I look back at 17-year-old me, 18-year-old me, 19-year-old me…and my heart hurts. My heart hurts because, in my eyes, my worth was directly related to whether I had a man in my life, specifically one that I was going to marry (preferably by the time I was 20).
I went to college (possibly the absolute strictest Christian college at the time) at the young age of 17. I went as a summer worker, to put money toward the school year; I was there for Elementary Education and Speech. But in reality? I was there for what many jokingly called an M.R.S. That was my main goal, though I’d never say.
I met a man over seven and a half years my senior and was quickly smitten. He treated me well, and I fell hard and fast—my track record was filled with zero boyfriends and way too many romance novels.
I feel bad for that 17-year-old because I felt that I needed a man to complete me.
But 18-year-old me is for whom I truly shed tears. The man I was dating soon alienated my friends and even my family. He forced me to stop using the phone my parents had sent me to keep in touch and put me on his phone plan. He set up an email for us to use jointly (all while setting up his private one behind my back). He forced me, with threats of violence and getting me kicked out of school, to become a staff member at the college, as opposed to a full-time student. At that point, I was placed in a staff apartment, in which he was allowed. (Boys had not been allowed in girls’ dorms as students.)
After that, the emotional and mental abuse became physical and lightly sexual. But I was stuck. I felt stuck, because this man would go so far as to threaten my life, but some strange part of me still wanted to marry him. Not because of who he was but because he was male, and certainly, after I married, all would be well. After all, that’s all I’d ever wanted—to be married. That would solve everything, right? We’d have children, and they’d be my whole world…and everything would turn out all right in the end, because he wouldn’t matter all that much in the big scheme of things.
But then I turned 19, and things continued downhill. I wound up, five months after my 19th birthday, having my first brain surgery. It was a hellish seven weeks of four brain surgeries, a gall bladder removal, meningitis, sepsis, and more. Thank God (truly) that my mother spent the seven weeks with me. She dealt quite well with my first boyfriend (then fiancé), even though she, at the time, didn’t know the extent of the abuse.
That whole episode sent me home to central Florida, where I was able to break up with quite possibly the most toxic person I have ever met.
There are nights I still weep for that young girl who thought her existence hinged on a man.
All that said, ladies, I am absolutely behind your hinging your worth on a man…but be sure it’s the right Man—the Man Who shed His blood and died on a cross 2,000 years ago for your sins, was buried, and rose three days later. Hinge your worth on that Man—the Lord Jesus Christ.