Father’s Day is less than a month away, and I couldn’t wait that long to post about my kiddos’ dad. This is going to be quite a tale, so get comfy!
I married a man who is incredibly patient. This is something I have said to many people over these past few years. Not only is he patient with our three boys as well as anyone he comes into contact with, but he is also patient with me. His ability to wade through the messes I make, as well as push through the hurt and trauma I have experienced, is nothing short of a miracle.
I spent my earlier years (probably age five through high school and college) hoping I could impress any male figure. My peers, family friends, strangers – I yearned for any affirming words offered my way. I was desperate for attention, and that led to me quite literally “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
Oh younger self.
If I could go back to the teen/adolescent version of myself, I would grab her hands in mine and say, “Sweet girl, you’re too smart for this. You don’t need a boy to define you or confirm your beauty. Your other half is waiting for you, and he really is worth it. Please, Elsa, fiercely respect and love your beautiful self.”
Of course, young me had no clue how to love herself. My mother did everything in her power to ensure I felt a semblance of self worth. Somewhere along the way, though, I let her words of assurance fade and the noise of society began to rings loudly in my ears.
At a fairly young age, I allowed myself to become defined by what my high school boyfriend thought of me. His harsh words and actions reinforced my inner demons’ words, and by the end of the two-odd year relationship, I was broken down to nearly nothing. All self-love and self-worth had left the building, and were replaced by a need to gain the attention of as many boys as I could. Needless to say, college was a blur of physical relationships and general heartache. By the time my freshman year was over, I hardly recognized myself.
Or should I say “re-enter,” as I technically knew him before. When we reconnected, I was nineteen and had just ended my freshman year at college. I had met Justin through mutual friends in high school, but at that point we were just acquaintances. However, after attending a Bible study that he helped lead, we began to build a friendship that turned into a dating relationship. We spent every spare moment together, and after less than seven months of dating, he proposed to me on a beach at sunrise.
He had witnessed firsthand some of my past abuse. He has dealt with the psychological and emotional repercussions of the things I’ve experienced, including a history of abandonment, psychological abuse, and date rape, to name just a few. He can sense when I’m overwhelmed, and he knows my heart enough to know what I’m needing in those moments of anxiety.
We tend to pity survivors of these things, but I think we often fail to see the heartache of the survivors’ loved ones. My husband is far from perfect, and I am quick to point out his faults far too often. However, he has been there with me through all my failures, my trauma, and my successes. He is the first to apologize in an argument, as well as the first to want to embrace each other in any situation. He handles my insecurities with understanding. He loves my soul, despite all the cracks and scars.
A few years ago, he introduced me to a song that perfectly embodied his Christ-like grace and love for me. To wrap this up, I’ll post a verse and the chorus from it.
“I keep all my hurt locked up in a buried treasure chest.
Any man who has had a glimpse made a mess of it and left.
‘Cause I am all the selfish things that you’d never love me for.
I was close now I’m far away trying to find the other shore…
All that you’ve learned from love
Is you weren’t good enough.
But all that you’ve heard is wrong,
You know you’re strong enough.”
So happy early Father’s Day to the man who loves me more than he loves himself. If we can raise our boys to be half the man you are, we will have done our job as parents.