*Note from Erin: I am so thrilled to introduce our first guest writer and one of our nearest and dearest friends, Melissa Butters. I can truly say that Melissa is one of the best examples in my life of someone who simply seeks God and His will. I am honored that she is being so vulnerable in sharing her story — I know you will be encouraged by it!
If I am honest, I must say that I am not sure how to begin this post. I am going to tell my story of love that is lost and found, and a past that is scarred. In all sincerity, it is difficult for me to give all the nitty-gritty details of the past, and the journey to my present. Stay with me through this story, and know my heart is extremely vulnerable. My desire is for one of you girls out there to connect with this and grow in the LORD from my story. The LORD uses circumstances in our lives to shape us and to be an encouragement to others – I want to be used.
My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. My sister was three. I don’t remember much from that time in life, however, as I got older, the pieces began to form and the scars began to show. When I was 18, I began to research why my parents divorced. Through timelines and asking questions, I discovered the reason was because my father had an affair with another woman and she became pregnant. Needless to say, my father and his mistress were married shortly after he divorced my mother. My mother soon remarried as well.
My parents are divorced. My grandparents are divorced. My aunt is divorced. Another aunt is currently involved in an open affair (meaning everyone knows). My co-worker is divorced. My counselor is divorced. All of these situations were caused by adultery, every single one.
Because of this, for as far back as I can remember, I have struggled with self-confidence. I completely believed I was not good enough for my family, for my father and, ultimately, for God. I believed I was going to have a messed up life, one characterized by heartache and pain. Like everyone else in my family.
I wanted to be married, but was scared to death of divorce – which in my mind was inevitable for my life. I had this underlying belief that marriage was a bad thing. Every relationship in my family has failed at the hands of adultery, ending in divorce. Why not mine too?
I continued in life believing this and living this way. I struggled early on in high school and through all of college believing I was not good enough, believing I had to earn God’s approval, believing my life was never going to amount to anything worth enjoying.
Believe it or not, I am currently engaged to a wonderful man. He is patient and kind, loves me more than I understand, honors the Lord the best he can, and has high hopes for our future together. He helps me do the dishes, he makes coffee for me because he knows I love it, he puts our relationship and our family before anything else in this world, he provides for me, he prays with me, he encourages me, he serves others humbly, he honors me, he has fought for me for eight years. With all that said, can you believe I broke our engagement about a year and a half ago? I broke it off, believing I was making the wrong choice in marrying him. I did some awful things to him, and daily tried to convince myself I was right.
I was scared to death of marriage. I was scared to death of adultery. I was scared to death of divorce. I was scared to death of doing everything wrong that would make my life miserable. So I fought and clawed to be this perfect image that was only in my mind – one that didn’t include fear. That’s why I broke it off. I was scared. Fear of my past becoming my future completely overwhelmed me and wreaked havoc in my emotional life.
I was an awful mess.
The Lord completely overtook me during that time and restored my soul. He showed me the areas where I had let fear take over. I dealt with the divorces and adultery in my family, realizing their decisions do not have to be my own. The Lord stripped me down to reveal only the fear that paralyzed my heart. The Lord tells us to not be afraid. In Him we have the power to cast away our fears and to lean on His peace. That is what I did, the only thing I could do. I began working on my fears and saw how paralyzing I had let them become.
Through that time, although I knew the truth, the enemy still attacked by holding my fears and failures over my head. I lived under that weight for a long time. I cried daily, was unable to control my emotions in public, and retreated from the outside world. As the enemy continued taking hold of my life, I began contemplating suicide, truly and confidently believing that it would be better for everyone else if I was no longer alive. I don’t know if any of you out there have ever thought those thoughts, but I know how strong and convincing they can be. Please, hear me now; the Lord has you here for a purpose. You are a valuable young woman. You have a past yes, but also have a future that is hidden in Christ. Get up off the ground, dry your eyes, call someone you trust and talk. Please, realize your value and your beauty. Realize the enemy and his workings. He will attack in the mind, I believe, most often. Guard your mind with the fierceness of a warrior.
Many verses carried my heart through this time in my life. One that I have known since middle school reminded me not to fear: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” John 14:27.
Another was Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
As I came out from that extremely dark time in life, I began to reconnect with my fiancé. We began having long conversations over the phone (we were separated by distance at the time). We just talked, and talked, and talked, and talked. We hashed out our relationship; we had many good laughs, and many nights of encouraging one another. As time went by, we grew in our relationship and declared our engagement once more. He proposed the second time twice, once privately at his home, and again, publicly at church. I am proud to say that I have been proposed to three times by the same man!
As I begin to prepare for marriage I am reminded of my fears. I have overcome them and lean on the Lord for peace, but still deal with them. When we were first engaged, I constantly asked my fiancé about his loyalty, insecure about his fidelity. Now, I am becoming more confident in his love, but still struggle from time to time. And yes, some days I still struggle with the idea of divorce. I am fearful that someday I will be there. Nowhere near as fearful as I used to be, but the fears still surface from time to time.
In our vows, we are going to pledge against divorce. We are absolutely determined to have a healthy, happy marriage, filled with love and grace as the Lord has given. Divorce is not an option for us, it never will be. My extended family will just have to get used to the idea that there is a different way to do things, and my home will be different.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” – Isaiah 26:3-4
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
The Lord’s faithfulness and grace has shown to be great and mighty in my story. He has been faithful to heal broken hearts, and mend relationships from the pit in my life. I am reminded of His faithfulness every day when I get to kiss my beloved. In fact, I will be walking down the aisle to “Great is Your faithfulness”. His faithfulness has shown to be true in His supernatural healing of my paralyzing fears. He has healed my heart from the hurts and burdens my family carries, which are no longer mine. The Lord’s grace has shown true to the forgiveness he has given in my sins, for they are many. He daily cleanses me and looks at me as a beautiful daughter. His grace is good, and true, and sure – even when I can’t feel it.
As I conclude this story, I want you to remember to never let your past determine your future. I let it determine my future when I broke our engagement. Please remember that the Lord is building a new thing, can you not see it? A road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43: 18-19). Live your life in the way the Lord has led you, stick close to His word, hide it in your heart, and let the Lord change your life. You do not have to live under the mistakes, and sins of your family. Their sins and mistakes are not yours.
Let the Lord transform your life, heal your fears, and create love in your heart. For the Lord is good. He will be faithful and true, giving you strength, and giving you grace that none of us deserve.