As a young woman, I believed that getting married was the ultimate fairy tale. Cinderella found her Prince, and all was well. Happily ever after, right? Then I got married, and I figured, no, happiness was actually found in cementing marriage with children. After all, there’s always a sequel to the Disney movie. Then I reckoned, surely happiness lay in getting a novel published and accomplishing a longtime dream.
One daughter, fourteen novels and one divorce later, I found myself still unhappy, still achy and longing. But I chalked it up to the fact that I’d been abandoned by my ex and I simply needed to replace my happily ever after with a new one. I needed Prince Charming to slip that glass high-heel on my freshly pedicured toes. Then I’d have what I wanted.
Four bad relationships later, I realized glass slippers were really hard to walk in (plus, I could never figure out that trademark loose-tendril-Princess-bun) Prince Charming didn’t exist.
Well, I was right—and wrong. It turns out there is a Prince, but I’d confused His identity with ones in fleshly form.
Don’t get me wrong. My new husband is a gift—a dream come true in so many ways that blesses my heart daily. I still have moments where I just look at him across the room and think, wow. I remember the depths of where I’ve come, from where God has brought me, and I get Holy Spirit shivers.
Something God has been teaching me (the hard way!) though, is that there is no dream that is deeply fulfilling outside of Him. As a woman who has now walked through divorce, multiple relationships, engagement and re-marriage, He is showing me—daily—that while there is happiness and blessings, it's all empty without Him in first place. The moment He slides out of order in my priority line up, nothing satisfies anymore.
If you’re single and reading this, I know you’re rolling your eyes. You’ve heard the “nothing is fulfilling outside of Christ” bit a dozen times at least, and it feels trite and cliché now. Sort of like when you see an Instagram post by some perfect, Barbie-proportioned woman about how she feels fat. You’re not encouraged—you just want to slap her with a slice of pizza.
But please hear me, sister (I like pepperoni, by the way, if you want to slap me too)—nothing is fulfilling outside of Christ. Now that I'm happily re-married, guess what? I still have trouble with my emotional stability. I still ache. I still default to striving to be enough, still struggle against the lie that I have to earn unconditional love. I still search for my identity. Marriage didn't fix that—and I naively and mistakenly expected my husband to do so.
I think as women, we tend to believe this on a surface level, but fail to live it out. God has been showing me how empty everything is without Him in the center of it. If we are expecting our husband, boyfriend, kids, success, job or bank account balance to fulfill us, it will never be enough. Even on the rare occasions when it does "fix it" inside us, it's temporary. Thirty minutes later, maybe a day or two max, we’re empty again and needing another fix, like an addict.
That’s because idol worship is addicting. And anything we place above God is an idol.
It took a pretty big argument for me to finally realize I was expecting my husband to fill a gap only God could fill. I remember standing in the shower after that fight, water mixing with tears, begging God to fix me.
God reminded me, then, in that Good Father way of His, that I was already healed and whole because of Christ. I just needed to live like it. I needed to change my expectations and stop expecting my husband—charming as he is—to fill a void he didn’t create, and doesn’t fit into.
I got a chance to live out my new mindset a few days later while shopping at Academy Sports.
We had been having a great evening—I was fresh from my “shower revelation,” soaring spiritually, feeling confident in my walk with Christ and in my marriage.
Then a super-model in a pencil-skirt and five inch black heels breezed past us into the store, her Pantene-commercial-worthy hair cascading down her back in perfect waves.
Did I mention I was shopping for gym shorts?
Let’s suffice it to say, that particular dressing room experience wasn’t my most shining moment of faith. I felt like a lumpy sausage shoved into Spandex. And the whole time, all I could envision was how perfect that stranger was, and how surely my husband must think so too.
My previous defaults would have been to immediately go to him and pout, to demand verbal reassurance about how he hadn’t noticed her at all—what super model? Or it would have been to get mad at him for lying about the above demanded reassurance. I would have typically wanted him to fix it—to fix me.
But I wasn’t broken. And I had to remember to live like it.
So I remembered that truth, standing there in the store, surrounded by discarded name brand shorts—it still hurt. It still ached.
But my heart’s cry wasn’t for my husband that time.
It was for Jesus.
I recognized that and marveled in the store, and even said out loud, when my husband asked what was wrong: “I just want to go home and read my Bible.”
Because I’d quickly learned that was my only real relief from the lies in my head and the old habits tugging at my heart.
When I got home, I took another shower, prayed through the insecurity, and felt better, like I’d turned a corner in this Fight I’d been fighting most of my life. I felt more peace than if I’d gone my usual route and sought temporary, unsatisfying reassurance in the wrong place.
I picked up my Bible to dive in, and a piece of notebook paper fell out—a handwritten letter from my husband, telling me I was the most gorgeous woman in the world.
Cue happy tears.
The Lover of my Soul filled my soul, and then overflowed it with a sweet gesture from my earthly prince. When we seek after Him first, the rest falls into place. Much like Cinderella’s step-sisters squeezing their toes into a shoe not meant for them—when we quit trying to force our relationships, jobs and children to validate and define us, we can rest in the embrace of the true Prince.
It’s not always easy. It’s a daily fight, but the victory is already ours in Christ.
Now go live like it.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of fourteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her newlywed hubby, two story-telling young daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she's not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with HarperCollins, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES, and POCKET PRAYERS FOR FRIENDS with Max Lucado. Visit her at http://www.betsystamant.