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How a Shocking Heartbreak Led to an Unexpected Gift of Love

The story of how God gave me the amazing gift of a husband when I opened my hands

Woman wearing a blue sweater, holding a quilted heart with the word “Love” stitched into it
Photo by Rustam Mussabekov on Unsplash

The challenge

I just started reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts¹ (along with the accompanying Bible study guide) as part of an online Facebook Bible study group with Bett Harris, Janis Cox, and some others.

This was the challenge:

Soul holes are wounded moments from our past that closed our hands to God’s grace — punched holes in our soul. Recall a past difficulty, and find the gift in it.

There was one that immediately came to mind as I read this morning, and as my husband wrapped his arm around me and kissed me tenderly on the shoulder before getting out of bed to go to work.

It was a hurt that I’d never really found the gift in. I didn’t want to remember or examine it too closely. It was deep because it wounded me in more ways than one.

Broken dreams…broken promises…wasted time…undeniable proof that:

I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

It’s a long story, but I’ll try to just hit the highlights.

The backstory

A soul hole was formed when I was raped at age 17. This isn’t a story about that. I’ve already written one that touches on it.

After that, I determined I would never be raped again. So, I began giving myself away to regain some sort of sense of control.

The idea of marriage (commitment to one person for a lifetime) and children — something I had longed for since I was a very young child myself — didn’t seem to make sense anymore. I wasn’t the “marrying kind” — not anymore.

The word “marriage” made me literally, physically cringe. I had my hands closed tight. I wasn’t about to accept the gift of a husband.

After all, what self-respecting man WOULD want to marry someone like me?

But then I turned 25

Everything changed when I turned 25. I think it was because I’d always sort of suspected I’d be dead by the time I was 25. It was always in the back of my mind. 2002 was my death year. It HAD to be. My 25th birthday had passed, and I was still alive.

I hadn’t yet learned that things don’t really EVER go according to my plans.

I was supposed to (according to my child mind) marry when I was 21, have a baby when I was 23, and then die when I was 25.

Really? It’s almost laughable now that I’m just a few years away from 45, and I have daughters who are not quite 11 and 9 years old.

I was crazy in my youth. No doubt about it. It’s shocking to think how early that desire to control every little thing starts.

Instead of 2002 being my death year, it turned out to be the year I started dating the man who I thought would be my husband. I was 25 when we started dating. I was 26 when he was proposed. And I was 27 when he called off the engagement.

A new sort of betrayal

I don’t remember everything about that day. I remember sitting on the couch in the living room of the house we had built together, weeping like I’d done very few times in my life before. My past hurts had hardened my shell. It was just beginning to soften.

His words found the soft spots and dug in deep, ripping out scraps of flesh, blood, and tears.

I’d devoted two years of my life to loving that man. And I was determined to devote the next several decades to him as well. My fists were closed tight against anything else…

…even though, deep down, I knew we weren’t right for each other.

The day they married their best friends, I knew I wasn’t going to

Not long before we were to be married, I attended his cousin’s wedding with him. The theme for their wedding was:

Today, I marry my best friend.

I stared at the phrase that was printed on all the programs and napkins — and even on the banner that hung across the reception hall. And I felt a twinge of sadness, knowing that this man I was about to marry could never be my best friend.

He was a nice man. I still think he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But he wasn’t my best friend. He couldn’t be because I couldn’t be myself around him. He never really knew me.

The problem mainly was that he couldn’t handle conflict — of any kind. He completely shut down. Because I knew this, I never argued with him. I never offered any opinions that were different from what he wanted to hear.

And, if you know anything about me, you know I have a hard time keeping my opinions — even the contrary ones — to myself.

My hands were closed to accepting anything other than this fractured relationship. It was probably my last chance for marriage and family. I certainly wasn’t getting any younger. He was a nice man, and he was willing to marry me…until he wasn’t.

After the tears, I opened my hands

When the tears ran dry and my body quit shaking, he walked me to my car and kissed me goodbye for the last time. As I drove home, I (figuratively — my hands were still actually on the steering wheel) opened my hands to God and let all my plans fly away into the clear afternoon sky.

There weren’t many of my plans left, anyway.

And that’s when God really began to move quickly

A month or two after my engagement was broken — and after hours of open-handed prayer and Bible study — my husband’s mother approached me at church and asked me if she could give him my phone number.

I said, “Sure,” and gave it to her. What did I have to lose? At best, we’d hit it off and something good might come of it. At worst, I’d at least have someone to help me pass the rebound time.

The eventual outcome was better than the best I’d ever expected.

Who knows what would have happened if I’d opened my hands sooner?

He called, and since he was driving over the road for a few weeks, we talked for hours and hours and hours (about 4–5 hours per night) before we ever went out on our first date. We knew each other well by the time we saw each other face to face for the first time.

Except, it wasn’t the first time.

As we talked for the 14 hours we were together on our first date (he arrived at my house at 2 PM on Saturday afternoon, and he didn’t leave my apartment until 4 AM Sunday), he revealed something interesting.

“We have met before, you know.”

I blinked. “We have?”

“Yes. At the Labor Day picnic last year. I liked you then, but you were with that other guy. So, I just didn’t do anything about it.”

And then I remembered. There had been a guy sitting across the table from me at that picnic, and I had talked to him a little. But I had been so wrapped up in that other guy I was with that I didn’t notice him much. My hands were closed to receiving any other relationship.

That guy sitting across the table then was THIS guy sitting on my couch now. This guy who listened to me talk for hours about the good, the bad, and the ugly. And who still wanted to be around me, anyway.

And he still does, over 15 years later.

If my heart hadn’t been shattered…

That man did me a huge favor when he broke my heart that day. If he hadn’t, I most certainly would have married him. I imagine that marriage would not have been a happy one. It may have ended in divorce within a few years, or it would have led to a lifetime of pain and unfulfilled dreams — at the very least, the unfulfilled dream of being married to my best friend.

Maybe he really did love me. Maybe he knew, as I did, that we were just very wrong for each other. Maybe he just wasn’t as stubbornly determined as I was to hold on to something that wasn’t the best God had planned.

I really do believe he gave me a tremendous gift when he let me go that sunny May day in 2004 because…

Today, I am married to my best friend.

¹ This is an affiliate link. Amazon pays me a small commission for referring people to their site. Even if you don’t buy the book from my link, do please buy this book if you haven’t already read it. It’s a game changer, if you want to live a more joyful, abundant life!

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Mishael Witty

Mishael Witty

Committed to making something beautiful out of the broken pieces. www.mishaelaustinwitty.com