I loved her. But it was not enough.

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She caught my attention the first time I saw her. We were in college. I was 21. She was 18.

She was cute and I wanted to meet her - little did I know that our story was already being written.

I remember our first interaction and I am embarrassed to say that it wasn’t my most “GQ” moment. As she was leaving the mail room, I was walking in. The stars had aligned and this was the moment that I had been waiting for.

This was my moment! I am finally going to say hello to her! I get one shot at a first impression so I muster all the confidence I can and say…

Hi Shonda!

I said it in my most energetic yet in an “I hope you think I’m cool” kind of voice.

This would have been great if her name was Shonda. Her name was not Shonda. Her name was SHAYLA.

Shonda was her older sister who attended the same college. Shonda was the older sister whose shadow cast over Shayla from the moment she stepped on campus. Shayla was known as Shonda’s little sister.

She responds back with this. “I am Shayla”. Like the majority of most 21 year old boys, I was not the brightest but I realized by her tone that the first impression that I was so concerned with just got ruined.

I had one shot and the one shot missed the target by 10 yards. The one shot missed the rim and the backboard all together. The one shot missed the green and ended up in the sand trap. The one shot was over. Or so I thought.

Our next interaction was at an intramural football game. Intramural sports at our college went like this. Testosterone filled boys got together to show off for the cute girls who came to watch. As we prepared to play a game of flag football in the wet grass and mud, I asked her (I said Shayla this time) to hold my hat. At the time, it was my favorite hat.

As I began to walk away with by chest puffed out because the cute girl was holding MY hat, she promptly dropped it in the mud.

I guess you could say that we were now even.

This is how our story began. Our first date was just a few short days later.

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I began to love her. But it wasn’t going to be enough.

Our love story included an engagement and a small yet beautiful wedding.

But I didn’t love her enough to not get drunk the night before and be hungover for our wedding.

I loved her.

But it was not enough to put her before my friends.

It wasn’t enough to put her before my extended family.

It wasn’t enough to put her before my job.

I loved her.

But it was not enough to answer the phone call when I was out of town and she was concerned if I was still at the bar drinking or even worse, dead on the side of the road.

It wasn’t enough to not lie to her about already being in my hotel room when in reality I was still out drinking and only went to a quiet corner to call home and say goodnight.

It wasn’t enough to be at home in a warm bed rather than schedule yet another fishing trip to sleep in a cold bed.

I loved her.

But it was not enough to not email the other woman or not flirt with the girl at the bar.

It wasn’t enough to stop the anger at night when I would come home from a day long drinking binge at the Royals game and she would ask who won and I couldn’t remember.

It wasn’t enough to not drive drunk when she begged me to call her to come pick me up.

I loved her.

But it was not enough to not begin the affair with the other woman.

It wasn’t enough to not give my attention to the other woman when my wife was longing for attention from me.

It wasn’t enough to not make late night calls to the other woman when I should have been calling home to my wife who was by herself missing the husband she married.

I loved her. But it was not enough.

However, she loved me.

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She loved me enough to continue to call the late nights I wouldn’t answer.

It was enough to continue to care when most women would have stopped long before.

She loved me.

It was enough to keep my side of the warm bed even though she knew I wasn’t coming home anytime soon.

It was enough to say this the day she found out about my relationship with the other woman.

“Bryan, I will love you as a friend, but not as your wife, to help you get help.”

She loved me.

It was enough to walk beside me during the most difficult period of my life as I began to uncover years and years of hurt that I had buried deep within my heart and soul.

It was enough to do this while we were separated, living in different houses.

She loved me.

It was enough to eliminate alcohol in her life so I could be healed from the addiction that I was facing.

It was enough to allow my hardened heart the time to soften.

She loved me enough to forgive.

She loved me.

People say that love wins. I even said it a few weeks ago when I posted a picture to Instagram.

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Love wins. However, does it win? I don’t think it does.

Surrender wins. Love follows surrender.

In the middle of my darkness, I made the decision to surrender. I had no other options if I was going to make it.

It wasn’t about my marriage. It was about whether or not I was going to make it another day as thoughts of suicide crept in.

Proverbs 4:19But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

I was in so deep that I didn’t even know that I was in the dark.

Darkness is the absence of light.

Jesus says this.

John 8:12I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Luke 9:23-24 23 Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Both of these statements use the word whoever.

Whoever includes ME. Whoever includes YOU.

Both of these statements use the word follow.

To follow is to come after, to go behind…to surrender.

In order for me to love my wife the way that I was supposed to love her, I had to surrender my life to Jesus first and experience unconditional love from the One who created me.

In order for my wife to forgive me, she had to surrender her life to Jesus first.

In order for our lives to be saved and our marriage restored, we had to lose the lives that we were living. However, we gained so much more.

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Shayla, I am sorry for the pain I caused you. I am sorry that I hurt you. I am sorry that I did not love you enough. I am sorry.

Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for standing beside me. Thank you for loving me when you didn’t have to.

Thank you for loving me enough.

Shayla, you are simply remarkable. I will protect you. I will protect us. I will do whatever it takes.

I love you.

To the one reading this who is in the middle of the darkness, there can be light. You can be healed. Your marriage can be restored. The pain can be overcome with beauty. There is hope. Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

My prayer is that you wrestle with what it means to surrender and as a result, experience love…true love.

Surrender wins, love follows.

Bryan

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All photographs courtesy of Andy Janning.