I once got back together with a boyfriend because of a dream. In the dream, the boyfriend I was taking space from was drowning, and I could feel his desperation and pain. It hit me in the gut. When I woke up, instead of taking the dream to God in prayer, I called him later that day. I knew the relationship was unhealthy and wouldn’t come to good, but I felt so guilty at how I had stepped away from him, and the dream seemed like confirmation that I was supposed to be there for him, not abandon him.
After this phone call, we ended up getting back together, and a year or so later, breaking up (that story to come). This boyfriend pressured me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with and berated me for not being an adult and staying with him instead of at my parent’s house when I came home from school to visit. He battled depression and anger, and no judgment, I battle these things too. But really, he had turned his back on God, was pretty open about that grudge, and there I was, excited and growing in that relationship and wanting to share and blossom in all that God was doing in my life. He was a weight that pulled me down. Most of our time was spent alone in either of our apartments, isolated and in the dark, suffocating in each other. He was an artist, and I’m an artist, and he was incredibly handsome, and our relationship was incredibly passionate and full of things like literal fireworks exploding when we walked down the street and kissing in fields of fireflies, but there was no real light getting in. I would lay next to him and think about how it felt like him and me against the world. And how I secretly longed to have a relationship like my college roommate’s, whose relationship blossomed out of friendship and shared faith and laughs and how they attended things together—church, game nights, events.
One day, alone, in the quiet of my room, I was listening to the Paula Cole song “Nietzsche’s Eyes.” As the haunting song progressed, Paula began to cry out with all the passion of her soul about basically losing herself in a relationship and the pain of being ripped out of a fantasy. That’s how I interpreted it. (I’d put the words here, but there’s copyright rules.) Well, the Holy Spirit used that song to pierce my heart, and I started to ugly sob because I knew the Lord was telling me to let go of this relationship that was pulling me under. Later that day, I sat with my closest friend in town at the time, my neighbor LouAnn—I was a first-year grad student who had moved from out of state—and I told her what had happened. (Side note: LouAnn was my church at that time; I didn’t attend church in part because I didn’t have a car but more because I felt like a sucky Christian. But LouAnn was a spitfire “ghetto girl for Christ,” as she called herself, and each Friday we would go to a local hamburger joint with our Bibles and sometimes even put on some old-school TBN and worship. This was my “church.” I was free to share my real life, unfiltered, with LouAnn.) When I told LouAnn what happened in my room and what the Holy Spirit had told me, LouAnn, who had been listening for months about my struggles in this relationship, encouraged me and told me I could do this.
Well, that day I did not leave my boyfriend. It would be about six more months on a visit back home that I spent a morning in the scriptures after a night we had spent together. I was focusing all my attention on my sexual impurity and seeking what the Word really said about sex before marriage when the Holy Spirit led me to a scripture about expelling the immoral brother, but really to the question: Did I even know if my boyfriend was a believer? I spent all this time worrying about the one aspect of purity and making assumptions of my boyfriend. Why not calmly ask this question, have a real conversation, and then see where we are? Maybe we were more on the same page than I thought. It was clear direction. I felt hope. Clarity.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
—James 1:5 (NIV)
That night I put on some worship music to create peace in my father’s place (he was out for the evening). And when I posed the question to my boyfriend, he got furious. He told me that religion would always come between us and that I would never love him and had never loved him for who he is. He said this while stomping down the stairs and slamming the door. These would be the last spoken words I’d ever hear from him.
I ugly sobbed that night more than I ever had in my life.
In the coming days, he’d write me some emails, making it clear that he didn’t believe in God, that he felt I was trying to force my beliefs on him, and that he felt like we were in a high school relationship—that with all the time he drove down to visit me, when I came home, I should stay with him, not my parents. He said there comes a time to leave the nest. He tried to show me the “truths” of the Bible and how I needed to grow up in my faith, that I was reading the Bible wrong, etc. This was what had confused me in our relationship; he would quote from the Bible, and I thought he was just angry with God. We have all gone through seasons or moments like that. But it became abundantly clear that this was not the guy for me as he berated me in email after email about my unfair, childish, judgmental beliefs. I still have that email account, and as I looked back at those emails, the words knocked the wind out of me again, taking me back to that dark time. I’d post excerpts here, but it doesn’t feel right to post his words. I will admit now that in some ways he was right: Jesus was big and real in my heart, and I wanted to share that with my human partner on this earth! I wanted him to have the same joy and peace I had. I’m sure I did come across as someone evangelizing to her boyfriend at times, and I should have had that clarity conversation a long time before I did. But I wasn’t ready. And I certainly wasn’t trying to hurt him.
His last email to me told me not to care for him anymore or he would probably kill himself.
That one wrecked me at the time. I felt like the most awful person in the universe, and I was worried he’d do something drastic. But I couldn’t get back together with him because of this fear. Or my guilt. Our relationship was too far gone.
In the coming weeks, I’d have two moments I suddenly, in my mind’s eye, saw my ex struggling with suicidal thoughts, but instead of calling him, I got on my knees and prayed with all my heart for him, intercessing on his behalf.
I heard from the grapevine that he was alive and okay (but still full of anger). A couple of years ago, I looked him up on social media and saw that he is now a single dad with a beautiful child. I wish him nothing but the best. But he was not my best. And I was not his.
I’m not sure how this became this week’s blog post, but perhaps someone out there is struggling in a relationship they know is not good for them and dragging them down or hindering their walk with Christ or leading them to isolate or that is becoming their world.
I ask that you find the courage to lay that relationship in front of Jesus and ask Him to speak clearly and honestly to you, and to give you the courage to ask the hard questions and follow His path for you, one step at a time. It’s not always to break up—sometimes, you just need to ask God to help you put the relationship back in its rightful place in your life. My first step was to ask my artist boyfriend the simple, point-blank question about his belief in God. While this question led to heartbreak as he slammed one door, another door soon opened to a summer of rebirth in Christ and in life; I even got baptized in the ocean. I met a community of people, began to attend a church, joined a small group. I breathed fresh air. I fell in love with Christ in a way I never had before, and I felt alive. At the time I didn’t have a car, and so I had to bike in the mornings to work, and as I bike rode to work bundled up in the winter and then past the azaleas in the spring, I found myself singing worship songs, feeling fresh and reborn.
I came out of the darkness.
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’”
—Galatians 5:7–9 (NIV)
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”
—Romans 16:17–19 (NIV)
I pray you have a good week!!!