I attended a wedding last weekend. At the reception almost every woman there was asking the bride how she met her husband. I overheard one woman gushing how everyone loves a love story. I chuckled. Really, not everyone loves a love story. Many of us carbon-based life forms have been hurt in one way or another and don’t always believe in happily ever after. Some of us even **gasp** make fun of the starry-eyed romantics who dream of everlasting love…marriage…happiness…
I have to admit, though, that the discussion gave me pause. I started contemplating my own love story…and whether I really even had one. I mean, every couple has a story they love to share. Every couple thinks their story is the greatest, most romantic love story ever. What sort of story did I have? I’ll share with you what I see…so far.
You are already aware that I came out of a horrific marriage rife with abuse. If you know me, you also recognize I came out of that hell consumed with anger and bitterness at what my children and I suffered at the hands of a very evil man…a man who stood before God and promised to love and care for me always. I walked away from that experience knowing I would never have any desire to willingly enter into the prison commonly referred to as ‘marriage’ ever again. And love? It didn’t exist — not the kind between a man and a woman — not the forever, till-death-do-us-part kind of love. I scoffed at the dreamers I knew who actually believed in the fairy tale.
Two years ago, there I was, nursing my still-open and festering wounds. Panic attacks. Post traumatic stress disorder. Afraid to be touched. Terrified of crowds. But always strong…always a fighter. My kids and I lived in hiding to stay safe…stay alive. We did the most difficult thing we ever had to do…gave evidence that put our abuser in prison for a very long time. And then it was over. I was able to switch gears, slow down, start planning for the future.
We didn’t have to hide anymore. I was free to find new friends…develop relationships if I chose. Too afraid to actually have to talk to someone in person, I joined a dating site. I didn’t actually want to date, but I’d always found it easier to have male friends than female friends. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that a dating site wasn’t the right venue for me. I wasn’t interested in the things that people were proposing. I decided to cancel my account. When I opened the website to delete myself I saw the sweetest picture of a man with a blue face being silly with a child I assumed was his own. I felt compelled to send a message and tell him how sweet the picture was…and he responded. So I wrote back…and so did he. Eventually we began texting, then talking on the phone. I felt like I’d always known him…and he said the same.
Doesn’t sound so amazing, does it? Well, let me tell you the other side of the story…the side that Atticus eventually told me. You see, he was going through a traumatic divorce. He was being forced into something he didn’t want and was not only watching his family being torn apart, his own heart was broken over the person his wife had become. Laying in bed one night, he prayed and told God he was at the end of what he could take and begged God to do something or send someone to help him. My email was waiting for him the next day.
I made sure Atticus knew from day one that I didn’t want marriage, wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. I was content with friendship because I knew that was all I could really give. That worked for both of us. So we began to slog though the atrocities of our respective lives together. It became easier to get through the day…and the night…when he was a phone call or text away. He got me back in to church. He never judged, never said, “Why didn’t you…”, never asked about my past.
Soon after we met he began to challenge me. He asked to hug me and it terrified me, but eventually I allowed it…and even liked it. When he would hug me, we would dance very, very slowly. It was comforting to me. I began to feel safe.
I started back to college and Atticus cheered me on. He encouraged me and helped me believe there was a better future than even I could envision.
Then he invited me to a different church to see his nephew’s dedication service. I was sitting there listening to the pastor when God spoke very clearly to me. He told me I would marry Atticus there in that church, with that pastor. I wigged out. I was in panic mode trying to get out of the church. Atticus had no clue what I was upset about, but as I got into my car he kept saying, “It’s okay! We’re okay!” I told him there was no we — there was him and there was me. And then I fled.
Yes, eventually I settled back down, but I told God in no uncertain terms that I would not marry Atticus…any where…any time…period. I knew how terrible marriage was — I had barely survived mine alive. So this is where Atticus began to challenge me more — he began to show me how I was confusing my abusive husband with marriage. It wasn’t marriage, he said, that hurt me. It was the person I was married to. I wasn’t willing to consider that they were separate.
At the same time I was realizing that I had feelings for Atticus that weren’t just friendship. I was confused and actually hurting because of these very foreign emotions. Not wanting to face them and figure out what they were, I decided it would be best to walk away from him. The day I told him I wouldn’t be around anymore he was incredibly ill and I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until a few minutes after he drove away that I realized something wasn’t right about his behavior and I drove all the way to his house to make sure he was okay…and found him passed out on the floor. I took him to the ER and he was admitted to the hospital. It was scary and I was so afraid I’d lose him. God told me then I was not to leave Atticus. I listened…sort of…and I stayed with him until he was well. I had promised to help him move and I did. Then I left him. It was agony. I felt as if the light had left my soul. I can’t tell you how long I stayed away, but I can tell you how utterly miserable I was apart from him. He was my best friend and I resolved to continue the friendship, regardless of the terrifying feelings I had for him.
I spent a year loving this man but I couldn’t acknowledge it to myself, let alone him. I worked through so much of the hurt I’d had from my marriage. I was able to let go of the bitterness and be happy. I could finally accept that marriage wasn’t bad but that sometimes bad things happen within the context of marriage. Then, finally, it was Atticus who acknowledged that I was in love with him. That scared me. I was so afraid that things would change…and I didn’t want to lose my best friend just because of love. You see, I knew that Atticus could never love a broken, totally screwed up person like me, but God had begun to tell me to wait. Wait until August.
Eventually being in love with him did affect the friendship…for me. It was beginning to hurt all over again…loving someone who would only ever be my friend. So once again I decided it would be best to cut my losses and run, but before I ever had the chance to leave, Atticus became gravely ill. All of a sudden I was standing in the ER listening to a doctor say she wasn’t sure they could save his life. And again God told me not to leave this man. As he lay unconscious in his bed I prayed over him for hours, pleading with God to heal him and keep him with us. I am so immensely thankful to say God allowed Atticus to stay with us. With me.
When he was well and back on track I told Atticus how much it was hurting me to love him and to know it was a one-way thing. He said he loved me, too, but wasn’t able to give me what a girlfriend or wife would need. I asked if I should wait for him…he told me not to wait. So that was that. God was still telling me to wait until August, but I kept saying there was no point — Atticus didn’t want me. Even Melody chimed in that I should wait because I’d told her way-back-when about the directive to wait until August. So I decided to set aside the hurt and keep loving him…and hoping.
Then one night in June we were dancing outside under the moon and Atticus asked me to marry him. When I asked what had changed, he honestly couldn’t explain it, but he knew he loved me and wanted to be married. So that’s what we did. The wedding I attended last weekend? It was our wedding. In the church where God had told me it would happen…and with the pastor — now our pastor — presiding.
I married the best man in the world. I get to wake up next to my best friend every day. He loves me. It still amazes and humbles me…especially when I’m a pain in the neck and he just kisses me and says he loves me. I can see God’s hand in our relationship from the very beginning. He brought us together to bring healing, and then to learn to love again. Every day with this wonderful, gentle man is a gift.
We definitely have a love story — and to me it’s the greatest (human) love story there ever was.
Thank you, Atticus. You are my treasure.