“I still believe in 398.2.” I do. I really do. 398.2 is a part of the Dewey Decimal system. It is the section of the library where you will find folk stories and fairy tales. The words I am staring at are engraved on a brass plate tied down to a leather bracelet wrapped around my arm. “I still believe,” I whisper softly to myself. Because I do.
Even after everything. The divorce. The assault. The manipulative half relationship I managed to maneuver myself into for too long. Even after all of that. I still believe. Which is a little ridiculous when you think about it. So many events and situations have played out in the past year to teach me that love and relationships are ugly. Life has tried to teach me that love is transactional. Men only want to use you and that I am unworthy of being fought and cared for.
Though some elements of fairy tales speak to me, I live firmly rooted in the real world where the laws of science apply. Thankfully we have this little thing called Newton’s Third Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is obviously speaking about motion but I think it works in life too. And it is what has happened to me.
Good men have filled my life in the past year, fighting the darkness with their light.
I talk so much about the incredible women in my life and I thought it was time I told you about these men. Some of you reading this need hope. Some of you have been wounded deeply by those who promised to love you. Some of you have had your hearts shredded by the one who was supposed to adore you. And some of you have been abused by the one who swore to protect you. Because of this I am going to show you the faces and the stories of the men who have been my lamps leading me out of my darkest nights. They are dented and imperfect but valiant knights who have fought by my side and still do on this journey.
“Thank you” will never be a good enough phrase to say how grateful I am that they are a part of my life.
Randy. “This is not who you are, it is just where you are,” is what he told me. He would send me Scripture and encouragement on the darkest days. When I started therapy, he and his wife LeAnne would send texts every week letting me know they were holding my hand with their prayers as I walked in the doors. He never ran away from my broken. He ran to it. Love does.
Ryan. “I heart your face.” He’d say these words with a smile and a laugh but the smile and laugh wouldn’t last too long as he’d begin to inquire if I had been eating. He kept me from starving during the worst parts of this year when I didn’t care about food and couldn’t remember to feed myself. He would remind me. “Have you eaten today? YOU’RE TOO SKINNY. That isn’t real food. EAT SOMETHING.” He is a Southern mama. He is a safe place.
Matt. He is always quoting some bit of wisdom from a writer or a poet. It never fails to remind me of who I am and where I am headed. He has played the role of friend, pastor, and devil’s advocate. He understands what it is like to walk through Hell and wonder if you are ever going to make it out and as he once reminded me C.S. Lewis wrote, “Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.” He is wisdom and strength.
Jon. He believed in me and believed me. Those are two different things. He and his wife Jenny have taught me so much about what it means to fit and work together in a relationship (when my book is finished you’ll get to read my thoughts on that). But the thing Jon taught me was how to trust authority again. He taught me that being brave and speaking truth is the right choice. And when you are willing to do it, sometimes your truth is heard and honored. He went first. He taught me how to be more brave. And then he honored my truth.
Jeremy. “The darkness may surround you but it will not overcome you.” There is not enough room in these five lines to tell you how this man and his words have brought light into my life. I can only tell you that without the introduction of him into my story I’m not sure if I would be as whole as I am right now. He helped me remember my worth and value. He cared for me just because he could. He is light in the dark.
Jake. “Why can’t you just let me take care of you?” Those words will resonate in my heart for a very long time. He reminded me that in order for me to be loved, I have to actually ALLOW myself to be loved. He has shown me that I am worth fighting for and that I deserve to be fought for and will be fought for. He is my Bedlam partner, my friend and my family and I would walk in through the front door of Hell to drag him out if it was necessary. He is a wild heart. He fights for love.
Cory. I can’t write about him without bawling. He is my bub. Though he’s younger than me, he has taken on the role of my older brother. He has laid down crossfire for me. He has been willing to walk into battle for me. He has kept me from walking into situations that would have harmed me. He is a warrior and a leader and when he said, “You have to come write for Bedlam,” he maybe saved my life. He made me a part of a community that held me tight and helped me heal. He is an advocate. Cory Copeland loves people.
Michael. My little brother. “Stop trying to be so good all the time. Quit trying to save yourself and let God do His job. You suck at it.” He never fails to speak truth to me and has never stopped loving me. Even through the hardest moments. We are very different but he always picked up the phone and had a prayer or just the words “I love you.” He never walked away. He never judged me. He remained. He is my blood.
Dad. “It is providential that you are at home with your dad and seeing good men and how you should be treated while you are in the midst of writing about the dark time in your life.” That’s what my therapist said this morning in our session. And it is true. Being here in this safety is such a good thing at this moment. My dad has never ceased to show his love for me. He has never stopped telling me how loved I am. Even when I didn’t behave how he thought I should. Even when life jacked me up in ways that his life experiences could not have prepared him to fathom, he held me and said, “you’re going to make it. There is more on the other side of this. I love you.” He is grace.
And there is more on the other side. That is what I want you to take away from all of this. From each of these men. From each of their stories. From my story. There is hope. There is more to come. This is not the end of your story. This dark place you are in is not where it ends. There is light. So much light. It comes from all of the people He has and is placing in your life. And these are just the men. If I began to tell you about the women it would take several blog posts.
Take heart, my loves...believe in 398.2….knights are still out there. They may be worn and tired and a bit dented around the edges, but they will fight for you. And they will stand by your side as you fight. They will teach you how to use a sword and when to swing and who to use it against. They will show you how to be more brave and be inspired by your bravery.
I still believe in fairy tales; my version of them. Do you?