Left at the altar.
The title was shockingly already taken. They really do have a book for everything… and yes, I shamelessly purchased it.
But here is my version:
The stress of planning a wedding began to build. Our 104 day engagement seemed an eternity after dating him for 2 years and a close friendship a year prior to that. I ended up taking a half day at work that Friday before our Tuesday ceremony. The plan being to work the whole day, but the pressure of having ribbons on vases glued and last minute table placement cards made I couldn’t wait to get home. My desire was to finish these not-so-fun tasks so I could look forward to the weekend’s upcoming events. Saturday, my friends would be arriving from out of state and out of town. Surely it would sink in then and seem real. It had all been a blur up until this point. Engagement, counseling, spending money, spending so much money and now I was here. With only days to go, I would finally marry my best friend. I couldn’t believe it, after 25 years of Satan’s lies… “You’re too much, you’re not enough, way too emotional and totally unlovable”. I had found a man who wanted to share his life with me. He loved me and in not much over 72 hours would pledge that love in front of 86 of our closest friends, family and God.
Or so I thought.
My fiancé was very honest of his anxiousness and had been since the beginning. Wise counsel told us this was normal. This meant he was taking it serious. He had been guarded our entire relationship which was more than frustrating at the time, but with a glance over my shoulder I was able to appreciate his caution. Now as an engaged couple I knew he had weighed the decision heavily to get married. I cherished his decision, because I knew how much thought he had put into it. He didn’t throw around his love and he would never write checks of promises that he couldn’t cash.
Little did I know, the days leading up to this moment for him looked completely different. As I was tanning, getting my nails done and pulling an all-nighter making our wedding slideshow he was meeting with counselors and wrestling with God over his upcoming commitment.
With less than four days away from what should’ve been one of the most joyful days of my life, he stood before me and instead completely wrecked my world. He looked me in the eyes and tried to explain that he would not be able to follow through on his commitment. I flashed to all the weddings I had ever been in or attended. I couldn’t help but be angry at all the women in my life whose husbands showed up.
I was angry, I was hurt. I remember pleading with him to tell me he was kidding. I couldn’t believe with any shred inside of me that the person in this world I loved the most, had crucified me on a stake. Alongside the pain, there was pride. Eventually my family, my friends, the wedding guests and anyone I had ever met (thanks to the technology of internet social networking) would all soon hear and believe the same lie I thought I had conquered. They would know I wasn’t lovable or good enough.
I did a lot of crying. You would think eventually your tear ducts wouldn’t be able to keep up with the production, but to my astonishment the tears did in fact, keep coming. I would try to make myself sleep, because you couldn’t feel pain while doing so. Then I realized that each time I woke up, it was like awakening into a nightmare. Weighing the options, I chose to push aside sleep for a bit and live with the uncontrollable sobs.
By nothing short of the grace of a God that I was furious with… day twoish, I got out of bed.
God had cultivated such a strong desire inside of me to marry. I had read every book and watched every sermon on how to be a Godly wife. I began to mold myself in to a woman who would love her husband, serve him and follow him all the days of her life. My willingness to be embarrassingly upfront with the events that would follow, rest completely in the hope that God will have the complete Honor and Glory at the finish line of this all.
Date was not really a word in our relationship vocabulary, though I got many a grand IOUS. I must tell you that I have come to grips with the fact that many man do not have this trait and that I may or may not have watched one too many love stories unfold on a movie screen or too many epidsodes of The Bachelor. But, know that I felt like I was settling. I didn’t trust that God had a better plan in store.
I hit many rock bottoms in this area. I didn’t feel pursued, I didn’t feel loved and I willed and wished for him to affirm me. I didn’t ask much of him. It wasn’t that I needed a helicopter ride and a private dinner for two at the top of the Grand Canyon, what I needed was a sunset and a love letter.
The love story I am about to unfold might fair normal to some, but it broke my heart because it is not what I had hoped for my life. It was forced and I wept from the depths of my heart many times over the story that had played out. My creativity and imagination was intentional about hiding the not so pretty details, call it a gift or a curse? Nonetheless it was no ones business that I begged him to love me. I said and felt it first and he did not return it so quickly. No one needed to know that I cried every day when he wasn’t ready to be married as soon as I was. When he did eventually purchase the ring, I picked it out. I was there when he bought it. Three of the ugliest weeks of my life would follow. Each day hoping for a promise, but it never came. He dangled my happiness in his hands each day and each night came sorrow.
Finally on the day he had planned to propose we got in a huge but, in this season sadly, routine fight. I was hopeless and begged him to put me out of my misery. The next day, we decided to “get it over with” and drove to a park where he asked me to marry him, finally and with absolutely no element of surprise. Keep in mind, this whole time I knew he wanted a 6 month engagement. But, I wanted a 2 year anniversary wedding date. So, as the leader and instigator of all, I chose the June 16th date against his reservations and decided to march on with a three month engagement.
Deeper issues would unfold over the course of premarital counseling of distrust and discontentment. And I remember so many nights leaving eager to do our “relationship homework”, but more so embarrassed when I thought about what our relationship looked like from the outside. We knew we had our work cut out for us. Our time was limited so we made a last attempt to get it right.
Throughout the course of our time together on the couch of this couple’s house they made mention a time or two of this not having to lead to marriage. If we weren’t ready, postponing or canceling was a very real option but most assuredly not one that I had considered or accepted in the slightest. I wrestled with God in these last stages. I didn’t see change happening in my soon-to-be other half’s life. He still hadn’t stepped into the role of leader and decision maker. I remember one night after counseling; I was wrecked by his lack of effort. I felt as if God reached down, held my face tenderly and asked me boldly, “If he never changed, if he never honored me spiritually- by leading me, honored me practically- by having a plan for our future, or honored me romantically- by pursuing me, would I still love him and chose to marry him?”
In my heart of hearts, I had desired a relationship redo. Obviously, it was flawed. But my answer was an unwavering yes. I loved him and I saw nothing but potential, and I decided on my floor that night in front of God, if that potential never came to fruition, I would still love and commit to a marriage to him. My theology said this could go two ways; we could be happily married or unhappily married. Divorce was not an option, nor was turning back because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he was the one God had made to spend the rest of my life with. Or maybe it was pride saying I’ve fought too hard to get here. Looking back, I think maybe that was God’s grace extending down a hand to pull me from the despair that would follow in the weeks to come.
I pressed forward.
He started talking, something prepared me for disaster. Maybe it was his tone, but I knew something wasn’t right and I can only attempt to describe it in relation to one other experience in my life. When I was 15, I was a passenger in an awful car accident. I saw the accident unfold before me, I grabbed a hold of the seat in front of me and braced for impact. I watched out of my window as the line between ground and sky flipped round and round. It was silent and loud at the same time. I stared into the blurry distance and waited for it all to end. There was also a waking up experience, feeling so numb and out of it… wondering whether you are actually alive or dead. In the case with my fiancé, and with the mangled car I don’t remember escaping the wreckage. I ended up behind a locked door crying and screaming, wailing so loud I struggled for air. He pleaded for my forgiveness and expressed his fear in losing me. I listened to his apology, his brokenness over his actions and how it had led us here. All I heard was a story of betrayal by everyone who knew and the embarrassment of everyone who would come to know.
The first night, I wept.
As angry as I was that he hadn’t acted on his conviction sooner, I knew what he was saying was true. We weren’t ready to be married; it just seemed like the next step. I also knew, it was my hand that had forced the date. I hadn’t trusted God’s timing. I had shoved along our relationship based on my timing and will, not Gods. I was so eager to be married, that I willed everything to play out in fast forward; boyfriend, love, marriage… the faster, the better. I knew what was best for me and I put all my energy into making it happen. That landed me smack dab in the midst of a glorious disaster. I didn’t even pretend to surrender my life to God, so He instead took it.
God’s redeeming hand has reached into my story, painfully ripped out the pages and said,
Now, here… let me give it a try.
At the time it felt as though I was hand and hand with God walking straight toward my heart’s desire, but then the road made a sudden and jagged turn away from what I longed for… what He promised. Our grip is tested as I try to continue the previous course. There is a soreness in my heart as the space between us grows. Our arms are now stretched to their full reach, I can feel the tightness in my whole body. I go limp. I surrender. He never lets go, His grip only tightens. I’m frustrated with Him. I cry out. Unable to look Him in the eye, instead I watch as the end to my fairy tale moves from forefront to side glance. He pulls me up, grabs me close and whispers, “Trust me”. There is a sternness in His voice that I cannot deny, yet His eyes are kind. It’s as if they are saying.. I love you, I made you. I know what is best for you. Just walk with me.
For me, being dumped right before your wedding was a huge embarrassment. Now unavoidably to all who knew, I was damaged and wounded. To know me was to pity me. Whether this was the case or not, I felt like all eyes were on the broken Christian girl to see how she would respond. I’d like to think I rebounded well enough, I trust God now with a fierceness I had not known I was capable of.
I am on the verge of my one year “non wedding anniversary” and am happy to report I am in a great place. I realize now, that the end result of life is not to be married. I was looking to someone else for my joy. I had it all wrong, yet I would’ve gone down with the ship. I am thankful to a God who reached in and pulled me from the wreckage of what could’ve been a less than desirable marriage. I had done the wrong thing, but God was and is still faithful.
I am excited for the future. I have surrendered all efforts to rush into marriage recognizing it as the idol it was. Instead I am just enjoying my season of singleness. I have amazing friends, an adorable pup and a healthy obsession with traveling.
I am excited to be back in the arms of my first Love… a God who loves me and is everything I need.