June 13, 2009 — Today would be the day. The day that I would make the worst mistake of my life. The day I had planned to walk down the aisle to meet my not-so Prince Charming.
Let me begin by sharing a piece of scripture that has become very important to me; a constant reminder that in all my sin, insecurities and shortcomings, I serve a God who is always by my side, supporting me and pushing me forward.
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT) — Deuteronomy 31:6
I open my Bible almost daily and find myself coming back to this verse at some point in my study nearly every time. It is a constant reminder that the Lord goes before me to prepare the way for me and for us all. It shows me His love, His compassion, His truth. This verse comforts me and allows me to continue on when times are tough because I know that the Lord has already gone ahead of me and prepared the way. I know that I am never alone. I am never alone in my sorrow and sadness or in my joy and happiness. He feels what I feel and celebrates when I celebrate.
As June 13, 2009 approached, I could do nothing but delight in my Father, Jesus Christ. It is only through Him that my life is as opposite as this day had been planned. I woke up today in the home where we were to be married, with no bridesmaids running frantic, no candle lanterns hanging from the tree in my backyard and no aisle prepared for Daddy and I to walk down together. Instead of promising to love and cherish a man forever, I am having a play date with my best friend, unpacking box after box of belongings that have just been moved from my college pad to my childhood home (yes, parents included) and spending my evening at Montana Grille, excepting money in all denominations from anyone who will fork it over.
And I am okay with that. Truly, I love it.
And for the happiness I feel this morning, I am so unbelievably thankful.
So, how I got to the point I was planning a wedding I wanted nothing to do with — After dating off and on for two years (MUCH more off than on), I wrongfully accepted a spontaneous proposal and allowed myself to plan my childhood dream wedding. I wish I could say I did not regret mumbling ‘yes’ the moment I did but that would be a lie. I hesitated announcing to the world that I was engaged. But out of fear that “he” would catch on to my hesitation or that those I told would sense my reluctance, I boldly decorated myself with a larger than life smile to the world.
Despite my smile, I cannot begin to put into words the level of doubt and number of reservations that flooded my thoughts. There was nothing in me that was comfortable with the idea that I was to be a bride. As the “elephant in the room” cliché goes, my concerns were inescapable in my own head. I held information that most soon-to-be-brides wouldn’t be able to contain. My uncertainty about informing others of the news stemmed from two things: my own reservations and my fear that family and friends would see through my strained smile and know that I was unhappy. Had they sensed my doubt, they would have ammo against me and would be empowered to broadcast what I was feeling inside; feelings that I was not able to face myself and surely did not want others to know of. I wanted to run from the truth. I was terrified to face the facts.
Fact 1: I was childish enough to accept a proposal that I wanted no part of.
Fact 2: I was ashamed of my naivety.
Fact 3: I was lost and had no clue how to escape the circumstances I created.
And again, this is where I found hope. — “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT) — Deuteronomy 31:6. Despite “The Facts”, the Lord spoke to me. In my confused and embarrassed state, I clearly heard the voice of God, through this passage in Deuteronomy, urging me on. No matter how difficult breaking off an engagement would be, He assured me that it was nothing I couldn’t endure.
If you don’t mind, let me bring this into perspective for you. “Fact 3: I was lost and had no clue how to escape the circumstances I created.” The Lord provided an answer for fear and uncertainty. Be strong, courageous and fearless. The Lord said he would go ahead of me and prepare the way for me, and I trusted in His promise. I approached my fiancé and every thought I caged in burst out like an uncontrollable word-vomit. With no plan of what to say, I knew that the relationship must end. Moments after departing ways, I couldn’t recall what I said or how he reacted. I remember tears — lots of tears. Some happy for the future, others fearful of life without the comfort of a familiar relationship, most beyond joyful that God created an escape for me.
As Pastor Ayers said in the Sunday morning sermon on May 31st, I heard for months in the back of my head a roaring, inescapable voice. When I thought about spending the rest of my life with the wrong man, there was an unwavering echo.
“NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!… NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!… NNNNNOOOOOOOO!”
This unavoidable echo existed in many forms. From the shock heard through the phone in Daddy’s voice when I told him I was engaged to the look on Marla Burch’s face when I announced that I was planning a wedding, the Lord spoke to me through family and friends. His better plan was revealed to me as I drove in solitude to the house in Portland, Tennessee that would be our home after my last name changed. Everything about it felt wrong. From picking out our future bathroom décor to bringing him a beer (or eight) over dinner, I knew I was destined for better. I am convinced that unavoidable voice was the Lord calling me to rise above where I was and take a step toward his redemptive power.
Aside from the Bible, the true Word of God, I found my strength in many of the Lord’s gifts: a more fervent prayer life, fabulous new Christian friends, a church home that was incredibly passionate and loving toward the Lord and to believers, and music. The latter has been my medicine and assurance for as long as I can remember. Music tells the story of life, expressing emotion with beautiful melody. The Lord reached out to me in the lyrics of many Christian songs during this time but one in particular has very special meaning to me. For days on end, “I’m Not Who I Was” by Brandon Heath played on repeat as a reminder of who I was in my past relationship and who I am now, after the God’s grace brought me to and through my engagement.
“I wish you could see me now.
I wish I could show you how I’m not who I was.
I used to be mad at you, a little on the hurt side too but I’m not who I was.
I found my way around to forgiving you some time ago.
But I never got to tell you so.
I found us in a photograph. I saw me and I had to laugh. You know, I’m not who I was.
You were there, you were right above me and I wonder if you ever loved me just for who I was.
When the pain came back again like a bitter friend, it was all that I could do to keep myself from blaming you.
I reckon it’s a funny thing, I figured out I can sing.
Now I’m not who I was.
I write about love and such maybe ’cause I want it so much.
I’m not who I was.
I was thinking maybe I should let you know I am not the same, but I never did forget your name.
Well, the thing I find most amazing in amazing grace is the chance to give it out. Maybe that’s what love is all about…
I wish you could see me now. I wish I could show you how I’m not who I was.”
A cannot begin to explain the importance and connection I feel to these lyrics nearly a year after ending the engagement. As a sign of resilience and hope, “I’m not Who I Was” reminds me that I am not the person I was in my relationship with a non-Christian man who I allowed to bring me farther from my commitment to live a life to the glory of God. I cannot help but rejoice in the fact that God plucked me out of that relationship.
Louder and louder each time, one lyric jumps out at me every time I hear the song. “I found us in a photograph. I saw me and I had to laugh. You know, I’m not who I was.” This is a continual reassurance to me that I am no longer the thoughtless and naïve person I once proved myself to be. I can only revel and praise my Father for removing me from the predicament and restoring me to the Rebecca Elrod that my family and friends knew me for.
Lord, I thank you for removing me from the situation I got myself into. I am so grateful that I can be and have been forgiven. As Deuteronomy 31:6 says, give me strength and courage. Allow me to hold tight to Your promises and have confidence that You will not fail me or abandon me. I am grateful that, without hesitation, You are quick to forgive an undeserving and despicable sinner of failures and wrongdoing. In all my disgracing Your name through sin and immorality, You love me more than I could ever imagine. You came before me, became flesh and lived as a sinless and homeless man, were persecuted, beaten and scorned, and died on a cross, to be raised triumphantly three days later! How can I not rejoice in Your unfathomable glory and power? And be grateful every day of my life that I have salvation and a hope of Heaven because of God’s ultimate example of sacrifice by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atonement for the sins of the world! I LOVE YOU, LORD. Allow my life to reflect You every day.
I was destined for a life of false contentment; I want pure joy.
I had succumbed to a life of entrapment; I want blissful freedom.
I was headed for a life of dishonesty and deception; I deserve truth and integrity.
I was entangled in a life of sin; the Lord plucked me out of my sin and saved me.
I had selfishly planned my own life; God has a plan that is bigger than any dream I could ever entertain.
Thank the Lord for His mercy and grace toward me — a dirty, nasty and sinful creation.