This weekend Ramon and I went to a marriage conference called, Build a Better Us, Pursuing the Extraordinary http://buildabetterus.com/ . To be honest I thought it might have been like any other typical marriage conference with break out sessions with your normal topics such as “Let’s talk about sex”….”Submission and Respect”…”Identifying your Love Language”.. etc. You catch my drift?
Well, it was not that……at all.
With all the rich material we learned at the conference there was one thing that pulled everything together. One thing that is the solution to pretty much every conflict in and outside of marriage. One thing that if we truly believe and apply to our lives can truly bring about radical transformation and reconciliation. One thing that had me thinking about everything that has made me the woman I am today.
I just needed to admit and believe that…..
1. I am a mess.
2. And yet deeply loved by God.
3. Grace transforms us.
With that said…..here is my testimony.
I will preface this by saying that I grew up in a wonderful working class home with a mother and father who love each other dearly and were extremely present in my life.
Can I just leave it at that?
No, because what happened there plays a huge role in who I am today.
I went to college straight out of private school with a high moral compass. In fact I would dare to say that I was pretty much known as the prude one. Maple Hall was the bomb that year because it was the first year that it was co-ed. There were block party’s all the time that year, right in front of my dorm. I was a dance major so I was always in my dance gear and socializing with other artists. Let me keep it real. There is a lot about college that I do not remember. I think over the years I tried to forget but as I type, some things are coming to remembrance. I feel like I’m in a therapy session.
Let me just cut to the chase. There was this one guy who caught my eye and I guess he had his eye on me. We were NOTHING alike. Maybe that’s what attracted me to him. He was “risky” for lack of a better word. Anyways, we started “talking”, I can’t say dating because we never ever went anywhere, we just hung out and made out a bit. I made it clear from the get go that I was saving myself for marriage. I mean I had the purity ring and everything. Well one day he didn’t listen, he ignored me. I could have yelled, I could have pushed harder for him to get off of me…..but I froze. I was embarrassed….and he knew I would be. I got up and went to my dorm room and cried in my shower washing all of him off of me. I don’t recall praying so hard. I went days without talking to him and he insisted that we talk because he knew what he did was wrong. It was a subject we never really discussed and we never said the “R” word out loud to each other. You see, I was incredibly naive and gullible. I also had this twisted idea that whoever had that special part of me needed to be special to me. So I continued in an on again, off again relationship with him for years.
Not all of college sucked. I mean I was part of the gospel choir, dance was great and I had CLU…I thought you knew ;)(Christian Ladies United). I also met my now husband there.
But this is the deal. That night changed me. Not only did I endure an emotionally abusive relationship for years with this guy but my self worth became based on the attention that guys gave me. I became very promiscuous. Don’t think for a second that I’m downplaying it. Pretty much if any guy gave me attention, we were going at it. I’ve had my share of broken hearts and morning after pills. I didn’t have a “type” per say. My “type” was whoever gave me attention….until I became too much to deal with. Emotional immaturity was running a muck!
I remember one year in college I laid every pill I had on my bed and I was going to swallow them. Then the fire alarm went off and I thought to myself, “well, I don’t want to burn to death”, so I went outside and I called a fellow dancer friend and I told her exactly what happened. She helped me that day. I also have my late cousin Bill to thank for being available to me in the middle of the night when I wanted to die. He talked me off the edge and I went to sleep that night feeling alright.
To spare you some details, college and my early twenties where just a mess with many suicidal thoughts, therapy and meds….
Until my Hero showed up
Ramon Smith (my now husband) showed up one day with “The Crew” at my job at Pottery Barn Kids. Ramon was the first friend I met in college. Freshman orientation First Flight to be exact.
I was a mess. I was broken and had pretty much given up on God, and in the spirit of transparency, I just didn’t give a shit. We sat outside Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, I lit up my cigarette and for the first time I witnessed him see me, the “messed up” Cessilye. But all along he saw the me that he always new to be true. He listened to me. He empathized and loved me in spite of my mess. He had his Bible with him but I don’t recall him actually opening it. He listened and he then spoke life over me. I don’t remember the details of what he said but what I do know is that he genuinely heard me and responded with compassion. He was gentle and for the first time I felt valued. That day I believe God used him to save my life.
Three months later I call him to the hospital to be with me because my cousin Bill had an accident. This was the beginning of us pretty much not going more than a day without speaking to each other. To this day it saddens me that Bill and Ramon never really met. That Bill doesn’t know that his accident actually brought Ramon and I together. That Bill also saved my life.
This can get long ya’ll. But I’m going to try and condense.
Ramon and I pretty much knew we were going to be married, we dated for two years and it was wonderful! I remember us falling to sleep on the phone with each other, he was always taking me out to some open mic or jazz club and we just had loads of fun. The flowers never stopped coming, it was amazing! This is how a woman is supposed to be treated? I can get use to this…..and I did. We got married, first year was awesome, second year was cool then we had our issues with infertility(that’s another blog – Making a Baby) and figuring out how to not lose our identity as individuals in a marriage that meant we were one. Oh boy! Let the issues begin shall we?
Ramon and I will be married ten years in August. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride. There have been times where I’m like “Who the hell did I marry?” and there are times when like, “I’m an emotional idiot……so get away from me, I mean…..come here” – Maggie Estep (Def Jam Poet) video. Again, emotional immaturity.
Over the years we have had many conversations about how things use to be and why they aren’t the same. We’ve had issues with intimacy and identifying each others love language. One of mine is physical touch(ya don’t say!). Which is why I believe that played a role in how I viewed love in past relationships. But anyhow, recognizing that change is good and healthy, we would eventually get through whatever dilemma we might have been facing and grew from it. It’s been a journey for sure. A major part of the healing journey was when I faced my ex with Ramon by my side, and I forgave him. Talk about a burden lifted.
Today was a revelation. I remembered about a week ago I was laying in bed crying thinking about all the counterfeit relationships I’ve had, and then grieved because I felt like “damaged goods” and weary due to all of the baggage. But this is one of the lies that the enemy was whispering to me. Today as I was reflecting on that pain I was also redirected towards the hero that never should have been. The hero I found in my husband and the hero who will always fail me because even he is a mess. He was always my hero. The one who saved my life and treated me special. The one that truly loved me. He wasn’t completely ignorant to this. He came in and swept me off of my feet. He knew about all of my baggage and he was determined to be what those other men were not…….but things got real. Life happened, the honeymoon phase was just that…a phase. The realities of life living with someone forced us to see under the mask we wear. This is where the Lord revealed our true selves and we had to face it.
My true self was needy, selfish, emotionally fragile and desperate for someone/something that would not let me down. All of those counterfeit relationships were like me searching for that hero. When my husband stepped in he was unlike anything or anyone I had ever experienced. But it’s taken all of this time of pruning within the institution of marriage for me to realize that the real MVP, the true Hero is in Christ. That this entire time He was trying to show me that man will ALWAYS fail me in some way because we are all…A MESS. I’m actually chuckling now because Ramon and I have been through so much and there have been many times where he just has not met my expectations. But thinking back, my expectations of him were self motivated, irrational and performance driven. Oh goodness!
I’m smiling because in recognizing that we both are a HOT mess and reflecting on how the Lord has brought us through it all, it further shows me how deeply loved we are by Him. The pruning process can be so hard but when we are able to combine the two, this messy deep love produces something incredibly beautiful….
I love how the Lord’s grace allows us to recognize our need for Him. How I can look back and see one constant. The real Hero is the one who brought me through it all. The one who keeps showing me that His love cannot be earned, but is freely given.
Matthew 11:28 says
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
I choose to rest in my mess and know that I am deeply loved by God, who’s grace will continue to transform me.