I think every marriage carries around some past baggage. Perhaps emotional scars from childhood, a previous marriage, or a dispute that you still haven’t been able to put entirely to rest. Like everyone, Jason and I have our share of things, but there is one area that Satan knows is a weakness for me, and he particularly loves to push on the old wound this time of year.
Fourteen years ago this week, Jason got down on one knee and asked a girl to marry him. I was not that girl. She said no, and their almost four-year relationship ended. You would think that I would be thrilled about this because if she had said yes, and that engagement did evolve into a marriage, I wouldn’t be Darby Dugger. I would have never married Jason, who, to me, is the most amazing and wonderful man alive nor would I be the mom to our five adorable children. Jason’s love spurs me to be the best wife and child of God possible. Chances are there would be no blog or ministry coming from this woman if I had married another. I love my life and am grateful to be spending it with Jason by my side. Despite writing that all down, I have never been able to celebrate her rejection. Instead, I harbor it with insecurity and bitterness.
Since that proposal story isn’t mine to tell, I will not go into detail, but the nutshell version is that she said no because he wanted her to leave her denomination and attend church with him.
In terms of past baggage, having a husband with prior girlfriends may not seem significant, but it is a big deal to me. I’ve tried stuffing, ignoring, forgetting, and even counseling. However, I still haven’t been able to embrace this part of my husband’s past fully. Around this time last year, I began praying for deliverance. However, God didn’t offer a quick fix. Instead, he invited me to walk on a journey with Him. He made my heart and created my inmost being. He intimately knows my frustrations (right or wrong) and understands this struggle in my life. I cannot overcome my emotions on my own, but He can.
Overcoming Past Baggage
While I wouldn’t say I’m on the other side, I have made significant steps towards healing, walking hand-in-hand with my Father. I’m learning profound, yet challenging, truths that I want to share with you because while I believe the specifics may be different, the lessons are universal for anyone walking a similar journey.
Realize the Why:
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. ~Psalm 139:3-4
Why is this event of the past so significant in my life? There is a reason it impacts me more than it ever did Jason, but it has taken the Lord to help me thoroughly understand all the factors at play. As the verse in Psalms reads, he is familiar with all my ways, and together we have been peeling back the layers of my heart. To be completely honest, this is incredibly painful because I can no longer cast blame or point fingers.
I must own my insecurities.
Jason and I were just getting to know each other when his proposal-turned-breakup took place. Several months later, our friendship moved to a dating relationship, but Jason’s heart was still healing. And while he was honest with me about the condition of his heart, the things he communicated fell onto an already wounded girl. I was young, immature, and had been told many times by a family member that no one was every going to love me. His words fell upon my broken spirit which caused me to feel as if I lived in the shadow of this other woman (who, I might add, is a genuinely sweet and wonderful woman!). Satan knew how to twist the knife, so he continually whispered in my ear, “The only reason Jason is with you is because his first choice said no. He would rather be with her.” I allowed his lies to torment me for years, deducing that she was perfect in every way while I must be found wanting in every area. I have scrutinized every argument and our entire relationship with that view, never realizing that I’ve been looking at the situation through faulty lenses. The “why” has little to do with this girl, Jason, or even their once serious relationship. It has everything to do with me.
Accept God’s Advocacy:
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. ~Exodus 14:14
Long before Jason ever met me, God placed a burning desire in his heart to attend the same church with his future wife. Jason didn’t arrive at that longing from reading and praying through the Scriptures, although I’m sure that played a part. It was God advocating for me long before I entered Jason’s life. Jason grew up in a family that never stressed the importance of being equally yoked. He witnessed the successful marriages of many friends and family members where the husband attended one church and the wife another. No earthly reason should suggest Jason would not compromise in this area, but that’s the point. It wasn’t a human reason — it was a spiritual one.
I remember running into some of Jason’s old friends early in our marriage. Within a minute of meeting each other, one of his friends gave me a giant hug and whispered, “Jason has loved you and been praying for you long before you two ever met. I know because I watched him.” I didn’t know how to take that at the time because my heart was still so unsure about everything, but as I have reflected on her words recently, I realize that memory confirms what the Lord is revealing. The only reason God placed a desire to attend church with his wife on Jason’s heart is because he was working upstream, preparing Jason’s heart for me.
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? ~Jeremiah 32:27
As I wrestled that truth the Lord lovingly whispered, “If I did that, will you believe I protected Jason’s heart during all of his previous relationships?” For our entire relationship, I have wrestled with Jason having loved other women before me (and not just the one from the proposal story either). My insecurity convinced me that because of his past, he would never love me completely. Realizing that if God was advocating for me before I had ever met Jason, he is powerful enough to have protected Jason’s heart without him even being aware. Jason always tells me he loves me more than anyone before, now I am finally able to believe him!
Uncover the Unsearchable Things:
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.~Jeremiah 33:3
God is faithful! I clung to this Jeremiah verse, and he kept his word. When Jason and his ex-girlfriend broke up, I assumed it was the most painful experience of Jason’s life. Remember, I already thought she was perfect and that Jason wanted only her to be his wife. I assumed her “no” shattered his heart and that she was the reason for the slow start to our relationship. I believed the root of his hesitations, resistance, and inability to be vulnerable traced back to that fateful February day.
The great and unsearchable thing I didn’t know until I called to the Lord, however, was that while yes that breakup was painful, it wasn’t because of the girl. It wasn’t perfection escaping his grasp, but rather her telling him no, took him emotionally back to being a six-year-old boy whose parents chose divorce over his security. Her rejection reminded him of the greatest rejection he had ever known. His parents divorce was the most painful moment of his life, and he quickly vowed he would never allow himself the chance to get hurt like that again. For many years, he refused to get close to another living soul. As he began to feel secure in his first post-college dating relationship, he began to open up his heart. Her “no” sent him down a time warp where he became that little boy who wondered if he would ever know acceptance and stability. It wasn’t her; it was his history. Jason struggled at the beginning of our relationship, and I always assumed he didn’t find me attractive or worthy. But the truth is he was worried I would be like everyone else and ultimately not accept him. This is where the healing love in marriage I wrote about a few weeks ago becomes so important.
Replace the Lies with the Truth:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~John 1:5
Here’s where the rubber meets the road, and this is where I am currently camped out. The truth is, what I have always believed about myself and my husband aren’t God’s truth. Retraining my mind is taking time, but it is bringing healing, wholeness, oneness, and victory. When I am tempted to revert to my insecurities or when Satan sets the traps that have faithfully crippled me countless times before, it is my responsibility to replace the falsehoods with truth. Over the past twelve months, God has been showing me what is real and what I need to believe. His version of the events offers freedom and joy but require some heart work. If I take the easier road, I trade the gifts God offers for my old ways of bitterness, insecurity, and doubt. I must control my thoughts and replace every dark lie with the light of God’s truth.
The beautiful reality for all of us is that no matter what our pasts hold, God has a plan to redeem and use for His good. There is no story or situation too messy for His goodness. One thing I am discovering is that he loves walking these roads with us, his children. It has been incredibly sweet take this journey with God. He allows me to set the pace. When I need to stop, we take a pause; when I want to stop but he knows a breakthrough is about to happen, he prods without pushing. I’m thankful for the transforming journey the Lord is leading me on, and I pray that the four steps I mentioned today might benefit you if you are struggling to overcome past baggage!
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