of cheek though, he’s right. She’s right. I am worthy. I am worthy of love and blessings and good things and so are you, no matter your gender or marital status. Side quest: we are not worthy to get into heaven on our own, which is where grace comes in, if we are willing to accept it, but that’s another post for another time.
Back to the whole marriage topic, ’cause it’s one of my favorites and the purpose of this post.
I’m worthy. With or without a relationship. I accept and agree with that. You might even say I am complete without a man, but that’s where we might differ in opinion.
Friends, I was single for a long time before Trent and I got together: 10 years. I struggled with this, wrestled with it, heard it over and over again: “God should be enough for you! You don’t need a man to complete you if God is enough for you! If you feel like you need a man then you’re not close enough to God!” but it seemed like no matter how close or distant I felt from God (and there were times of both during those 10 years) I still desired, longed, needed, to be in a relationship with a man. Friends, I felt like a bad Christian. Again. Was I denying that God could be enough for me? But He’s God! God + nothing = everything! He could and should be enough!
My single readers out there, perhaps you’ve heard that. Perhaps you’ve heard that you’re just not praying enough, reading your Bible enough, serving Him enough, not close enough to God. But maybe all of that still doesn’t feel like enough, like you’re missing something – a hole in you that God just won’t fill. I know that hole. I begged and pleaded with God to fill that man-sized hole in my heart, with tears, repeatedly. I said “God, if you’re not going to fulfill the desire for a husband, then please take it away from me.”
Guess what? It never left. And even after talking, dating, becoming engaged, I still felt slightly guilty that apparently God wasn’t enough. Because Trent filled that man-sized hole in my heart so perfectly. More perfectly than my wildest dreams actually, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I felt guilty until I went to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember with Trent this last April. I am so thankful and glad that we got to experience that together. At one of the beginning of one of the sessions while everyone was still coming in, there was still a bit of hubbub, the speaker said something that caught my attention. He was halfway through his story, but from what I gathered it was about a single woman he talked to at a church he spoke at. Apparently she was in the same boat I was in – God should be enough for her, right? The speaker, to my great surprise, disagreed. I had never heard anyone disagree with the statement that God is enough. He went on to say that yes, God is enough to save us from our sins, redeem us, sanctify us, make us holy, but that sometimes, more often than not, He won’t complete us completely. He’ll leave a man (or woman) sized hole.
You see, God ordained marriage. It was His idea for a man and a woman to commit to each other, to have to figure out life and each other together, to have children together, to rub against each other like sandpaper that might cause some (metaphorical) abrasions and wounds, but that ultimately will make the other person better. Marriage at its best is a beautiful image of Christ and His bride, the church, something which God calls Christians to as a display of His love to the world. If you have a person-sized hole in your heart but you don’t have a person to fill it, hang on. I know what that’s like. I know the pain, the grief. And for those of us who are women, I know it gets harder with the passage of time (if you desire children). I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know for sure if God has someone for you (or for me for that matter), but if that desire is strong within you, you’ve sought God’s guidance, and you’re sticking close to Him, I can’t help but believe that He’ll fill it with just the right person. And I’m crying right now because I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. I do believe, however, that God can fill a person completely. He can not leave any holes to be filled with someone else. That’s not every person though, and though I wanted Him to, He told me very firmly that He will not fill that man-sized hole in my heart.
During those 10 years of singleness I was not idle. I worked, served in my church, and kept my eyes peeled for just the right guy. And I tried to find him. When you were younger did you ever make a wishlist of the person you wanted to marry? I did. I wish I still had it, but I looked for it when Trent and I started talking seriously and I can’t find it. I remember some of it though:
- Loves God
- Good communicator
- Wants a lot of kids (that was always the sticking point because I would literally scare guys off with how many kids I wanted)
- Good sense of humor
There were more things (like 12 total I think) but those were the high points. There’s one more thing that I remember, but I’ll tell you about that later.
I looked online. Online was not for me. My skin felt like crawling off my body every time I logged into eHarmony or Christian Mingle. I went out on a date with a guy I met through one of those websites. So awkward. There were guys at church interested in me, asked me out. I said no. A guy at the library actually gave me his number once, my first summer working there. I looked him up (due diligence!): he was on the sex offender registry. Every guy, even the ones at church, gave me that skin-crawling feeling. Nothing ever clicked. Fun story: Trent tried to set me up with a guy from church once. That was funny and awkward because the guy was so shy he didn’t really talk to me so Trent and I just talked. That’s another point: I don’t really talk to guys, especially single guys. So I knew that God was going to have to get involved from the get go, because just to have a conversation with an eligible single male would put me on edge.
Enter Trent. I don’t know if many of you know this about him, but it’s public knowledge, so I’m fairly sure he won’t mind me sharing it (if you don’t want me to, Trent, just let me know, I’ll take it down): Trent was married when I met him. So he was safe. I could talk to him because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it wouldn’t go anywhere; I’m not a home-wrecker and he’s the most faithful man you’ll ever meet. And Trent talked to me, because he’s gregarious and we were both interested in theater. On my own, I probably never would have initiated any conversations with him about anything. I got to know Trent and his wife pretty well during their time at my church. We worked together on Easter musicals when they were still a thing. Trent gave me my first opportunity to write and direct one, something I’ll forever be grateful to him for – he believed in me. Trent and I regarded each other like a brother and a sister. When he told me they were moving back to Indiana I kicked him in the shin. The Sunday they left was the first time he ever gave me a hug. The Sunday they left a little voice in my head said “you should tell him that if anything ever happens with his wife he should look you up.” I said “NO! They’re together and should stay that way! They have a beautiful daughter, and just look at them – they’re the perfect couple!”
Spoiler: they weren’t. I had no idea what would happen just weeks after they left, but that’s his story to tell, not mine. Suffice it to say, the divorce was finalized November 1, 2016. They had left South Dakota in September 2015. That whole year I could count on one hand the number of texts Trent had responded to, not that there were many from me anyway. I prayed for their marriage to be healed, to be restored. I had determined years before I ever met Trent that I would always be for the relationship. No matter whose relationship. I stick by that. If God worked in Trent’s ex-wife’s heart and completely transformed her, I would still encourage him to go back to her. I did encourage reconciliation with her when Trent and I started talking in January 2017. Trent tried. He kept trying up until the day before I went to see him the first time, and I knew about those efforts and I approved of them. It wasn’t until she rebuffed every offered olive branch that he really felt free to pursue a relationship with me.
Friends, I thought I knew Trent. I had worked with him for 5 years, had lunch with them at their house, we had them for lunch at our house, I’d even gone on roadtrips with them, seen him almost every Sunday for five years. I did not realize what a gem that man is. As I said before, he is extremely faithful (in the 5 years of working closely with him as a married man there was never a whiff of infidelity about him), he is godly, he desires above all to bring glory to God, he is an excellent communicator – better than I am, he loves kids and wants more kids, he loves to laugh and have fun, and have you seen his face? He’s got handsome covered. Alright, before I mush everyone out by extolling the excellent qualities of my ex-boyfriend, I’ll admit it: he does have flaws. I’m thankful for them, because I do too. But guys, even our challenges (my dysthymia and his ADHD) compliment each other – the management systems for both are practically identical! Five days before he dumped me we asked each other what we wanted from life and from each other. Guys, we agreed on everything, even things we had struggled with before. We were on the same page with our dreams, kids, ministry, goals, traveling, everything clicked.
Hold on Anessa, did you just write this whole blog post in an effort to get him back because you knew he’d read it? Well… yes. Kind of. I mean, that was one of my motivations, if I’m honest. But I also wrote it to encourage single people with a person-sized hole that God works out everything, even our struggles and challenges, for our good. He can take what we have – like my short-stick, chemically deficient brain – and do something only He could do to work it for my good. AND, if you’ve made a wishlist, He’ll meet and exceed your list. You see, I love red hair, always wanted it. Always sad that I didn’t have red hair (I did try in college, but I did a lot of stupid things in college). So I put on my adolescent wishlist that he would have red hair, so our children would have a shot at red hair. Guess who has red hair.
Now, I still don’t know. You see, it’s not up to me. It might seem like I’m still trying to win Trent back (hi Trent! How are you?), but I’m not going to do any more than this. Because God told me to do this. He actually told me to write this post Friday night. Friday was a good night. Saturday was horrible. Saturday I did all my normal stuff – woke up early, prayed, went on a bike ride, kept praying, got ready for work, made it to work, somehow got through the first two hours, went on my break, and broke down sobbing over my leftover quesadilla. Made it through the next few hours at work, went on my break, and that one went a little long because I couldn’t. stop. crying. Cried all the way home (but my brain didn’t tell me to swerve in front of any trucks, so that’s a plus!). Sat in my car and sobbed for a good half hour after I got home. I poured out my heart to my mentor again. She said it sounded more like grief than depression, but that they go hand in hand, and then she asked that if my therapist recommended medication would I take it? I said “I’m not getting better, am I?” She thinks I need a boost to reset my brain chemically, and I am so tired of fighting. I’m going to talk to my therapist about medication tomorrow. Last night I was exhausted from crying so I went to bed early, although mentally I was feeling some better. This morning God woke me up at 5:15. I said “Good morning God!” and we began to talk. I’ve shared what I pray about before, so you can go read that. This morning though it felt like He wasn’t interested in hearing any of that. He wanted me to pray something else. It felt like a bubble in my heart, and I kept pushing it down, saying “No God, I’m not supposed to ask for that!” He wouldn’t leave it alone. So I prayed it. It was like the bubble burst and God said “ah, yes! There it is!” and then He left. Not really, but it was like He turned His attention away from me. And all I could think about was this post. I tried praying, because that’s what I was supposed to do, but my mind would not stay off of this.
So here it is. God, please use the words I’ve written to bless and encourage someone. If they’re hurting like I am, please heal their heart and give them hope, as you’ve given me. God, I don’t know about me and Trent, because it’s not up to me, it’s up to You and him. If there’s another handsome, red-headed, humorous man who loves You and kids and is in the ministry out there that would be better for me than Trent, please give him to me. Quickly, because I’m getting older and I want kids (if You want me to have kids). And that’s the key, God, not what I want, but what You want. Please fill me with Your desires. I am in Your hands, Father, do with me as You will.