With two more years’ experience under his belt, Brian had already walked through his own season of discovering who he was and the power and authority he possessed through Christ. He was not willing to sit back and watch me be a frail-minded weakling all my life. So he challenged and corrected me; coaxing me out of my comfort-zone and forcing me to face my fears and conquer my indecisiveness.
When an opportunity came for me to make a decision, even regarding which flavor of ice cream I wanted while on a date, he would wait for me to make the choice. Even amid my squirming and complaining, he refused to make my decision for me. Tough love, is what he called it. At the time, it annoyed me because I did not like the stress and pressure, but in hind sight, I could not be more thankful for his stubborn determination.
I was 18, almost 19, and I so desperately wanted to be seen and treated as an adult. But a crucial part of being an adult is healthy decision-making. So how did I expect to be treated as a responsible grown-up when I myself couldn’t even trust me to make solid choices? It felt like my judgement was always being questioned.
As our relationship deepened, Brian’s constant love and support boosted my confidence, and his confidence in me, gave me a sort of confidence in myself. Finally, I began looking for ways that I could make up my mind for myself. It started out with the littlest things, then progressed to bigger and better decisions. Then one day, I decided to make the 4-hour drive to upstate New York for a friend’s bridal shower, by myself, and stay the weekend with her and her sweet family. Secretly I was scared, and again, my judgement was questioned, but I was stubborn and bent on proving myself…as much to myself as to my parents and others. It ended up being a fabulous success, instead of going up in smoke like everyone was afraid it might. That boosted my confidence a little more. Then, a few weeks later, I planned a trip to California where Brian was living and studying at the time. This trip really had everyone worried. I would fly alone, across the continent, layovers everywhere with connecting flights, and I would stay in a girls’ dorm with a group of women I’d never met. Talk about risky. But, that too resulted as a victory. The bigger the (calculated) risk, the bigger the victory, is Brian’s motto. I finally gained the confidence to make up my mind and not always yield to peer-pressure or the opinions of others. What a big responsibility.
But now that I was doing so well, I suddenly thought back to all of the instances in the past few months and years where others had made my decisions for me…and I became very hurt and angry at them. Why had they not told me I could make decisions? Were they trying to control me? Then I began to regret all of the decisions that I had not made. I realized for the first time how deeply their decisions impacted me, and I was wounded and upset. I struggled to come up with ways that I could un-do all of those decisions that had been made for me.
I despised college and felt that my family had made the decision, for me, to go. I was angry with them for putting me in that situation, and hated school even more. Afterall, had I known it was my decision to make, I would have probably chosen not to go and then I wouldn’t have been so stressed, exhausted, over-worked, etc. I was angry with Brian too, for moving to California for a year and making our long-distance relationship even longer…and putting our wedding off another year.
Now that I was finally on a roll with making decisions, I struggled to determine then, which decisions were mine to make. It was Brian’s decision to follow God’s prompting to go to California, but I thought it was mine to choose to let him go. Now that I could make decisions – and good ones at that, I constantly beat myself up over not deciding to go with him. I vacillated between trying to be a strong, powerful person, and feeling hopeless and used. Again, I felt people were making decisions for me. My parents wanted me to stay in college, and they refused to allow me to go to California and marry Brian before our scheduled church wedding the following July – which only made me more hostile towards them because “they were doing it again”, and I was angry with Brian for leaving me behind, doing his own thing without me, and for making the decision to post-pone our wedding, etc. seemingly without me.
I felt hopeless because I could not change anything about my life or the ones I loved, and with Brian being the last of my close friends to move away across the country, I felt isolated and alone. I was 110% drained: emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I slipped into depression. I could not stand school, and threatened to drop out countless times everyday. I was tempted to buy a one-way ticket to California and never look back…but my conscience would not let me. I was angry too, at God because he had taken my future husband away from me, had stripped me of all my friends while leaving me to suffer in school, and had not given me a choice in any of it. I told him that if that was the way he was going to treat me, then he’d better leave me alone…and to my horror, he did. For nearly a year, he seemed dead to me. I could not hear him or feel him. I panicked and tried to restore our old relationship, but all in vain.
My depression deepened then. I gave up on life. I spent 97% of my time locked in my room, studying, crying, and Skyping Brian (when the internet was working or he wasn’t at a meeting, group or party, that is.) The other 3% of the time, I was either at school, church, shopping for wedding things, or eating.
Those were the darkest 2 years of my life. How could I trust God when he would not even talk to me? It seemed that every conversation I tried to have with my parents, brothers or Brian, ended in a disagreement or argument. I felt that no one understood and I was back to being a helpless, powerless, 10-year-old again.
I did not trust God to help me graduate (even though I had a 3.8 GPA but felt like I was failing at everything), I did not trust him to bring Brian back to me (safe, sound, and single), and I did not trust anyone to understand how I felt because they all told me to get over it and pray – neither of which were working for me.
*Fast forward 2 weeks to the end of Brian’s visit at Christmas break, when he was returning to California* I lost it and broke down in a wet, sobbing heap of tears. “I can’t do this again. I’m. Done.” Brian grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “No, you’re not. You need to get a grip and start focusing on something other than yourself.” His words rocked me. “Make a friend and give them your attention, write that book or blog you’ve been talking about. Attend something other than your Pitty-Party.”
Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I began to improve. January was slightly easier than December, and February was a tad easier than January. It was not until Brian sent me a puppy for Valentine’s Day, that I began to really improve. I know it is rather cliché, but honestly, that little, fuzzy, four-legged bundle of cuddles broke the spell of my depression. Myah cuddled me at night and I knew I was not alone. She licked my tears when I cried, and I knew “someone” cared. She protected me and I knew she had my back. We were, and are, completely inseparable.
So the last 8 months have been a period of recovery for me. Brian returned home in May and in July, he kept his promise and made me his bride. Brian and I are now incredibly happy newly weds who, to this day, have never once argued or fought, despite tiny differences here and there. My relationship with my parents and family has been restored, and all is forgiven and forgotten. My friends are still scattered all across the U.S. but I have new in-laws I am getting closer to. My relationship with God has also been steadily improving, and I am once again hearing his voice and feeling his peace.
I have also come to understand that sometimes, other people make choices in life that affect you, and there is nothing you can do about it except move on and continue caring about those around you. I am getting increasingly better at decision-making and am able to pull my own weight in that department in our marriage. I am still grateful for the challenges Brian provides, and he, in turn, is enjoying watching me blossom into a powerful, authoritative young woman. And…I have also discovered that I do have quite a lot of opinions…and when necessary, I am more than willing to share them.
I have learned too, that there is a reason it is called a “journey of life” instead of the “destination of life”…because learning and growing are processes and we need to be okay with the fact that good things take time. If we allow them too, situations and processes will make us better instead of bitter.