Most of my friends are aware that I chose to be single before I met my husband Jonathan in 2006. Yet the majority of them perhaps assume that decision stemmed solely from my commitment to living a godly lifestyle and my quest to stray from one night stands or avoid early pregnancy and STDs. A few of them are well aware of the fact that my visible disability or “deformity” resulted in my younger years to issues regarding self esteem, body image and my ultimate quest to discover my own identity apart from being defined solely by my looks. Like many American girls I had somewhat of a love/ hate relationship with my body. While on the one hand there where times I felt truly good about my appearance there where others that I wondered if anyone could ever truly love me as I was in spite of my missing limb. My adolescence was my preparation for what it would feel like to be a woman and at first I think I was very embittered toward the opposite sex for the sheer fact that I was well aware that they either dismissed me as a freak or saw me as a victim to be preyed upon. They did not realize that there was a spirit in me that could not be broken. It was love. True genuine heartfelt love. Young men often assume that in their quest for sexual conquests they merely have to either bring a girl to the point where she falsely believes no one else will want her to bed her or they do the exact opposite tell you silly things like that you look like some gorgeous actress you are fully aware you do not resemble all in the hopes that you can be conned into laying on your back for him. In any case I had already decided that I did not want to have sex until I was good and ready and for me a number of things were necessary for that to happen 1. I had to be with a guy who not only listened when I spoke but made it clear he cared about my thoughts feelings and ideas
2. I had to be with a guy who made me feel beautiful because I had had enough men tell me I wasn’t. The way I saw it . I can be alone and feel “unpretty” having a man who reinforces my deepest insecurities about my own body is ten times worse than having no man. At least when I am unattached I can enjoy the fact that there are men who find me attractive when I am with a guy who attempts to take my self esteem (that I have worked toward having for an entire lifetime) away from me I realize that I am selling myself short I am settling for something that more closely resembles bondage than love and I am not interested in a counterfeit. One of my favorite quotes often reiterated from the pulpit growing up was the following “Once anyone has tasted genuine love there is no accepting any substitute or counterfeit”. I do not remember the first time I heard this or even which one of the many gifted ministers I have known who first said it. I just know that the words resonated with me because I was blessed to grow up in a home where I was literally surrounded by genuine love. My mother and my grandparents and extended family took a very hands on parental approach with me and my two brothers. I won’t say they never made mistakes because they are human beings and would be the first to admitt that they did.I will say however that I was once very saddened during my college years when I read an article that suggested that the average teenager or young adult did not feel that they knew of at least three trusted adults that they could turn to in a time of crisis. This was perplexing to me because not only did I know that many adults most of them where in my own home. I feel very fortunate now that out of neccesity because of our poverty we housed three generations under one roof. Yet in the end it was this family unity that set the solid foundation in my life for walking in genuine love. It was also be thi
s place that I called home that gave me the strength to at times stand apart from the crowd. This proved indispensable in regards to my relationship with the opposite sex. I was fortunate to have had known
many young men as a girl who made it abundantly clear
that they admired and respected me. These where the young men whom I called my friends. It is kind of funny now to me when I think about the way guys assume friendship with a girl is some kind of consolation prize because as a young lady I never truly loved a man who refused to treat me as an equal. That resolve is even stronger in me now that I am a grown woman . Ironically it was the guys I dated who were the most critical of my outward appearance that led me straight back to the altar. Rejection by man rather than leading me to seek further validation from man led me safely runn
ing into the everlasting arms. Why? Because I knew no matter what anyone made of dust said about me that God saw the real me. The Candace buried beneath the surface. I was also fully aware that the right man would see me as clearly as God did. So to the Chagrin of those who assumed insecurity leads a woman to make poor sexual choices I chose instead to defy that notion by defining my identity based on my understanding of how not only God viewed me but by choosing to live in the world of books and ideas rather than seeking to “fit in” in a world that I clearly was never going to belong to I chose to listen selectively to those who not only knew my hearts deepest depths but valued me for the wisdom and insight God himself granted me. There are those who don’t really know me who erroneously assume that I think I am perfect ( the concept of me ever saying this about myself to those who genuinely know me is utterly ridiculous). Not only am I glaringly aware of exactly how imperfect I am I at times struggle with even feeling like I am equal to anyone else. This is a darkness that has haunted me all of my days and it is not an easy thing for me to share with others but I believe genuine accountability begins with transparency. When I met Jj I was a broken mess . I am surprised in all actuality that he could even see my face through the veil of tears that at that time in my life was my almost constant companion. Its odd to me because at that time in my life I was actually surrounded by people who treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. My female friends often looked to me as a counselor and confidant and my male friends often used words such as “brilliant, beautiful or witty”. To describe me but I had such a deep feeling of inadequacy left over from my youth that in the words of Kathy Mattea I was ” standing knee deep in a river dying of thirst”. In my heart I wish that I could say that that all changed from the very moment I met Jonathan but that just is not exactly how our love story played out. To the average observer Jj and I are possibly the most unlikely pair. While I tend to be more quiet and reserved and am fairly selective with the company I keep my outgoing husband is friendly with everyone he meets. While I tend to be somewhat of a philosopher and poet my husband is far more likely to find humor in the most unlikely and even unfunny situations. Where I am ” thrifty” and “conservative” Jj is generous and extravagant. I prefer keeping a schedule. Jj is impulsive and spontaneous. I am a night owl who prefers to sleep in Jj is an early riser. While my work style is slow and meticulous Jj is a whirlwind of fun and often forgets to complete projects because he is easily distracted. We are the living embodiment of the following saying: Opposites attract. The thing that first attracted me to Jj wasn’t any one factor it was a variety of different things. To begin with the first thing I noticed was the fact that his face was often buried behind the pages of a thick novel the bookworm in me saw a man after my own heart.Then there was his generosity which was exemplary considering the fact that he was homeless at that time. Not to mention the fact that he genuinely seemed to care about people and was very good at comforting people who were broken or sorrowful without even realizing that this was what he was in fact doing. His kindness and his sense of humor to me where his defining attributes especially considering the fact that I was the kind of girl that sometimes took life and myself way too seriously. Like I told my cousin Jeremy who likes to tease me about how “old we are getting” I found in Jj my fountain of youth. Our union has not been without its share of trials. My insecurities at one time almost drove us apart and at one time so did his struggle with addiction not to mention the forced adoption of our children against our will and despite our better efforts. That is the beauty of genuine love however it is not shallow arrogant or self seeking. Real love plummets the depths. Real love asks the hard questions and real love provides us with genuine answers to those questions. When I asked God as a young woman “Could anyone ever love someone like me?” His answer was not only that he himself loves me but that there would one day be a man in my life that loved me so much and with such abondon that when I was convinced that there was no life left in our marriage he dug in his heels refused to give up or give in and said “Whatever it takes to fix it, whatever it takes to win her back that is what I will do because I love her, and she’s worth it and I am a better man with her by my side” .Jonathan’s voice besides the voice of God himself has at times been my greatest gift , my greatest source of comfort and strength. He does not know this because just like me he is human and plagued with self doubt and similar feelings of inadequacy but there are times that he is my strength and the rock that I lean on. When I walked out on him it would have been easy for him to become embittered or angry but instead he chose to go to the altar and ask God to fix our broken marriage. He showed me that a real man prays for not preys on his woman. Its funny because during my younger years I viewed many of the guys I met as arrogant because they appeared to assume that their attention should flatter me because in their estimation a girl like Me must not have been used to male attention I often said this “That idiot is under the false impression that he is God’s gift”. Jonathan once teased me about the fact that his name literally translates into this: The Gift of Jehovah. I never really thought about it until today but it has been true that Jonathan has been my greatest gift on earth aside from salvation and the births of our 3 beautiful children. I thought I knew what love meant before we met but he has daily proven to me that love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. Does not seek its own way or will is not arrogant or proud does not behave innapropriately is not easily provoked and thinks no evil.Does not rejoice in inequity but rejoices in the truth.Bears all things believes all things hopes for all things, endures all things. And beyond that Love cannot fail. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 paraphrase mine) Jj won my heart by simply proving to me that he esteemed me and held me in high regard. That is all that I ever wanted and he did not even know that about me. I love him more now than I did the day that I said I do and I will love him with my last breath.Jjmylove Jonathan my gift from Jehovah. Happy Anniversary to the man who went above and beyond the call of duty for his ” lady” I am proud to call you my man.
Candace Casey aka Cccasey5150