Hey you! I hope you find yourself settling into the new September days, eagerly waiting on crisp leaves to start falling!
On Sunday, September 4th, I moved to Ottawa, Ontario for a four month extension program through my school, TWU. I could write an entire post on what life here looks like…and I will, so stay tuned for that coming within the next week. Life has been overwhelming to say the least.
This post is so so important to me. I label it #independenceday as a bit of a dare from my bestie, but also to celebrate the idea of being single. This whole post reflects on that. If you’re single, just out of a relationship, happily dating, or have been married for umpteen years, I think you’ll be able to relate to this post. Obviously, I am NOT an expert on any of this, but I believe there is value in sharing our experiences to relate and declare freedom. If you know me well, you most likely shared a lot of this journey with me, and I thank you for that. If you didn’t know me well, I think I put on a pretty good front in hiding this from the world. I think there is value in both, which I will touch on later.
Exactly one year ago, September 5th to be exact, I went through a series of events over the course of a day that quite literally turned my world upside down. It was O-day, or “orientation day” at TWU, and I had just returned from my team retreat in Bellingham. I was at the Mars’ Hill tent (TWU’s student run newspaper) trying to get students to write for my section, meeting new parents, hanging out with friends and doing other student leader things. It was an awesome day. Around 1pm, the track team returned from the retreat and I saw my boyfriend come onto campus. I was excited to see him and I had NO IDEA that later that night I would break up with him.
My break up with him honestly had nothing to do with him as a person. I won’t go into detail to spare him dignity and respect, but I legitimately loved dating him. He was (and still is) a wonderful person. However, it took saying the words, I can’t do this anymore to really shake up my life and make me realize truth and the back clockwork that makes up relationships. On the down side, I lost my best friend but on the up side, I had an entire year to reflect, and more importantly, surrender to God (because I didn’t know what else to do). Let me clarify, I don’t EVER regret dating him. Not a single bit. The knowledge that the Lord has blessed me with has ultimately changed my life and I am better for it.
In the beginning, I had a preset idea of what a God-filled relationship looked like. I thought it meant that he would bring me flowers every week, and take me on romantic dates, or surprise me in my hometown during the summer. None of those things ever happened (just not his thing) and I was left feeling bummed out and sad because my first relationship wasn’t meeting my expectations. What I didn’t realize is that those expectations were purely based off of media and worldly guidances.
The break up was a conviction from God, I am NOT kidding. God spoke to me in a moment of silence, and convicted my heart that I needed to do it. I am reminded of the discernment I now realize between conviction and guilt. God convicts us…reminds us of our origin in Him and helps us to see the light. Guilt is from the enemy and makes us feel poorly for our bad decisions, whereas God is constantly calling us into His mercy, renewing us, regardless of our sin. I was convicted that night and made the choice to end our 8 month relationship. I broke his heart, and I entered into an 8 month period of brokenness, depression, and constant surrender.
Starting with the moment I broke up with him, I sat on my couch in my suite and thought, I have no friends. I had no close friends, or at least no one I felt confident sharing with. I had spent so much time with him during second year, that I had completely alienated my dorm girls. I had a myriad of acquaintances but lacked true friends. The first person I called was my older brother figure, Jamie, and only to make sure that he could call my boyfriend and make sure he was okay. Then I called my mom. I slept on the couch that night. The next day I woke up with puffy eyes after balling my eyes out all night (duh) and met my coaches for a recruiting visit. Talk about embarrassing. My coach thought I got punched in the face.
The next year is what I would call a formation year, a year that the Father used to reveal my identity. From September to December, I struggled hardcore with the idea that I was no longer with him. I would bounce back, and think "Katie, you’re an idiot, what did you do? You can make this work!” but in reality, it was never going to work. There are two sides to my fall season - God gifted me with some of the most exciting and life-enthusiasts I have EVER met, but at the same time I wore those people out in conversation. All I wanted to talk about was my breakup - I wanted to show people pictures of us, brag about things we did together and pretend it never happened. For a good month into October, I couldn’t come to terms with it.
The biggest game changer was in January, at our team retreat. Through what I know now is the Holy Spirit, He gently reminded me of my identity. I had clung onto our image as a couple, as being a part of his world, and ultimately had let go of what it looked like to be a daughter of Christ. I lost my confidence, my ability to lead, my desire to lead, my enthusiasm for seeing people reach Christ. I had no relationship with my Father, I was simply existing. I was not Katie, I was a depressed version of a girl who was captured by the enemy. I recall at one point during our retreat (Camp Luther for the win) that I felt like I was under water. I couldn’t go for longer than 45 seconds without tearing up or feeling like I was being spiritually attacked. A short series of events transpired and God came knocking, saying “My child, you are mine! You are worth so much more than what any man thinks of you. You are greater than the mistakes you have made.” Like someone snapping their fingers, I saw something and God reminded me of His love, of His power and of His plan. I had felt so many emotions leading up to that moment - regret, shame, embarrassment, feeling like a nuisance and ultimately feeling helpless. In that moment, I was joyous. Some of you might remember me being ecstatic for no reason…bouncing off the walls. I called my best friend and my mom and proclaimed my freedom. This person and my relationship with them could no longer hold me down. God gave me Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”. I was free of pain, shame and guilt, but the Father reminded me that I still had a duty to fulfill. I went into the January semester with hope in my heart and a renewed sense of freedom.
However, I fell back into feelings of despair and didn’t guard my heart or head. I got carried away once again with feelings of jealousy. I saw him with other girls and my heart was torn in two - I couldn’t let go. I didn’t know HOW to let go. Come February I hit a point where almost every night I would either just cry myself to sleep OR kneel on my bedroom floor and cry out to the Lord. I would FaceTime my mom each night with a daily update, or rating. I would rate the day based on it’s quality - 9/10 times it was a bad day, and I would call her sobbing. I was at a point where I wanted to let go of something that I knew I could be free from, I WANTED to be from, but didn’t know how. It’s pretty hard to describe the feeling unless you’re in it, but I just didn’t have any clear direction and felt like I was going in circles. I was mentally sick. It got to a point where I considered what it would look like to drive my car off the side of the road, or what would happen if I took my razors and slit my wrists. Would anyone care? Would anyone be concerned?
Then my mom suggested counselling. To this day, counselling was the biggest factor in allowing me to find tangible ways to declare truth and develop a sense of identity. Because counselling sessions are confidential, I can’t go into detail about what was said, but I can tell you that it made the world of difference. I could sit down with someone, tell them my heart and mind, and have them describe back to me my own thoughts, just in a logical sense. That’s what I needed; someone to make sense of what I was trying to articulate. I went to my sessions, balled my eyes out, but emerged with a new sense of direction. He helped me admit things that I felt safe admitting, and coming to conclusions on how to control certain feelings (like cutting and self-harm) and navigating the future. I had confidence to speak to my ex-boyfriend, to confront him on issues that I needed answers to, and ultimately discuss one on one with him what we had gone through and where we were headed independently. Counselling also helped a lot with my identity in my sport, but that’s a topic for another day.
March and April rolled around and I came to a point where I needed closure. My ex was gracious enough to sit down with me and I was able to get the closure that I needed. It hurt to hear a lot of the things that he said, but it was also a reminder that my Father had me in that moment. A human being no longer loved me, but my Father still did, and He wasn’t ever going away. It was neat to see God work through Him, and to this day we are still acquaintances. It was difficult to say goodbye to a season of life, a season that I was scared to let go of. I remember sitting at a wedding this past May and simply realizing the events of the past eight months, crying a bit because of the power of our Father and rejoicing (silently haha) in the fact that a new season had in fact passed. It was time for a new season.
Throughout all of this, if you ever had a conversation with me about what happened, I described it in a simple way: I was a piece of pottery, smooth and untainted. It had a few splashes of colour on it, most likely bright and vibrant colours. As I dated this guy, those colours dulled a bit. I’m not saying he was the one who wore those colours out, but after a year I do realize that the relationship itself was what wore the colours out. From my perspective, it was unhealthy and just not the right fit. Anyways, my pottery was whole, but as soon as I said I can’t do this anymore, I fell off a table. A table that I had always been safely on top of. I have been blessed in my life to have lived a very safe and comfortable existence - no broken bones, no major deaths, nothing extremely drastic to say the least. But my pottery broke. It ABSOLUTELY shattered. And the process since September has seen God carefully and slowly glue back the pieces with His love and grace.
I think we are all meant to be shattered at some point - whether we are shattered when we are very young or it is still yet to happen. Whether or not it’s a major shatter or a minor chip, they are all valid and important. Meaning that everything we experience is valid and important, regardless of it’s intensity. My song for this season was “Pieces” by Steffany Gretzinger. The lyric video below really shows a beautiful visual of what this looks like. In the song, it shows the piece of pottery breaking, representing our lives being shattered, but also the idea that God never gives Himself to us half-heartedly. He would NEVER do that, it’s just not in His nature.
I will proclaim this truth until the day I die: God doesn’t reveal to us what or why He is bringing us through certain situations until we have the ability to look backwards and reflect on it. That could mean the next day, that could be moments afterwards, say when we get to rejoice that something great has happened. Clearly for myself, it was months and years afterwards. The revelation and joy that comes in the waiting is worth it. In the end, I have journaled and reflected on some MAJOR ideas that I want to carry with me into the future but also into my future relationship and ultimately marriage.
Initially, I remember going into my first year of university saying, I will only ever date one boy. Obviously that isn’t the case, and I think if that is the case, then that is unreal and God has blessed you immensely! Every relationship we have, even if it’s not romantic is helping us to grow in some way, and romantic relationships are key in forming our identity before marriage. The biggest part of breaking up with my boyfriend is that I was given a year to step back and re-evaluate my values. I was heart-broken that my mission of dating one boy was over, but I then realized that what I had learned over the breakup was far too important to trade for wishing something else.
My values entering the relationship were purely based on a relationship with Christ, but they were challenged during the relationship. It was a test not for me to fail and give in on the things that I uphold, but I believe to reveal me. He wanted to bring up certain things in my heart, and make me reflect on WHY I believe those things are important.
So, line up your values before you enter into a relationship. This might sound cliche or easy to do, especially in a Christian relationship, but it can also be overlooked because its assumed ease. We assume because we enter into a relationship with another believer that our thoughts will align automatically. False. It’s still important to talk about it, as the other person might have a different outlook or spin on it, even if it is the same foundational idea. For me, my boyfriend was not a Christian, and that put a huge strain on our relationship. I threw a lot of my Christian values out of the window in pursuit of something that I thought would fulfill me. I didn’t understand why it was so important to be in relationship with a believer. A while back I watched a Flatirons sermon (my fav, let’s talk if you don’t know Flatirons!) and Pastor Jim Burgen said something along the lines of, “you’re going to have enough things in your life that don’t align, from the way you dry your dishes and fold your clothes, to the way you deal with finances and personal issues, how can you let your foundation be divided?” It’d be like trying to hold hands walking down the street, but your significant other and you are on opposing sidewalks. It literally makes no sense. For me, I realized that I NEED to be with someone who has a relationship with Christ, and find a strong leader who upholds Christian values. I cannot compromise on this value whatsoever.
Have you ever heard the saying “protect your heart”? Yeah, I bet you have. I really really dislike that saying. What does it even mean? What are you trying to say when you want me to protect my heart? Should I wear chain metal or a gun-proof vest? Obviously people mean it in the spiritual and emotional sense, but it’s a huge gear-grinder of mine. Instead of saying “protect your heart”, why not have a down-to-earth conversation about what risks you might be willing to take in a new and upcoming relationship. Or talk about what safeguards, both spiritually and physically that you are ready to put into place. I didn’t really have any clue about what these things were in the first place. I realize conversation takes time, but I also think making judgements towards other peoples intentions are difficult to do unless you know those intentions in a full way.
I did not “protect my heart” in my relationship. I freely gave it away. In a sense, that can be a good thing. Author Brene Brown talks about how being vulnerable with others and risking is essentially how we grow. She’s right on so many levels! If we hold everything back and risk nothing, then how the heck will we ever grow in our relationships? On the other side of that spectrum, we have people who are keen to freely throw their hearts around. I wouldn’t say I was keen, but I didn’t know what to do and what safeguards to put up in order to make sure my heart didn’t get attached to his. It did get attached and I think that’s why the process of healing took so much longer.
Being careful with your heart is along the same lines and in the Christian realm of dating, I think this is where stuff starts to get really messy. We NEED to be careful of who we choose to date - it is a relationship after all, and who we surround ourselves with affects and forms our own characteristics. When we date, or eventually when we get married, it’s a LOT more than just friendship and physical intimacy, it’s spiritual! And I don’t know about you, but connecting with God and being close to Him is unreal. So, we need to have good skills of discernment (like in Philippians 1:9-11, where God calls us into His love, but also to discern what is good for us). God has already told us what is good and lovely, and He gives us free will to decide over those things. On the other side of the argument, I believe people over-analyze relationships that could turn out really great. They nit-pick, focus on small things that essentially might not be that important. These then become unnecessary barriers to God-given relationships. We need to find a balance, discerning but also embracing.
Finally, I want to end with some key ideas that are now a focus in my life and the result of a year of being single and growing in the Lord. The challenge of #independenceday and being single for a year came from my Papa Bear, who absolutely loves Andy Stanley. Stanley and other pastors have focused on this challenge or idea of being single for one year to not only just take a break from dating but also to grow in identity with Christ (in his book “The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating). Once you start dating and once you are married, there is a shift in the way you live your life…you’re not just one anymore, but two with Christ #braiditbaby. It was a challenge that was never meant to be a challenge, but resulted in a year in reflection and rest in the Lord, for which I am thankful.
Celebrate single. Oh my word, if you are single, PLEASE celebrate it and enjoy this time in your life. I realize now that by the time I am 50 or 60, I will have been living a married life for longer than my single life (fingers crossed aha). It’s weird to think that a lot of us haven’t even entered into one of the biggest stages of our lives, so revel in the fact that you and God just get to be one right now.
Understand and grow in your identity. Being single allows for time to grow in your identity, which is evident in my life, but also clear in the lives of so many other people. Growing in identity is different for everyone, simply because we all walk a different journey with God.
Keep to your standards. That might sound like a rigid and sort of unspoken rule, but I am CONVINCED as a girl that there are a good guys out there. In fact, two of my best friends are God-loving men who adore Jesus. I know there are men who want to take responsibility of their lives and point their future families towards Christ. However, getting to know people of the opposite gender takes time and effort, even if it isn’t for romantic reasons or intentions (or you may not know it’s for those reasons yet :P). Relationships take time and effort, they aren’t formed overnight. It takes risk. Ask yourself this: are you willing to risk right now? As well, God has someone unbelievable planned for you and me (maybe you’ve already found them, good work). I just love resting in that, it legit gives me peace. One of my favourite quotes is this: "It’s a beautiful moment when somebody wakes up to this reality, when they realize God created them so other people could enjoy them, not just endure them." That God has given me a heart and a head to create an image of what I know I want, but ultimately He knows the future and the awesome guy in store. He also knows my heart, and knows what I desire based on my personality, characteristics and values. I could talk about this for hours, but I just can’t get over the fact that we are MADE for relationship! We are MADE to be with someone. Be patient for that person, I promise you it’s worth it.
If you are in a relationship, don’t be afraid to give 110%. This might also sound like a weird idea, but imagine what relationships would look like if two people weren’t just giving 50% to each other, but 100% of their selves. I think this applies more to marriage, where two people are fully committed for life, but I think it can apply in some sense to dating relationships too. The more we trust, the more we can risk and the more we risk, the more we grow. This doesn’t mean tell your boyfriend or girlfriend everything in the first two weeks of dating or to tell them you want to get married in the first six months, but it DOES mean to lean in a little bit more and love on them more than what society tells us is normal.
Help. I’m stuck! I can’t get out of this relationship. I have to admit, I felt that way a little bit too. Not that I was stuck in a crappy relationship, but I didn’t know the steps to breaking up. I knew I would break his heart and really hurt him, I knew I would lose a family and my best friend, I knew I might be judged. It was really really scary and life was really dark for a long time. I felt like I was in a pit with no ladder, or that the ladder just kept going. Please know that you will ALWAYS have a community to support you, even if it isn’t your parents or guardians. You will ALWAYS have people to pray with you, whether that is at a local church, your youth group, school friends, etc. I know a barrier for me breaking up was that I was scared of what people might think, and that I would be “tainted” or judged from that point on. You need to know that you are NOT your past, and that God is constantly renewing you. From this point on, you get to make decisions, and He loves you for it. If you feel a season in your life needs to end, but you aren’t ready for it, pray on it. Pray that God would show you clear direction, physical or spiritual that would call you where you need to be.
Finally, Don Miller, the writer of my FAVOURITE book EVER, Scary Close, writes this about intentional and intimate relationships: “Love doesn’t control, and I suppose that’s why it’s the ultimate risk. In the end, we have to hope the person we’re giving our heart to won’t break it, and be willing to forgive them when they do, even as they will forgive us. Real love stories don’t have dictators, they have participants. Love is an ever-changing, complicated, choose-your-own adventure narrative that offers the world but guarantees nothing.” BUT God gave us the perfect image of love to replicate, and He also gave us the perfect relationship to mirror.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate it so so much. This is my heart, and this story has been what has shaped me in the past year. If you want to know more, do not hesitate to message me. I have so much more I could say on this, but think that there is a limit to how long my posts can be. My heart is to see people called into freedom, and declare that they are no longer bound by their past. I love seeing people called into the love of Christ and watching them shake off the dust that they thought formed them. Like I said, God formed us to be in relationship with one another, regardless of the amount of intimacy involved and we can celebrate and rejoice in that.
PS - Read Scary Close by Don Miller, it’ll change the way you look at relationships. It’s mind blowing. Message me if you want to borrow my copy!
disclaimer: I had full grace and approval from my ex-boyfriend to write about this.