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When God Writes Imperfect Love Stories: Bravely Loving Each Other's Broken Pieces

By Ericka Andersen

Brave Women Series - Ericka's Story


It wasn’t the love story I imagined. That I wouldn’t marry until I was 31 and that it would be to a divorcé. But God doesn’t consult us when He’s writing His perfect plan, and I wouldn’t have approved if He did. It’s why we can’t know first. Because He knows better. And when we trust Him through the process of not knowing, we display bravery through our faith. This bravery is part of my love story.


 

"God doesn’t consult us when He’s writing His perfect plan, and I wouldn’t have approved if He did. It’s why we can’t know first. Because He knows better. And when we trust Him through the process of not knowing, we display bravery through our faith."

 

Throughout my twenties, dating was perpetual purgatory: Nonexistent for months, strings of bad dates and fruitless, short-term relationships with immature men I wouldn’t have married anyway.


After a few months on the paid plan for Match.com, I was ready to shut it down. I had one last date to cross off my list, just to make sure he wasn’t the actual…match. Then, I’d get back to happy hours on the weekdays and church activities on the weekend, hoping one of them would eventually lead me toward lasting romance.


Approaching the restaurant we’d agreed to meet at, I saw the back of my date’s head. Well, he hadn’t lied about his height, so we were starting off on a positive note. Over two glasses of wine and an order of pita bread and hummus, we wrote the first notes of our story together.


He raved about his nieces and nephews. I gushed about my sister, due with my first niece any day. He told me about DCS picking him up multiple times as a kid. I told him about my idyllic childhood in the Midwest. He divulged his love for the mountains in his adolescent, Arizona home. I told him about my special love for third world travel, recounting my trips to Mozambique, India and Kenya.


He was kind, sweet and attentive. He texted right away, offered to pick me up from the airport after an upcoming trip, and never once ghosted me on a phone call. It was a refreshing shift from the immature, confusing relationships of the recent past.


It felt too good to be true. And like all love stories, it was in some ways.


As our relationship deepened, the more vulnerable parts of ourselves appeared. He didn’t like crowds and dealt with severe social anxiety. I was an extrovert who invited my entire Facebook friends list to my 29th birthday party at a public venue, unaware that this setup was his worst nightmare. He grew up poor, neglected, often witnessing drugs and domestic violence in his own home. I had a middle-class intact family that I was still close with.


Fire and ice. Oil and water. Bitter and sweet. Whatever you want to call it, we were very different, but we loved each other despite the difficult terrain of our relationship.


 

"Fire and ice. Oil and water. Bitter and sweet. Whatever you want to call it, we were very different, but we loved each other despite the difficult terrain of our relationship."

 

My faith had always been an important part of my life. Right away, I could see God, supernaturally revealing things to me about Rick. I saw beneath the steel-toed, Army veteran exterior and into the little boy with a big heart – the one who was robbed of a childhood. He never had a chance to develop healthy boundaries, perspectives or attain even a little security. He was in a constant state of fight or flight.


When he was angry or anxious, sometimes lashing out in ways I wasn’t used to, I could see it wasn’t really him. A still, small voice said “stay and see him through.”


As Rick began attending church with me, God started moving in his life. He began reading Christian books, bought a Bible and started a prayer life. None of this was at my urging. I had just faithfully continued to attend church and live out my very imperfect faith in the midst of our early relationship and God led him to it.


We endured hard moments, moments where I thought this could never work, moments when I was sure it wouldn’t. But God. God kept showing up in Rick’s life in miraculous ways, changing his heart, healing his mind, and ultimately, saving his soul. He was diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar Disorder, allowing him to get the psychiatric medication and counseling he desperately needed. He had been far from God when we met, but every day he seemed one step closer to Him.


I watched these signs and wonders, amazed at God’s faithfulness and restoration in the life of this random man I had met through online dating. The fact that God would bring this one man to me, a woman whose heart was perfectly shaped to see him through these things was, of course, no coincidence at all.


 

"The fact that God would bring this one man to me, a woman whose heart was perfectly shaped to see him through these things was, of course, no coincidence at all."

 

Watching Rick’s relationship with the Lord grow strengthened my own. I saw him go from a man who could barely say his name in a group to someone who stood before a church and shared his testimony from the stage. He went from frequent and irrational outbursts to thoughtful and more measured responses to tough conversations.


I saw my own flaws reflected through the prism of someone looking from the outside in. My privilege, my assumptions, my complete lack of understanding what it feels like to be trapped in a minefield of bad memories and trauma.


As he grew his faith for the first time, I put mine into practice by loving someone whose pieces were broken differently than my own. I didn’t recognize my brokenness much until this relationship, where every vulnerability, sensitivity, and weakness were exposed. I’d never been here before, unable to escape when things got hard. Sometimes I drank. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I pretended. None of that helped, but in the back of my mind I knew the promises of God never fail us and that He would “work all things together for the good” of me, who loved Him — and for Rick, who had started to love Him too.


 

"I knew the promises of God never fail us and that He would “work all things together for the good” of me, who loved Him — and for Rick, who had started to love Him too. Ultimately, God took our brokenness and pieced it together."

 

Ultimately, God took our brokenness and pieced it together. He welcomed Rick, the lost sheep who’d been wandering for so many years in the wilderness, trapped by a past he never chose. And He chose me to walk with this sheep through the windy, stormy road of life. God knew that Rick and I needed one another on this journey. How else would a kid from Arizona and a girl from Indiana meet up in Washington, DC at just the right time?


To really love someone is brave. It empties you of all your pretenses. It requires laying your heart on the table, exposed to all the risky, relational elements.


 

"To really love someone is brave. It empties you of all your pretenses. It requires laying your heart on the table, exposed to all the risky, relational elements."

 

By the time Rick and I got married, we’d weathered a few storms already. We never felt rock solid on our own and walked into this thing knowing that alone, we would never be enough. But we trusted a good God to see us through. We took a chance on being brave for one another, believing that God wrote our love story and He would uphold us in the moments we could not.


 

"We never felt rock solid on our own and walked into this thing knowing that alone, we would never be enough. But we trusted a good God to see us through. We took a chance on being brave for one another, believing that God wrote our love story and He would uphold us in the moments we could not."

 

It wasn’t the love story I imagined. But it was the one I needed.


 

Brave Woman Manifesto


Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.


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About Ericka


Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and the author of two books, Reason to Return and Leaving Cloud 9. She is an opinion columnist at WORLD Magazine & writes regularly for Christianity Today. Ericka has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and more.


She is a wife and mom of two in Indianapolis, Indiana. Connect more with Ericka on her website erickaandersen.com and follow her on Instagram here.

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