A Toxic Relationship And God’s Restoration

This morning I listened to a sermon by my favourite pastor, Louis Giglio, while getting ready for the day. One comment he made in the podcast was that God will not lead us to the wrong places. With a thankful heart, I realised that before God became the center of my life, I was also led to wrong places; but it wasn’t God leading me, idols led me instead. I was guided by my selfish desires to please someone who was not God…

Seven years ago I got involved in a bad relationship. A relationship that destroyed my humanity, passion, character and individualism. At times it was so bad that I didn’t know who I had become, my identity was not rooted in Christ, but was formed by a person and I couldn’t be anything on my own. In essence, my fear of man was stronger than my fear of God. My desire to please my boyfriend and be the best girlfriend for him superseded anything else.

The relationship was enveloped by co-dependency. Unhealthy relationships can destroy our whole beings. At that time, I was a Christian and I read my Bible, prayed, listened to hundreds of sermons online, yet, I didn’t live as a Christ follower. Instead, I was a boyfriend follower. Every thought and decision I made were based on his wants, his likes and dislikes, and what he wanted me to be. Possessiveness, jealousy, anger and tears (lots of tears) were the cornerstones of our relationship. I remember that there were nights where I would wish I didn’t have to wake up the next morning because I was so afraid I wouldn’t please him. A lot of false allegations led me to withdraw from my friends, family, hobbies and life as a whole. Firstly, I deleted my Facebook profile as it was a cause of many false accusations. I avoided social gatherings where there would most likely be friends of the opposite sex; every interaction with the opposite sex led to allegations of cheating. He made me feel inferior, he made me doubt myself and it was a constant battle within my soul – I was being abused emotionally and I felt trapped.

Girls, if any guy stands in the way of your personality and/or inhibits you from being the person God made you to be, leave him!!

God deposits passion, character, and personality in each person for a specific reason and for a specific calling. Do not allow anyone to destroy your authentic self for his/her gain. You are made for community, you are made to love and be loved, not just by one person, but by each of God’s children. He didn’t make you just for your boyfriend, fiancé or husband, but for community. His last instruction to us in Matthew 28:19 was “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Yes, there will be days where you have to sacrifice something for your boyfriend or husband, but you cannot give up the core of your existence to please someone else.

After 3 years, this destructive, manipulative and poisonous relationship ended. It took a season of depression, visits to psychologists, taking anti-depressants and a lot of prayers from my parents before I started trusting God to lead me to where He wanted me to be. I started seeing my friends and family again, without feelings of guilt gripping me like a tight rope and without reporting my every move to someone. God challenged me and gave me a job in a male-dominated environment (yes, 90% men!). But I knew that He equipped me to take on the flaming arrows of the devil and to conquer and overcome situations and feelings of anxiety due to past hurts. I learned to build healthy friendships with colleagues. These colleagues feel like brothers to me and I can stand in awe and thank God for reviving my soul and for making me a new being. I also joined a church and am living out my true identity in God’s community of Christ followers. I joined a small group of totally diverse people, who’ve become my best friends over the past year. I’ve picked up old friendship ties which I had neglected during the relationship and started showing appreciation for the times these friends had sent messages and I didn’t reply or showed any love to them even though it broke my heart into pieces.

Fourteen months ago I went to a Christian conference where I felt the urge to pray for my ex’s new girlfriend. I spoke to God and was literally begging Him to be with her and to lead his feelings and thoughts to not hurt her as well. Mostly, I still believed that I was the cause of my failed previous relationship. Two months later, I received a message from her – it was only a pin. No words, no message. Just an article “19 Signs you’re married to a Narcissist” … (Thank God I wasn’t married to him). As I read through the article, very familiar words and character traits came up. “Charmer”, he wants to own you, he will find a way to change your mind and do it in such a way you think it was actually your idea. “Conversation interrupter”, “rule breaker” and “grandiose personality”. She and I started a deeper relationship where we shared feelings with each other – we didn’t need to explain anything because both of us shared exactly the same experience. We’ve encouraged each other, prayed for each other and supported one another. We laughed so hard when she told me how tense she was when she went shopping, too scared to look to her left or right because if she bumped into someone familiar, it would be reported to him. (Yes, that is something he would’ve freaked out about!) As a Jesus follower the above incident looks like a joke and something we could laugh about, but as a boyfriend follower, this would have been something that would lead to confrontation, conflict and me being yelled at. Ladies, we are free in Christ!!

This last year I’ve been on an adventure of self-discovery and I really felt God impress on my heart to make a list of my ideal boyfriend/husband. A list of character traits that I would love in a person, which aligned with the Bible, but I really felt Him saying I should ask Him for specifics in that special someone. In January 2016 I start with a list, my own list…

Just before my 30th birthday, I shared parts of my story with two of my best friends. I was honest with them about my fears and vulnerabilities. Fears I have that I might not get married at all, and the thought of not having children or one day being too old to have children. In Ezekiel 47, Ezekiel speaks of a paradise and with this picture Ezekiel promises the Israelites a new land with new beginnings. I just felt God speaking to me through that piece of scripture and telling me that where there are streams of water, everything will live again, there will be a lot of fish and fruit trees in abundance. The leaves of the trees will not be wilted and there will be enough fruit to eat. I felt God promising me a future of prosperity and hope. I still do not know what the future holds, but I know God holds it in His hands.

The day I turned thirty, I went to sleep with a thankful, happy heart. No, I didn’t have a husband, children or even a boyfriend, but I had friends, lots of them, I had freedom and that specific day I drowned in all the love I received from the people close to me. That night in my room, I thanked God for my path. A path I can use to help people so that other people can be healed through my brokenness. It was okay to be single because as a Christ follower I walked in the path that my Father set out for me. God promised us he will direct our steps and guide us on the right path. For the first time in a very long time, I trusted in the Lord with all my heart and did not lean on my own understanding.

I’m not perfect. I struggle a lot to hear God’s voice, but I always ask myself: “Do you sense God’s peace in this”. 1 Kings 19:11-13 “And He said, go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a STILL SMALL VOICE.” If you don’t feel peace, don’t stay in a relationship.

The day after my birthday I met a very special person. I believe God prepared our hearts for each other. Right now I am happy in a normal, balanced relationship where we both have our own identities, personalities and passions. We have the courage to lovingly point out each other’s faults in a respectful and friendly manner, without breaking each other down. Ladies, you deserve to be pursued by a godly man. In Philippians 4:8 stands “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” “The acts of flesh, are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”. You must be more devoted to God than your desire for a soulmate. In Exodus 20:3-5 God stated very plainly: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”. In the most simplistic terms, an idol represents any object that knocks the real God off the throne in favour of a false one.

I think a lot of us forget what relationships and marriage are all about. We are put on earth to make disciples. As Francis Chan wrote: “You can be more effective together than apart. In a truly healthy relationship, we enable each other to accomplish more than we could have done alone.” Unity is the natural result of two people following one Spirit in a life devoted to a mission.

At this moment, I am so thankful to be in a relationship where my boyfriend prays for me and does not find fault with everything I’m doing wrong. I am so thankful to be in a relationship where we can be honest and vulnerable with each other. I am so thankful to be in a relationship where my boyfriend visits me in the evenings and does not make me feel guilty for all the trouble he is going through to spend time with me, my family and friends. We are in a relationship to build each other up and encourage each other, not to tear one another down and destroy. You are supposed to have the freedom to be yourself. In a godly relationship there will be no need to prove yourself. I’m thankful that we can come just as we are to Jesus Christ, He does not love some future version of us, but He loves the real us, the wounded us, the messy us, and the broken versions of who we are.

“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever” – Psalm 136.26

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