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Love Isn't Supposed to Hurta memoir
By CHRISTI PAUL
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Christi Paul
All right reserved.
Chapter OneREMEMBER YOUR ROOTS
Dear God, what have I done?
Of all the things I dreamed of feeling on the day I got married, that was not one of them.
I know. I should have been more honest with myself. By that point in my life I had sat through my share of weddings. If I had lined them up to see how many unions had survived, I'd say I was looking at a 50/50 split—half of the marriages were still going strong, and half had already crumbled. I was a big talker back in the day, too, often proclaiming, "I don't care if I'm standing at the end of the aisle in my dress with everyone seated and ready to go. If it doesn't feel right, I'm not walking down that aisle!"
But that's exactly what I did. Standing at the back of the church, just before the doors opened, with my father by my side, I said, "Dad ... you'll always be the number one man in my life." I looked at him, and he was fighting back tears. Thinking back on the day now, I wonder if it was simply because he was facing that moment a father dreads most—giving his daughter away—or if there was more to it. If he, too, was scared. If he knew that this was not how things should be.
It should have been a warning sign to me that when I told him he'd always be the number one man in my life, I truly meant it. You'd think that as I was getting ready to say, "I do," I should have been pledging that spot to my new husband. Or that I wouldn't feel the need to "number" people at all—that I could love both of them without categorization. But, truth be told, the man I was walking toward was not someone who made me feel safe or cherished or authentically loved. I think I just convinced myself of that for as long as I could because it was what I wanted to believe ... whether it was real or not. And in that moment, despite all my proclamations of "I'll never make that mistake," there I was, walking right into it.
In terms of logistics, everything else was perfect. My most treasured friends were there standing up for me, the church was filled with all the people who were important in my life, and my dear family friend and pastor, Roger Miller, had come back to town to perform the ceremony. I suppose those distractions were enough for me to gloss over the truth that was standing right in front of me.
Roger's message that day was haunting, though I didn't realize it for a few more years. He kept repeating, "Remember your roots. Remember the family you came from that loves you. Remember what makes you who you are.... Remember your roots." Maybe he knew too. Maybe he sensed this was not where God meant for me to be. Maybe the message was Pastor Roger's way of preparing me for the journey ahead ... and giving me some direction to guide me through it. But I'm sure even he had no idea how torturous the journey was going to be.
Of course I'd heard about women who lose themselves completely, who give everything they have to a man, allowing his life to take over. It never entered my mind that I could be one of them.
But in one walk down the aisle, I did just that. And I had no one to blame but myself. I chose it, even though I didn't realize I was doing it.
Isn't that how it always seems to work? One day you wake up, look around, and wonder, Where am I? Whose life am I living, and how did I get here? Little pieces of the real you keep flitting away in someone else's wind until the you that you've always known has disappeared. It happens so gradually you don't even notice it at first. I know I didn't.
* * *
A few weeks after the wedding, Justin and I were watching the video of our big day, and I found myself overwhelmed with shame and sadness. I tried to hide it, but I guess my heart was on my sleeve. I can be a darn good actress when I want to be, but the fact is, if I care deeply or if I'm hurt, it shows. My new husband noticed, and he didn't like it.
"What's wrong with you? You're not happy after watching our wedding?" he snapped.
But if you could see the tape, or if you had been at the wedding, you'd know why. It's impossible to ignore Justin's impatience blaring through each scene in the video—the stomping away from the altar when the photographer wanted to take a few more pictures of me alone, the rolling of his eyes when the DJ asked us to dance together again. At one point I heard someone in the background say something to the effect of, "It looks like Christi's initiating all the kissing." I was humiliated. What I had refused to acknowledge before was now right there on tape as evidence, and I couldn't ignore it.
At the beginning of our relationship I wrote off this impatience as simply Justin's personality. That's how he handled a lot of things in his life ... with eye rolling and a lot of huffing and puffing. But as the years went by, I had to acknowledge that maybe, in his heart of hearts, he didn't want this marriage after all. Maybe he only wanted me with him because he didn't want to be alone. Maybe he had his own insecurities to deal with. Maybe he wasn't ready to get married. Whatever the reason, I hurt for both of us.
I can't tell you how many times over the next five years I looked back on that day and asked myself, Where was I? I was strong! I was smart! I was independent! What alien took over my head and my heart, telling me, Yeah, walk down that aisle. Marry that guy! That's what you should do?
I knew when all was said and done, it wasn't only Justin's fault that we'd gotten married. I had made this choice. I'd said yes; I'd walked down the aisle; I'd spoken the words I do. And I'd lied to myself about it the whole time. I suppose I wanted to marry him so much that I allowed that desire to override all the trepidations and doubts I had.
But it took me a long time to own my part in it. What's important is that I finally did. Because until you acknowledge your contribution to a broken situation, you can't truly start to fix it.
There was a landfill full of rubbish I had to wade through before I was honest enough with myself to start making some sound decisions, though. Before I could find my way back to the real me—the person God had created me to be. At one point, it all literally brought me to my knees.
But on the night of my wedding, I laid my head down on a pillow, closed my eyes, and prayed, "God, be with us." Quite frankly, I didn't have any other words.
Excerpted from Love Isn't Supposed to Hurt by CHRISTI PAUL Copyright © 2012 by Christi Paul. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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