I used to get high. I cannot tell you how many chemicals were floating around that room, but if someone would have lit a match, I’m sure the entire building would have exploded. I used to get high off of aerosol hair spray. Well, maybe not literally, but I’m sure it affected my brain. At least that’s my excuse for life. Big Hair Don’t Care!
To this day the smell of an aerosol hair spray takes me back – backstage that is – waiting for my name to be called so I can sashay across the stage at Miss Kentucky. I can still feel the spotlight all on me, along with the eyes of my judges, peers, family, and media. From as early as I can remember, I had one goal in life; I wanted to be Miss America!
I’ve always been a dreamer. In fact, I had dreams as big as my beauty queen hair, and no bottle of hair spray could hold this dreamer down. Dreams of Hollywood, New York, Nashville . . . as long as there was a spotlight, I was all in. I was ready, or so I thought. After all, there had been years of theater experience and vocal lessons (including sessions with Beyoncé’s vocal coach). I mean I practically lived on the stage. All I needed was the, “Lights, Camera, Action.”
You might say that I was an applause junkie, and I was in need of a daily fix.
Being loved ruined my life!
Newlyweds often mention experiencing a euphoric feeling of tenderness towards one another during their first year of marriage. This was not my experience. Our first year of marriage (or our first year of “misery,” as I often refer to it) felt a little more like the reaction one might have to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Painful. Make it stop!
While marriage may be the fulfillment of many young girls’ dreams, my vows seemed more like a death sentence for all of mine. Saying, “I do” to my husband was like saying, “I don’t” to everything that I had ever loved. “For better or for worse,” felt a whole lot more like the later.
Now don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of marriage, I just didn’t like the actual marriage.
I had never been one to have anger issues, but holy matrimony brought me to a quite unholy breaking point – a breaking point that began while shopping at the local Shoe Carnival.
When I was trying on those snazzy high-heels, little did I know that I would be purchasing a lethal weapon. Yes, I would be making a fashion statement with the latest fall trend, the black faux leather, high-heel pump. But unknowingly, I was about to make another statement. I remember it well, and so does my husband’s forehead. He was sitting at his desk in our small seminary apartment working on a paper for class, and I don’t know what happened. But apparently, what he said was offensive because something in my soul snapped. All of the sudden with this crazy vain bulging out of forehead, Annie made her appearance. Before I knew what was happening, I grabbed my shoe from foot and with samurai-like stealth launched it at across the living room, spiraling towards my husband face. Obviously, in Brett Favre like fashion, I was trying to knock the stupid out of him. But before the shoe impaled his annoying face, he threw himself prostrate to the floor. He used his hands to cradle his scull to protect himself from the bullet of my anger (and not to mention from stiches, which by the way, would have been awkward to explain to the theology professor the next morning). He escaped his fate as a fashion victim. This man, this stranger, had ruined my life. He had crushed my dreams and I had to avenge the death of my sweet dreams by bringing him to his knees (literally) with my faux leather fastball. Shoes were not only made for walking; they were made for throwing.
It was as if I had an alter ego, just like Beyoncé. But instead of Sasha Fierce, I was Roxie, the crazy shoe ninja.
After recovering from the shock of the near stiletto assassination, my groom retaliated by throwing my portion of a pepperoni pizza into the door I had slammed in his face. As he slammed down the freshly delivered pizza from my favorite restaurant in town, he said, “Eat that.” Now, I think that you’ll agree that he totally took it too far. Regardless of the resulting anger from a flying shoe, who would waste a perfectly good pizza? What followed this incident was a loud, heart-breaking, soul-crushing argument. Those walls between our seminary neighbors and us were so thin. They had to have heard every word, and I can only imagine what they were thinking (bless their hearts). Either revival was breaking out next door or somebody was going to end up in prison. Regardless, this classic fight led to me packing my bags (more like throwing every t-shirt I owned into a bag). I was going to leave him. I was done.
What happened? I thought God had said “yes.” I thought He had ordained this marriage. I thought marriage to this, man was Gods plan for me but I didn’t expect the path to be so hard.
Rewind one year.
Normally, family car rides growing up were filled with laughter and sounds of loud singing; however, this ride was unusually silent. My father and I were riding home from the Miss Kentucky pageant, the one where I got first runner up. The one that I lost.
I remember listening – listening for God. I wanted to have a “Moses moment” where He would just call out to me from a burning bush, but that did not happen. Instead, He chose to speak to me through a verse that I had memorized four years earlier. I had memorized Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” He gave me the faith to believe that He was good and that all things (including another “first runner-up”) were working together “for my good.” My prayers were raw and I remember telling God… “Anything!”
God always gives us the grace we need to get through our darkest hours.
After the loss, there would be several dark days and then, there was light. I finally stopped binge eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, took a shower and put on something other than sweat pants.
Sometimes we lose sleep trying to hold onto our dreams. We wake up screaming “no!!!!! Let me finish this dream but God says follow me into reality.” Then it happened. After weeks of sleepless nights and wrestling with God, I woke up in the middle of the night and cried out, “I surrender. I will be a pastor’s wife!” I could not believe the words that came out of my mouth – a “pastor’s wife!” What the what!!!!??? That is the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I would rather go to another country and sleep with crazy, huge, blood-sucking bugs (and I hate bugs). However, I knew I had to surrender if I ever wanted to sleep again. I called my mom on my way to class and told her the horrifying news, hoping she would cry with me. Instead, my mother tells me she is not shocked at all and that she had been praying for this very thing (go figure). Praying for me to be a pastor’s wife?!? What kind of mother does this to her daughter?
Well, now how do I become a pastor’s wife? Is there a signup sheet? Do I go to www.Christiansinglepastorwifewannabe.com? Is there an interview involved? Do I go to seminary to meet a theological stud? Do I throw away all of my shorts and bikinis? Instead of all of this, I just went to my classes there at Murray State University (which I often time skipped). I had three classes that year with a very handsome country boy from Cadiz, Kentucky. Long story short, we decided to date. Four months later he proposed on top of the Sears Tower in Chicago – by the way, well done. I said “yes” and we got married three months later . . . wow . . . that is quick! (No, this was not a shotgun wedding).
There was a storm brewing from the day we said, “I do.” No, really, there was a nasty storm named Emily that unapologetically washed away our dreams of an exotic honeymoon. Instead of traveling to our already purchased, all inclusive destination we had dreamt about, with hot tubs and white bed spreads laced in rose petals, we had to stay in a seedy looking shack in Florida where the 1980s decided to get sick and vomit upon the entire house.
I knew we were going to have problems when we were in the orange juice isle at the Winn Dixie in Destin, Florida the first week of marriage. We got in a knockdown drag out. Why, you might ask? Over whether or not we should purchase a half-gallon of orange juice. My new husband, Mr. “Consistent Conservative” (as he calls himself) had a budget for our honeymoon and $2.39 for OJ didn’t make the cut. Yes, I know I’m making him sound awful; but you know there are two sides to every story. When he writes a book, he can share his side of the storyJ Anyways, the convenient clerks witnessed the two kingdoms colliding that night because I wasn’t leaving without my OJ.
As far as melodramatics are concerned, I gave an Oscar worthy performance (brought the house down) However, Jamus was unmoved by my theatric due to the fact he knocked me off the trophy wife shelf back in the orange juice isle. I left the store with the “overprized” OJ and delighted in my victory.
The Mexican sunset was dancing across the waters, wild with blue, and I sat frozen in our honeymoon suite. Trouble in paradise? Yep. My husband, who was weeping on the balcony, had just yelled out, “You don’t love me!” and there, I sat on our bed weighed down with the truth that he was right: I didn’t love him.
Welcome to the first year of our marriage. A few months later, Jamus was online researching whether or not we qualified for an annulment, and I was walking out the door.
“How did I get to this point? I used to be awesome!”
Yes, back in college, I used to be awesome. College was a mountain top experience for me. It is my happy place.
I enjoyed the blessed serenity of uninterrupted, hour long, every day, bible study with Beth Moore and Jesus (all the while slowly enjoying a hot cup of overpriced coffee).
I was a serious Christian! I even made lists and highlighted things, people. Sometimes I would get real fancy and pull out the colored pencils to word code my bible (shout out to Kay Arthur).
I was like Peter when he went up the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and he got a glimpse of something awesome. I wanted to pitch a tent and belt out Aerosmith’s “Stay in this moment forever.”
Mountaintops are the best because it’s where all the action is. It’s where things get done. It is exciting, and the view is breathtaking.
However, on this particular mountaintop in college, I started to think God was blessed to have me on his team. I remember looking at other Christians and thinking to myself, “I would never do that! They are such amateurs!”
So pride comes before the fall . . .
I got married and it was like I did a nosedive off the mountaintop and plunged into the valley of the shadow of death. I was living with another sinner and I made this uncomfortable discovery. I, too, was a huge sinner. It was not just that I was occasionally sinning; sin was my new Jam. I could sin with the best of them (or “worst” of them, however you want to think about it). Now I know I had actually been dancing to this beat my entire life, but now the DJ was playing my song and clearly, I was leaving it all out on the dance floor.
I hated being married because the whole “being married” thing is what exposed this horrible revelation I had about myself, and so I wanted out. Maybe I was running as much from myself as I was from my husband. Marriage made me feel bad and I didn’t like feeling bad about myself. It was as if God was using marriage to rip away the band-aide that was hiding my nasty gaping wound, which had been festering underneath.
There were doors slammed, pizzas and high heel shoes thrown, and “words” said that could make an R rated movie blush. All of the sudden, the thought of divorce was quite appealing.
We literally only had three things in common. Number one, Jesus (although there were plenty of days where we doubted that about one another and ourselves). Number two, we loved Jack Bauer with a passion. Finally, we overwhelmingly agreed on the necessity of re-gifting all of those Willow Tree trinkets we got for our wedding. I will never forget the day he asked me who Dave Matthews was.
Nicolas Sparks was obviously not the author of this particular story. If our marriage was the Notebook, it felt like the Notebook from hell.
What I needed to do was silence the “Disney princesses” in my head. These gals kept telling me, “Dreams come true.” They reminded me of how amazing I was and that everything should always go my way. I remember thinking, “Come on fairy god mother! You’ve got to do better than this! Is this all you have in that little wand of yours? Where in the world are my little woodland creatures? My house and cooking needed serious help! Whistle while you work?”
I hated being at seminary because no one knew that I used to be awesome. No one knew who Annie Cruse was. I mean at least with my maiden name, Cruse, people thought I was Spanish or something cool and exotic. Who is Annie Edwards? She is like some weird new girl that now wears boring cardigans with seminary emblems across the front. What the heck is a pastor’s wife supposed to do anyways? Originally, being a pastors wife kind of felt heroic. “Sure God! I will do anything for you; I will take up my cross for the people.” But God called my bluff. I may have trashed the rhinestones but what I really wanted from God was a rhinestone Christianity, all nice and sparkly. I hated the new me and I was angry with God for this new, dull life that He had given me.
Where is the fame and glory? Where is the crown I was used to wearing and the applause I was used to receiving. I thought, “God, I gave up the lights of Broadway to become a pastor’s wife. I mean at least you could’ve given me a husband who was applauding my greatness!”
He was not bowing at the shrine of Annie Leigh.
Annie Leigh Edwards was dead to me. I wanted Annie Leigh Cruse back and I would do anything to revive her once again. I was living in a coffin of my own despair. Not knowing how to dream was like not having a pulse. Most of our first year of marriage I spent giving mouth to mouth to the corpse of my former self, fighting to feel my heart beat again. Would my soul ever sing again?
During this season, I spiraled into a dark depression and doubted my faith and God’s goodness. I had to quit my job because of the overwhelming feelings of darkness and stayed in bed most days.
I thought my husband could make all of my problems and insecurities go away and to my disillusion, all of my insecurities were exasperated. I was seen for what I truly was – a sinner, and it scared the daylights out of my husband and I. Many nights my eyes grew tired scrolling through social media while stalking former boyfriends. I have compassion for those who struggle, wondering if life would have been better married to someone else. I often wished I had gone to New York. I had even planned an escape one night. In truth, I was having an affair with my former reality, trying to find solace in what could’ve or should’ve been.
I had told God “anything” but he had called my bluff. What I really meant was that I would do anything, so long as it didn’t interfere with my EVERYTHING….my comfort!
I had resolved that I was leaving – not only my husband, but this new life to which God had apparently called me. As I opened the door never to come back, my husband, with great resolve, grabbed me tightly and held me. At first, being held was uncomfortable. I stiff-armed him, trying to escape, but his embrace held tighter than my hate. Finally, wrapped up in his grip, I melted. There were no words, just tears rolling down my face. In a moment of deep despair, I started to understand something that I had always heard about, something I thought I believed in, and something that I talked about but did not understand until now – grace.
My husband wasn’t the only one holding me that day. One of the lines from my favorite hymn says, “Prone to wonder Lord I fear it, prone to leave the God I love, here is my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
How many of us, if it were not for grace would have packed our bags a long time ago?
You said “yes,” but like me, you didn’t count the cost. We didn’t realize it was a “Yes” every day.
I loved the husband that made me feel good. In the same way, I loved the Jesus that made me feel good and gave me freedom but I didn’t like the Jesus that kept asking me to walk away from the things that I loved. This love was stretching me out and it was uncomfortable and irritating.
People often ask, what brought about the change in your marriage? Was there a certain sermon you heard or a bible verse that shot down like a lightning bolt moment? I know what they are waiting for, a deep prophetic word of wisdom, an exhortation or even more so, that list of steps we took in order to work it all out. I want that list too but that is not what saved our marriage. Being held is what changed my heart. It is a silent, steady and day by day leaning in, our hearts towards his.
This is grace, it pulls us closer when we least expect. Grace cannot be escaped. The more we attempt to pull lose from it, the tighter it squeezes.
Being held is where we find our song once again?
Held by love, our hearts pulled close to his, we start to feel the rhythm of surrender. There is a song to sing. Do you hear the melody…the steady driving beat of the father’s heart?
Instead of leaving my life, I started to live it.
Being loved ruined me.
Jamus didn’t ruin my life, God did. God will ruin us in order to save us from ruin.
My husband is not my happily ever after, God is. Knowing this has made me a better wife, mother, and Christian.