Curiosity. Fear. Excitement. Worry. Freedom. Suppression.
This tug-of-war waged inside me as a young teen.
I couldn’t avoid attention from boys, but deep down, I secretly craved it. The frightened, wounded little girl inside battled against the developing woman with dreams of love and family life.
My journals at the time are filled with laments, saying “Why does life have to be so complicated?” I reminisced longingly for days before my parents’ divorce prior to the age of five, when I could play freely and had fewer worries. In my teens I chose clothes with cartoon characters or little girl details. When I wore more age-appropriate clothing, I received attention without seeking it out. Then I felt overwhelmed, unable to handle their attention. I didn’t want to intentionally attract boys. I was terrified of being hurt again.
In my mind, I regressed to a childlike state, in denial of my attraction to boys. Here is a perfect definition of how I felt:
Regression is a hiding style that returns the individual to an earlier stage of immaturity…This defensive form of regression performs the function of keeping the individual away from his more adult, structured parts. This is at times due to a deep fear that being “adult” will bring isolation.1
I had learned that men weren’t to be trusted. They would let you down—they would abandon you— unless you could somehow control them. I didn’t want to be in control of a man. I wanted someone to lead me.
My great-grandparents were my ultimate model of how men and women should relate as a couple. Their love for each other was obvious and admirable. They were a team, great friends who appreciated and respected each other’s roles on the family farm. He was clearly the leader and she was very strong and capable in her own right. They treasured their time together in their 60+ years of marriage. I held their marriage in awe.
But when I was a teen, their model seemed far out-of-reach. I had built impenetrable walls of broken trust around my heart. I didn’t believe that a love like that existed for me. Yet a part of me couldn’t help hoping for a deep, lasting love.
It took many years for me to learn the kind of love I was searching for is only available in a deep relationship with God. He healed my hurts and satisfied my longings. He knew the deep wounds of my soul, ministered to my brokenness, and restored me to emotional health. As a young teen I couldn’t have imagined that possible. But with God, all things are truly possible. I am so thankful that God was by my side in those confusing, tumultuous years when the war waged inside me.
What wars has God put to rest in your heart? How has God served as your healer?
1) Townsend, John, Ph.D. Hiding From Love. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996.