Someone Broke My Heart Once

6 Mar

It was a few years ago…I was seventeen and a Freshman in college (which in retrospect was far too early for me). He was older (and I assumed more mature) than me.

He was studying to be a pastor and he always used words like passion and spirit-filled, and biblical. I absolutely worshiped him. He was charismatic in ways that I could never be. When he spoke the whole room heard him…but none listened quite as raptly as I did. So when he took me under his wing for “spiritual guidance,” I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Something was off though. It wasn’t something I could name or understand…just a feeling of wrongness. Just a teensy, tiny feeling that I should run the opposite direction. I couldn’t figure out where the feeling was from, and I couldn’t explain to myself why I was having it, so I disregarded it.

I went to coffee with him. I stayed up all night texting him. I told him all my secrets and dreams. I took all of his advice about how best to follow the Lord. He wrote me poetry and nice notes. He told me I was beautiful. I was enraptured.

One day he told me that my friends were not very godly. He told me that I needed to cut myself off from them and he explained how best I could get rid of them. At that point he was the only person I was talking to or spending time with anyways…so ditching my friends wasn’t that difficult. He was so proud of me…so happy that I was willing to give up friends to “honor Jesus.”

He  was so happy, in fact, that a few days later he told me that he loved me and thought I was the girl God wanted him to marry. He said he didn’t want to date though, because he felt like dating is not God’s plan for people. Instead, he wanted us to be “friends who were in love and planned to marry each other.” He also said that we needed to keep it a secret, because otherwise people might come between us.

[If you haven’t figured it out yet, 17-year-old Ellie was very, very naive.]

I was just happy that he loved me. So I agreed to do whatever he said. I was so happy to know that I was going to marry someone so godly. I did (and would have done) anything he asked.

When his car broke down, I let him use mine for a month.

When his apartment was dirty, I cleaned it.

When he asked me for a loan (to fix that stupid car), I gladly cleaned out my saving’s account for him.

When he explained that it was God’s plan for us to “explore each other’s bodies,” I obliged. That one took quite a bit more convincing though…I’d never had a boyfriend, let alone been kissed before I was with him. Eventually though, I gave him my innocence.

I was complacent for the most part. I’ve always been the type to go with the flow, so we didn’t argue at all for the first few weeks. But then I started to do things wrong. I wasn’t cleaning the way his mom did. I was reading books that were pagan (I was in a Greek Mythology class at the time). I was saying things that made him doubt whether I really had a “right relationship with the Lord.”

When he got angry he would ignore me for days. If I was with him he would address everyone but me. If I wasn’t with him he wouldn’t respond to calls or texts. It was at that point that the “run away” feeling got stronger. I started to see the wrongness behind the fact that I thought of my time as “time spent with him” and “time spent away from him.”

After a few days he always sorted things out with me though. He was always the one to fix things between us.

Then one day I did something that bothered him a lot (to this day, I don’t know what it was…), and he told me that he didn’t want to see me for a week. The whole up-and-down thing was really wearing on me, so I went to see him anyways. I thought that maybe I should initiate the fixing-things-between-us thing.

It only took him hitting me once for me to realize just how mistaken I had been about him. And I finally listened to that still, small voice (that I now recognize as having been the Holy Spirit), and I ran away.

He never got in trouble for what he did…I told, but in the end his reputation and charm won out. He’s a pastor now…at a church not far from my school. Sometimes (like today, for instance) I see him in the grocery store or around campus. And then I spend the whole day remembering that dark time in my life.

He doesn’t know it, but I’ve forgiven him. And honestly…I’m grateful to him. If it weren’t for him, I would not have begun to question the principles of fundamentalism – starting with the teachings on what female submission looks like. I would not be engaged to the absolutely wonderful man I am today – I met my fiance a few months later when my parents sent me to visit family to help me clear my head. Most of all, I would have not learned to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard that still, small voice of reason prior to him.

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7 Responses to “Someone Broke My Heart Once”

  1. exreligiouschristian March 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Your story is so honest and heartbreaking. Although I have never had that sort of spiritual and physical abuse from a partner, I am certain your story will help a woman (or man) who is suffering through it right now. Thank you so much for telling your story and how you were able to overcome the situation.

    • elliejaneohara March 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      It’s certainly not my most favorite life experience, but I learned so, so many lessons from it. And I love being able to look back and see how Jesus carried me through that situation.

  2. Lyn March 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Wow. You have to know that it feels like I’ve run a half mile, my pulse and blood pressure went up right along all the red flags. I am so, very, very, very thankful that you are out of that very unhealthy relationship! Praise God…and seeing the spiritual growth that came from it, praising Him some more! His personality sounds very much like the one of a former pastor of mine that wreaked havoc in his family and congregation. I heard once that you can tell the wolf has been present by all the slaughtered and wounded sheep around him. So true. There may not be justice for these men in this life, but there is a day of reckoning, and the Judge is standing at the door.

    • elliejaneohara March 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      I struggled for a really long time with the fact that God let him become a pastor. It was really hard for me to go to church, and a lot of the time, I just didn’t go. It was such a relief to me when I found solace (and safety) in the Catholic Church.

  3. SR March 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Wonderful and honest story. Always remember when one tries to make you hide, give up life, or tries to be secretative, that is never of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that is hidden with God. Those poor people in his Church! God Bless, SR

    • elliejaneohara March 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      So true, dear friend! I remember reading at one point while I was still in that situation that “If you have to keep a relationship a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.” That phrase haunted me, and it was such a relief to me when it wasn’t a secret anymore.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My Year As an Atheist | Catholic Lite - March 13, 2013

    […] my dealings with an abusive relationship, which you can read about in this post, I didn’t want much to do with “religion.” I told everyone I was “no longer […]

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