Have you ever run from something so hard, only to find yourself running right into it? Well, some time ago I had been running for a long time. But it wasn’t until I was doing another lap around “Reject Street” that my path swiftly intersected “Relationship Way.” Yes, it was the day I was doing the 100-yard dash, and God grabbed me and hasn’t let me go.
As I was pondering what to write, my husband and I rented “Runaway Bride,” starring my favorite actress of all time, Julia Roberts. The whole movie is a great romantic comedy about a bride who is supposed to walk down the aisle, pledge to love, honor and submit fully to her husband, kiss her groom and say “I do” … yet throughout every wedding, once faced with walking down that long aisle, destined for relationship, she would turn and run! Not only would she run, she would never return to marry that particular groom again. As I watched the scenes unfold, it felt as though I was watching reflections of my past, and I realized I had been a runaway bride all of my life!
I shudder to admit this in a magazine article, but the honest and free part of me just won’t let me be silent; this is my third marriage.
However, through much counseling, freedom training, and my Savior who loves me, I can truly tell you, that more importantly than the stats of my man-quota or marriage number, I am grieved that for the majority of my life, I see that I ran from The Groom who so desperately wanted relationship with me.
The movie makes me smile and laugh as every person tries to analyze, or give their opinion of exactly why the bride runs away, and in the end, you see she was just afraid that she was marrying the wrong groom! Regarding my life, I couldn’t help but formulate that question in my mind as well.
What were the reasons that I ran from Jesus, my beloved groom, for so long?
Well, jog with me through the pages of my past as I answer that question.
Faith was not a part of my adolescent years; those years were filled with the loss of the four most significant men in my life—my three brothers. The oldest was tragically killed by a drunk driver on Christmas day, my middle brother was lost to a life of drugs and prison, and my youngest brother to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. The sum of these losses became the reason the most highly profiled man in my life, my father, had nothing left emotionally to give me, his daughter. I took on the feeling that my daddy was somehow disappointed that of all of us, I was the one child left. Frankly, I couldn’t even figure out why I was the one left.
Over the years, negative emotions began to form inside me, and feelings of rejection were so dominant. I have since learned that when you fear something you tend to worship the opposite. For example: I feared being rejected, therefore I worshipped acceptance. I had a constant need to be accepted, or to please others in whatever I did, and when I wasn’t accepted, I was left feeling very unworthy. Rejection and unworthiness left behind huge holes in my heart.
As every man seemed to disappear from my life, I started my long-distance run through the tunnel of acceptance, and the lies that emerged along the way drove a vulnerable, needy young woman into the arms of the first person who said, “I love you.” Yes, years of counseling brought me to the place where I now know I did what any girl searching to fill the holes in her heart would do; I turned to men.
The relationships I encountered, however, were incapable of validating my worth, or accepting me just the way I was. Every man I ran to rejected me; therefore, in my “work-to-be-accepted” mentality, I began to accept abuse of every kind. Because after all, this unworthy girl deserved it, or at least that’s what the lies from the enemy in my mind would tell me. Even though I altered what I ate, what I liked, what I believed, and every part of me to always fit into what they were looking for, it still wasn’t good enough. The end result was a woman who didn’t know what she liked and believed, and even worse, who she was.
Someone recently told me that the number of men or marriages I’ve had is really insignificant. However, my perspective was quite a different view. In retrospect, I wish I could have been one of those girls who saved herself for the perfect groom, because as a young girl, my intentions were never to be married three times. And honestly, maybe the exact number doesn’t really matter. However, what does matter is the reason my shoes ran me toward all the wrong men instead of away from them, like the Julia Roberts character. You see, the reason I worked to be accepted and not rejected, is that I had a BIG, ugly root emotion (spirit, or whatever you want to call it) bulging out of every pore in my body. The insurmountable root of FEAR had its hold on my life.
I feared many things, but mostly, I feared not being loved.
After all, I was a girl who had been spat on, hit, thrown and choked. And worse than any physical act was hearing the words, “You will never amount to anything,” or “No one will love you like I have.” So, why should anyone love me? More importantly, why would Jesus love me?
I had no idea how to extinguish this lie, and as years went by it seemed that it was just a part of me. Until one day a pivotal thing happened: It was a very hot Fourth of July, otherwise called Independence Day, when I would meet a new man. A man who did something no other man had done. He invited me to church! As we started dating and attending church, this girl seemed to emerge from the ashes. I said the prayer of salvation and got baptized. And as we began dating, he treated me unlike any other person I had ever been around; he treated me as though I was valuable, and oddly, he began to fall in love with me! I was terribly afraid to get married again, thinking I would screw it up like I always did, but he was relentless. Two years later, we said “I do” and began weekly counseling. It was there that I started to learn that, in fact, I would amount to something, and I thanked God that those men were right: No one else would ever love me the way they had! Thank God!
Yet, even though everything seemed to be going great, something began to sneak up on me. Although I had said the prayer of salvation and knew my destination of eternity was sealed, I still felt the same void in my heart and was saddened that I did. I would constantly think there was something wrong with me, that I needed just to snap out it. I felt a lot of shame that I didn’t feel very different, and yet, I was a Christian.
Then April 2005 happened.
As I was watching the “Dr. Phil” show, I lost my vision and was rushed to the hospital. During my three-day stay, I was put through a thousand tests to find the problem, but to no avail. I learned afterward that I had had my very own road-to-Damascus experience. Approaching the last test, I found myself once again in a very long tunnel. This was not the tunnel of acceptance, however; it was an MRI test. In that long tunnel, my life was changed.
It was there that Jesus infiltrated my heart in a way I had never felt before. As the pages of my life turned, and I cried out to Him not to let me die, He began to pull back the layers of my heart to discover a huge revelation. I may have determined my destination for eternity, but I definitely had not fallen in love with The Groom. You cannot fall in love if you don’t have relationship. I discovered that during my short walk with the Lord, I had come to know Him only distantly, like my father. And consequently, I still had those false beliefs about fear and love.
I believed that He, of course, was going to let me in to heaven because of the prayer of salvation, but I feared He really didn’t love me. After all, I still had the same past.
The greatest part of any Julia Roberts movie is always the end! At the end of “Runaway Bride,” Julia hands a shoe box to the man she intends to spend the rest of her life with. Inside were her famous running shoes, a symbol that she would actually make it down the aisle to seal their covenant, and that there would be no more running.
In the MRI tube, because I felt the love of my beloved Groom, I handed him my running shoes as well. I may have been blind that day, but I emerged a woman who could really see.
Is there anything you are running from today? Well, if you run to and with Jesus, there is nothing so big He can’t handle it, and anything that has to do with our past is all gone.
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
My Father taught me a new word that I am going to carry into the new year, and I hope some of you will carry this too. It’s the word vindication, and it means to have your name cleared.
I may have been a bride numerous times, and I certainly have acquired a lot of names; some I’ve given myself. But my wedding day—the day I gave my whole heart to Jesus—all my names were vindicated! Sorry to all of you who weren’t invited to my wedding; it was a very private ceremony!
As I was interviewed for something recently, the woman interviewing me said “You don’t sound like a woman who’s been through what you’ve been through.” My comment to her was this, “Isn’t that the entire point of a life with Christ, our beloved Groom?” When you see me smiling, it’s because the Groom who is escorting me has given me love beyond measure. But don’t throw rice, bird seed or rose petals for our nuptials; throw praises to the King!
No longer a runaway bride but a running to Him …