Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Leave My Dreams, It's Not Your Heart

"Why are you here? Why won't you leave me alone?"

"I just want to make things better between us. Can't we be friends..."

He leaned in closer to my face and I could feel every hair on my body stand on end with fear. The last thing I wanted in that moment was for him to kiss me. Why can't he ever just disappear forever? Why does he keep coming back? I took several steps backwards and could feel my stomach wretch with anxiety...


"I am married. Why can't you understand that? Just leave me alone. Please!!!"

"I just..."

I reached out and shoved him away, feeling the anger and fear and anxiety dripping along with the tears that ran down my face.

"We can be friends... it's OK..."

He walked closer to me again... Why won't he get the danged picture??? "JUST GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME AL..."

My eyes jerked themselves open as I heard a sweet voice say "Hi, Mommy!" through an inserted pacifier. I was back in my bedroom, my bubbly daughter awake next to me. I looked at the clock - 6:18 AM. Steve must have already gone to... wait. Steve wasn't there, he was away at his annual conference.

Me and my mini-me, having some morning snuggles...
The dream. That's why. I rubbed my eyes and breathed slowly to reset my quickly beating heart, snuggling my giggling daughter and remembering all that God has surrounded me with. I reminded myself with each inhale that it was just a dream and with each exhale that it wasn't real. The recurring dream that I have each time that Steve is away on business - the one where my ex-boyfriend from 20 years ago shows up and tries to be a part of my life again. Sometimes he's trying to woo me, sometimes he's trying to just be friend, but always the sentiment is the same.

That he loved me. Never meant to hurt me. That he wants to reconcile. That he wants that part of my heart back. That I was his only love.

In every dream he is the 19-year-old that cheated on me not once, but twice. In every dream he is every bit the sweet-talker that my 14-year-old self couldn't resist and that my 17-year-old self took back and that my 19-year-old self believed his words that he would leave his then wife for me.

In every dream I want nothing more than for him to disappear. In every dream I want to know where my Steve is, because he is never there in these dreams but always missing. In every dream I can feel walls closing in around us, in every dream I am desperately fighting to get back to my present-day reality and begging through tears for my past to go as far away as possible.

After every dream I wake up uneasy. I wake up questioning things I never should be questioning. I wake up with faster heartbeats and quicker breaths, wanting to run back to where I wake up. The place that God has surrounded me with love and reassurance and His grace.

But I can rarely shake that feeling. That feeling that no one can be trusted. It takes days, sometimes weeks. Always Steve is reassuring, because he knows that this part of me causes deep insecurities and he wants me to be whole, to let this part of me die, to be released from it.

Last year after having this dream, I woke up and turned on Steve's iPad to watch some Netflix and try to get back to sleep. It was only 10:00 PM where Steve was, and iMessage sent across a text from a colleague that they should meet up for fries.

The bells went off. Who meets for fries at 10:00 PM? What the heck?

I called Steve and through tears told him about my dream, that I saw the text, and I just needed to hear his voice and know we were OK. Know that my fears were unfounded. Because God has blessed me with a husband who is willing to understand this part of me and help me through it - he stayed on the phone with me until I calmed down.

Then - and those who know my husband's love of condiments will understand this - he went and met some colleagues for fries with blueberry ketchup. Because that's what a condiment lover does when he and his colleagues don't want to get drunk at the after party during a conference.

My awesome, caring husband at his annual nerd conference.

So I lay there with my daughter listening to the hum of the fan and her adorable sweet voice through her pacifier and reminded myself that my husband is faithful. That he promised he would always be faithful from the first time I confessed this part of my soul to him and he has never done anything to demonstrate anything other than fulfilling this promise.

I said a prayer, asking God to help release me from these dreams. To help me finally remove 20 years of scarring and tell that 16-year-old in a heap on the floor of her kitchen, holding a phone in her hand and pouring tears out that it all turns out okay - better than okay, actually.

God, I begged, please... please... please kill this.

A couple of hours later I pulled out my phone and opened my devotional app while the kids finished up their breakfast on the porch. The topic of the day? "The Enemy's Tactic Against You." As I read through the devotional that focused on Genesis 3:1: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden''?"

I read on and could feel my pulse quickening as the images from the previous night's dream flittered across my memory. I devoured every word of the devotional, and inhaled through my teeth as I read these: "He uses four words: 'Did God really say...?' Maybe you haven't had the enemy slither up next to you in the form of a serpent and speak these words out loud. But I bet he's whispered them into your ear. After all, the enemy's greatest desire is to separate you from God."

I looked out across my yard to the breeze flitting through the trees and up at the outline of morning moon my son was excitedly pointing out. I could feel God's sentiment on my heart: "Danielle... I delivered you through that old life and gave you this life, these kids, your husband. The enemy has taken over this part of your heart - take it back. Do not listen to the whisper of the enemy anymore."

I closed my eyes... "In the name of Jesus... give me my danged heart back. In the name of Jesus, that belongs to my husband, that belongs to my family, that belongs to me, and most importantly that belongs to God. Give it back."

I opened my eyes and my daughter said "Pee-it-boo!" through her wide mouthed grin, and my son laughed.

I felt... relieved. I felt... at home again. I felt... empowered. I felt... full.

That morning when my husband had his video chat good morning with us, it was like fresh air filled my lungs. When he returned home that Friday, it was the first time I didn't feel relieved that he was home but rather felt fully and richly blessed that he had the opportunity to take advantage of this part of his career. I didn't feel on edge and looking for reasons to suspect, and instead have felt nothing but love and happiness and grace and the fullness of God's blessing on my marriage.

Watching for Daddy's car to come up the hill when he got home from the trip.

A few days after Steve got home, this was the key verse in my morning devotional: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

For at least the time being - and for the first time in a very long time - I have felt the Enemy release his grip from the part of my heart that was still crying on the kitchen floor of my parents' house hoping her sobs wouldn't wake up her sisters. I have been able to breathe easier for the first time in almost 20 years, having resisted the Devil and watching him flee.

"Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)

There will come a time when the Enemy will come back, when he will try to take that part of my heart back again, when he will push down that insecure teenager to the floor and laugh as her tears flow. When he will remind her that she's not good enough for a guy to stick around, and that will always be the case.

It will be when that time comes that it will be up to me to put on the armor that God has given to me. It will be up to me to call to Him, to reach up in prayer and use the power that I have been given in the name of Jesus to resist those whispers.

Because the self-destruction of doing anything else just isn't worth it when compared to the beauty that lies in the life that God has gifted to me.

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