The Truth Catalyst

It wasn’t until I had the kind of love I always thought I wanted, that I realized it wasn’t love at all. It was as if he had studied me from afar, taking notes on the prowl, and morphed himself into exactly what would effortlessly deceive me. From my signature French phrases to my prided hidden cafes, he stood right by me, nodding with a grin, reveling in the wonders of all of my I-thought-I-was-the-only-one’s. The heart on my sleeve made for the perfect target, but I never imagined anyone would have the audacity to scheme and calculate such a thing as love. For it was love, after all. 

Doors held, chairs pulled, jackets swept, parents met… the sky seemed aglow to my young eyes, full of wonder and naivety. I didn’t realize then that it was just the descending  of a haze that would cloud both my world and my judgment. I was showered with poems, flowers, and hidden notes disguising hidden agendas. Diverted and flattered by the undivided attention, I never had a moment to step back. To breathe. To evaluate what was happening and that maybe, just maybe, this was too good to be true. That this type of whirlwind romance was something simply found in a script. But I didn’t want to know. Not now. Not now that I had it. This was what I wanted… 

Wasn’t it? 

His every word catered to the notions that gave life to my soul. He inserted himself into each one of my dreams, and I welcomed him, clinging onto every promise he slyly rolled off of his charming, forked tongue. All too soon arose declarations of love – something I had always imagined would stir in me exhilaration and desire to reciprocate. I felt what only seemed like exhilaration if only I ignored the troublesome weight it bore along with it.  The weight that could only be that of fear. I was puzzled by these hesitations and hated myself for not being as certain as he claimed to be. Because I had wanted this, and this was the love I had seen displayed in the movies. It was all too easy to convince myself that the fear I felt was nothing but nervousness of commitment and newness. Wisdom gently knocked on my door and I rejected her, because what she was speaking did not align with what my heart was feeling. And I was supposed to follow my heart, wasn’t I? That’s what the world had instructed me to do. I had no reason to fear, right? He had done everything according to the books. He said I was loved. He said he wanted to dream with me. He said I was safe, and that he would always protect both me and my virtue. He said, and he said some more. He was a master of words, words within words, words wrapped around words, and words toppling words. But that’s all they were. Words. 

I don’t think I’ll ever recall when the transformation happened, or if it was there from the beginning – but the eyes of my once gentle love faded into a dark and unfamiliar hue, and manipulation arose to reign. It became an offense if I took just one minute too long to phone back. A betrayal if I wanted to spend time with my family because, if I dared to love anyone else, it meant I didn’t love him. A threat if I did anything that he did not decide for me. Because he wanted to protect me. He loved me. At least that’s what he said. 

He couldn’t share me with anything, or anyone, and the isolation was slowly killing me. He constantly reminded me that we were destined to be together. That we were a team, like Goldie and Kurt, or Bonnie and Clyde. But I realized all too late that I was the only one getting robbed and murdered. He had promised to help me fulfill my dreams, and I his, I just never realized his dream was to control me. He couldn’t bear the idea of any aspirations I held that didn’t revolve around him. And so I swallowed my dreams along with the poison of the lie that I owed him everything, because if I did not do as he wished, it meant I didn’t love him as much as he loved me. And love him, I did, my gosh, I loved him. Because that’s how emotional abuse operates. Power, manipulation, mind games, and control are enough until one day they aren’t. Until I love you’s are uttered through gritted teeth and endearing squeezes begin to bruise. Until all of the joy you once harbored has been consumed and you have nothing left to give – or more truthfully – they have nothing left to take, and they blame it all on you – because you just don’t love them enough. Until the covert assault of the heart turns to the sly coercion of your body, making you feel like it doesn’t even belong to you anymore. And that’s when I knew I had to leave. 

It took every hint of strength I could muster up, and I was plagued by the internal struggle of doubt. Of the seemingly beautiful recollections of a noble man that never existed, not really. I let my doubts keep me in the danger zone merely an instant too long and learned, frighteningly so, that sometimes people will do just about anything to regain power and control. I almost wish I had instead been attacked by a stranger in an alleyway. At least that way I wouldn’t have had to deal with the traumatization of the utter betrayal of one who once promised to protect me from the evils of the world. But he was ever so sly, making me feel as if it was my own idea. Everything he did was under the guise of love, but I don’t think he could have been more hateful. And because I was leaving, he needed back that power. And so he dishonored me – downright insulted my femininity, in order to do so. 

It was as if he had laid himself out as a canvas, inviting me to paint my dreams – then looked me in the eye, snickering, as he set himself on fire; wondering why I ran in terror. And when I fled, he couldn’t endure the thought of me living a life without him, so he burned my dreams, convinced that would do the trick. Little did he know that the embers of those charred dreams provided the warmth I needed to survive, while remaining with him I would have frozen to death.  

I drove myself crazy attempting to sort through everything that had happened, where things went wrong, and what I could have done to avoid this devastation.  I should have known. I knew better, I did. The line between my own mistakes and the splatter of his was impossible to determine. I nearly drowned in the confusion of why keeping my love on had repeatedly failed. Because you’re supposed to fight for love – at least that’s what I continued telling myself. When you love someone, you love them wholeheartedly, despite their flaws. That’s what I was supposed to do, wasn’t it? Because I loved him, and he loved me, didn’t he? No. No, because loving someone doesn’t mean allowing them to kill you. That’s the furthest thing from love. And love already died for them. It was never my job to be a savior. I wish I had known. 

It’s always been said that love is a battlefield, but they’ve got it all wrong. It is, but not in the way everyone has always imagined. I was in a battle for love, all right. It was a fight, but a fight to love myself first. Because there is nothing selfish about loving yourself. There is a tremendous difference between being selfish and owning your whole self – and own yourself, you must. Standing up for yourself, you fight.

I never knew how I could heal. I felt far too heavy for healing. I knew it was possible, that crueler deeds had been committed and redeemed, but this feeling of betrayal, of dishonor… it was hell, and I knew that time, along with Christ, was my only hope. I could have slept through the rest of my life – my shell continuing on but my core finding solace on the floor of the shower, my tears slowly synching to the drip of a faucet I could not yet find the strength to switch on entirely. But if there was one thing I had learned, it was that time lost its healing power when you slept through it. And I refused to be a victim. 

After a short season of hiding, all I could do was wake up, and start talking. I needed to stand up for myself, so I began speaking out about what I was going through. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I even engaged strangers in the revelations of my struggles. I prayed. I wept. I screamed the truth until my voice ran out – but it was then that I realized that the truth merely needed a whisper to spark the unleashing of its healing power. There were days I could feel myself melting into blackened tar – into a puddle of hate, because hating is easy. It takes no effort, yet robs you of all of your energy. And I refused to be sucked into that vortex. 

So, I fought back, and day by day I began to feel lighter, until, gradually, the aching throb of my heart was replaced by the pitter-patter of tiny feet beneath my ribs, reminding me that I was made for love – and that is exactly what this was. This gift of life in the place of a troubled soul with malicious intentions. Evidence of love as a result of an act of hate. Darkness attempted to take my life, but I bounced back with two: my own and the precious, innocent life budding in my womb. 

It was such an oddity, celebrating the life made with someone while mourning the death of who I thought they were. I was terrified to be a single mother, but I knew I had a mighty God in Whom I would receive strength, just as I had received His grace. I had to press on and continue to heal in order for my heart to be accessible for my baby.  I didn’t have time to be paralyzed in bitterness, nor did I want to be. I was going to do this alone, with ferocity and confidence, because I’d much rather do this alone than with a chocolate covered dragon. Had it not been for divine intervention, I would have justified my actions all the way to the altar, and surely, there, I would have perished. 

The truth was a catalyst for my darkest of days, but without it, I wouldn’t know the light I do now. The only way I can make sense of the hurtful decisions people make is that there is a great evil lurking, it’s sole mission to destroy all that represents life and love, and we humans – we were made for love. I refuse to believe that any soul is rotten to the core. That any soul forthrightly desires to destroy, because I’ve seen how scheming lies saturated in faulty promises may trick one into becoming a pawn in the claws of the enemy. But more than that, I’ve witnessed and experienced the miraculous work of redemption that only comes from the One Who writes our names on His palm, and He is far more powerful. 

So, to the chocolate covered dragons of the world: you are forgiven, and there is hope for new life. I pray that you no longer navigate in powerlessness but instead turn your face to light and freedom. I pray you recognize that you are not a slave to  powerlessness, and that abusive generational curses are just that – curses – and like all things, can be triumphed over by love. But it is a choice. I mourn for you and will not stop fighting until the day you choose to step into that freedom. 

It’s been no easy feat to forgive, because how do I forgive one who has shown no remorse? Or has never taken responsibility for their actions? How can I extend forgiveness to an apology I will never receive? I forgive so that I may release and be released from the bitterness. To be relieved of the heaviness. I have found that there is triumph in surrender. The surrender of my right to understand. The surrender of my need to serve justice, because I am already being fought for. The surrender of my pressing desire to explain myself, because you don’t need to explain yourself when you have the ultimate defender. 

After all that has happened, I absolutely still believe in love. The enemy would love for me to take what I experienced and hide away, trusting no one. But that’s not how love works. That isn’t how redemption operates. I’d much rather accept the divine invitation to step into freedom by walking in trusting discernment. To guard my heart with wisdom, not a wall. I will continue embracing single motherhood as my village embraces me. Because while I am pressing on in singleness, I am far from alone. The scars on my soul and the babe in my arms, while evidence of a dance with deception, remind me that I now have peace where I once knew only devastation. That joy fills the depths that once pooled with grief. That I was created for love – a love so furious it never once let me slip away. A love so marvelous it gave me life. And I am forever thankful that my heart has been set free.

Lindsey Mullins, The Village Journalist