I Forgive Me #SingleWithLeah

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Hello, friends. I have been writing for Jory for almost a year now, and my time is coming to a close. This is my second to last guest blog, and I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to talk about in my final appearances.

I wanted to leave you guys with some sort of truth nugget that somebody will crochet on a pillow or something that I will, in turn, collect millions of dollars in royalties from. Or, ya know, just something that will help you get through another day. I had written out an entirely different piece, but it felt wrong. Kind of like when you eat Taco Bell, ever: Sounds good, but comes out wrong.

So, this is my second piece. It’s a little more vulnerable. A little less cutesy. A little more me. Here. We. Go.

The other day I was sitting in a meeting, thinking about this Netflix show that I’ve been addicted to, when I found myself interrupted with the instructions to pair off with a partner and do a wellness-exercise.

I don’t really mind those on-the-spot, ice-breaker moments with random partners, but in that moment I was feeling overly emotional and PMS-ing to the max and just wanted 11 Twix bars and to take my bra off and never pluck my eyebrows again. The last thing I felt like doing was baring my soul to a person who was undoubtedly not ready for my complete hurricane of emotions and who was now unknowingly doubling as my therapist.

But alas, the exercise went on despite the seven obvious and well-timed eye-rolls that I offered the meeting leader. He asked us to go through a series of statements about forgiveness with each other. “I forgive somebody for_____, I forgive my ex for ______,” ya know, normal, everyday forgiveness-based things. The last question, however, got me right in the PMS.

“I want you to look at the person in front of you and tell them something that you forgive yourself for.”

What could he possibly mean? I am nearly perfect and a little too confident, if you aren’t catching on. I live a life with basically zero regrets, and I rarely see mistakes as mistakes, but more moments of, “Whelp, I know not to do that again.” What in the world would I have to forgive myself for? Well, let’s backtrack, mainly because I love backtracking, but also so you can follow me a little bit better here.

If you follow my writings on this blog, then you know that over four years ago, I walked away from a loving relationship to pursue a career. It was a difficult decision, and I spent the following years fiercely questioning myself.

Every single day, I thought of him. I thought of the kids that we would have had and the life that we would have lived. I thought about us kissing each other before we went to work in the morning, or the way that we would lay in bed at night and laugh.

I thought about all of these things non-stop while I climbed the corporate ladder and made a name for myself. The climb was lonely and cold. But I made it, and I became the woman that I wanted to be. I became the woman that I walked away from love to be.

So here I am, sitting in this wellness exercise, and all of these emotions flood over me. I start to tear up as I look in the eyes of the poor girl who has to listen to all of this soon-to-be-ramblings, and I tell her something that had never once crossed my mind:

I forgive myself for choosing my career over love.

At that point, I didn’t regret my choice. I have come to a place where I am happy that Leah from 2012 somehow understood what Leah from 2016 would want. But in that moment, I realized something that I had never once considered: I never really let myself off the hook for it.

I see women around me all of the time getting engaged, having babies, getting new minivans and using Facebook to ask other moms mom-ish questions. I don’t know the answers to any of these, and sometimes, I feel really, really bad for that.

I have real, actual guilt that I have not yet given my parents grandchildren. It bothers me that my dad has never shaken the hand of a man that he knew I would someday marry. It gnaws at my soul that by the time I have children, my nieces and nephews will be old and grown, some of them possibly even married with their own kids.

I feel sad when I think about these things. And in that moment, I realized that I needed to forgive myself.

But it was a weird kind of forgiveness. You see, I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I needed to tell myself once and for all that it was okay to not be the conventional woman that everyone swore I would be. It’s okay to not have kids today, in a few years, or maybe at all. It’s not selfish of me to work 70 hours a week or to never want to stop working and be home.

Somewhere along the lines, I bought into the lie that I was breaking the rules. I believed the rumors that the only thing a woman could truly succeed at is being a wife and a mom. So although I am a successful woman in Detroit, actively working to change the dynamic of the common workplace and making strong connections in my field, I felt this weird, awkward kind of shame.

The forgiveness that I needed to offer myself wasn’t because I had chosen that life, but because I had chosen it and constantly looked back. The forgiveness that I so desperately needed to purify my soul was saying, “Leah, it’s okay that you picked yourself.”

You see, I know me. I know me better than anyone else knows me. I know how many pieces of pizza I can eat before I go into self-loathing. I know that if I cut bangs I will literally hate myself and be mad for months. I know that I cannot be in a relationship during hockey playoffs because I become waaaay too combative.

And on that day, I forgave myself for doubting all of that. I let go of the shamed feelings of missed love, of an empty womb, of a home minus children’s toys and a man lying next to me. I let go of the shame because it wasn’t my own. It was what I was told I should be feeling.

On that day, I rid myself of the notion that I am meant for convention. There is so much beauty in being a stay at home mom, a wife, or a home-school teacher. But there is an equal amount of beauty in being a CEO, a career woman, or a person who never wants or even can’t have children. We are not less because we aren’t in the majority.

So instead of saying that I am “this”, or will one day be “that,” I am just going to trust that I know myself. I know what I want. Every single day, I discover it more. I love being an aunt. I love being a creative director. I love being a hiker. I love that I don’t have bangs. I love all of those things.

But what I love most of all is that I can be all of those things today and none of those things tomorrow. I forgive myself for thinking that I had to pick. I forgive myself for placing limits on myself and on the other women in my life.

And now, I move forward into this unpredictable life not knowing very much except that I have adventure ahead because nothing is pre-decided. I’m excited to wake up every day. That excitement is available to both the housewife and the boss-lady. We don’t have to choose anymore, ladies. We can have both.

I choose both.

But even more than that, today, and every day, I choose freedom. I choose forgiveness. I choose me.

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Leah Barterian works as the Youth Program Director at Grace Christian Church in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She is extremely passionate about singleness, Red Wings hockey, social equality, and late-night snacking. She loves baked cheetos, puppies, and laughing at videos where people slip on the ice. She inexplicably hates black beans and humidity. Follow Leah on Twitter and Instagram @Leahbarterian. Explore Leah’s blog at withleah.com.

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19 Comments

  • You write with honest vulnerability Leah. Yet I feel sad for you and disappointed too. Not because you chose career over love, which is a valid choice, but because you make NO reference to seeking or following what the Lord God desires for you. You shared an “I” and “I” story, but this earthly life is to be lived self-lessly.

    • Hi C Hester. I have to say, I feel sad for you. Any person that judges someone’s heart for God based off a 1300 word blog post, is a very sad, judgmental, narrow-minded human being. Please don’t come on to this site and talk down to my guests ever again. Thanks and God bless.

    • Hi, C Hester. Thanks for reading, but I have to say that you’ve sort of proven my point for me. You are saying that my relationship with God must not be strong because it doesn’t look how YOU think it should look. You’re alluding that I must only be following my own desires simply because my fingers did not type out the words “God” or “Jesus” in this blog.

      So I want you to know that the career that I chose over love was one in the ministry. I am the Creative Director at a local Detroit church. I’ve worked here for 8 years, starting as an intern who didn’t make any money. I walked away from a huge salary and a great condo to pursue this. I don’t need to tell you this, because I feel no need to defend myself or my words to you, but I want to tell you, because your words were beyond judge mental.

      When I write, I don’t feel the need to spell out my relationship with God because it is so engrained in every single thing that I do. You don’t need to see that for it to be true.

      I hope and pray that whenever or to whomever you share your heart, that you aren’t treated the way that I was treated here today, by you. I hope that people take time to listen and not just assume. I hope that people give you the benefit of the doubt. But mostly, I hope that nobody ever expresses disappointment when your personal relationship with God doesn’t line up with what they think it should be. That’s not who Jesus was, and it wasn’t the message that he preached.

      God bless.

    • C Hester you literally reduced her relationship with God to one blog post AND you judged her quite harshly, presuming during this life she has only lived for herself.

      What gives you the impression that you’re in the position to make such judgments? Are you the gatekeeper of heaven? If so, no one is getting in.

      Somehow I doubt this is an anomaly for you, and it’s for that reason that I feel sorry, not for you, but for others in your life who have to put up with your limited, narcissistic, and judgmental view of yourself, life and others.

  • Hi, C Hester. Thanks for reading, but I have to say that you’ve sort of proven my point for me. You are saying that my relationship with God must not be strong because it doesn’t look how YOU think it should look. You’re alluding that I must only be following my own desires simply because my fingers did not type out the words “God” or “Jesus” in this blog.

    So I want you to know that the career that I chose over love was one in the ministry. I am the Creative Director at a local Detroit church. I’ve worked here for 8 years, starting as an intern who didn’t make any money. I walked away from a huge salary and a great condo to pursue this. I don’t need to tell you this, because I feel no need to defend myself or my words to you, but I want to tell you, because your words were beyond judge mental.

    When I write, I don’t feel the need to spell out my relationship with God because it is so engrained in every single thing that I do. You don’t need to see that for it to be true.

    I hope and pray that whenever or to whomever you share your heart, that you aren’t treated the way that I was treated here today, by you. I hope that people take time to listen and not just assume. I hope that people give you the benefit of the doubt. But mostly, I hope that nobody ever expresses disappointment when your personal relationship with God doesn’t line up with what they think it should be. That’s not who Jesus was, and it wasn’t the message that he preached.

    God bless.

  • Leah, I love this! I feel your emotion, and it does give me a bit of sadness. Not your choices, but the fact that as women, we feel the need to pick which part of wholeness we must give up. A career is good. A sense of self and autonomy is good. Love is good. Marriage is good. Being a mom is good. Somewhere along the line a message was put into our minds that somehow our lives are less beautiful if we don’t have all of these things. We were taught to be ashamed of success. We were taught to be ashamed if we had a husband and children but still wanted more. Your life is beautiful, Leah! A beautiful life looks differently for everyone. There is no time limit, only the beautiful right now. Blessings, from one Leah to another

    • Hi, fellow Leah! Thank you so much! I have to admit, whenever you comment I get a little bit confused and always think, “Did I write that?!”

      I love your input and the way that you view life as well. It’s always cool, in my opinion, when women can support each other at any stage of life. So THANK YOU!

  • You just haven’t met the right guy…and you may never find him…or you wouldn’t walk away…it is better for him that you did…you wouldn’t have been a good partner for him…I am glad for both of you.

    Real love just cannot leave…it makes concessions and solves all problems…you didn’t have it. Perhaps someday…hopefully, if you dream of children, you don’t have to live with regret…again, if you would love your own children you will make concessions…that is the key…your heart.

    • So true, Judy. I know in my deepest heart that it would have never worked. He wanted me to be something that I wasn’t ever going to be, and vice versa.

      Thanks for the input and for commenting and reading! I appreciate it.

  • I don’t think C. Chester was being offensive in any way other than to point out this post seemed to center on the self in context. We don’t need to use the word God in every sentence or even at all in order to make any assertion of our relationship with God. We can use the word God many times or omit him altogether in our desire to serve our own purposes.
    This statement stands out::

    “I thought about all of these things non-stop while I climbed the corporate ladder and made a name for myself. The climb was lonely and cold. But I made it, and I became the woman that I wanted to be. I became the woman that I walked away from love to be.”

    The word “I” is peppered non stop and qualified with making a name for herself. Making a name for herself is contrasted to a woman being married and having a family. Where does that leave women who get married and have children? Not making her own name for herself and less prestigious? How about the unpaid intern who didn’t climb up the corporate ladder and make a name for herself? Is she the women she wanted to be? Is her personal relationship with Christ less than the authors because of how she perceives it to be? Is it based on money or greater salary? This is reducing a personal relationship to a feeling.
    I am a wife and mother, but a single women living among the poor and serving them without pay or a corporate ladder is cooperating within God’s grace much greater because she selflessly serves the interests of the needy above her own. Those who reduce themselves lessor are greater in the kingdom. The gospel is not reduced to the modern experiment of social Marxism where every action is equal. I can hardly wait to meet my husbands relative who served the needs of the poor in India without pay and gave her seat to a woman and a small child on the titanic and died in the frigid waters.

    • Thanks so much for reading. I always appreciate fresh input.

      I did, however, talk about the beauty in being a stay at home mom, a mother, or a woman who wants to be a wife. The entire point of this blog was to show women that we don’t have to choose. In fact, I mentioned how I forgave myself for cutting women short in buying into the idea that we do have to pick one or the other, or that we have to pick either at all.

      Also, I think it’s a little bit silly for somebody to say that they didn’t think something was offensive when they weren’t the one that it was being directed towards. I wasn’t actually offended at all personally, but more with the idea that we can judge a persons relationship and dependency on God in 1300 words or less is ludicrous. I think Jesus would call it religious.

      Thanks again for reading, and I hope that you are blessed.

  • Thanks so much for reading. I always appreciate fresh input.

    I did, however, talk about the beauty in being a stay at home mom, a mother, or a woman who wants to be a wife. The entire point of this blog was to show women that we don’t have to choose. In fact, I mentioned how I forgave myself for cutting women short in buying into the idea that we do have to pick one or the other, or that we have to pick either at all.

    Also, I think it’s a little bit silly for somebody to say that they didn’t think something was offensive when they weren’t the one that it was being directed towards. I wasn’t actually offended at all personally, but more with the idea that we can judge a persons relationship and dependency on God in 1300 words or less is ludicrous. I think Jesus would call it religious.

    Thanks again for reading, and I hope that you are blessed.

  • Thank you for your response!

    You say the point of this article was women don’t have to choose, but being single or married is a choice. You made this choice and wrote about doing so:

    “I walked away from a loving relationship to pursue a career. It was a difficult decision, and I spent the following years fiercely questioning myself.”

    This was a choice!

    You also wrote that the beauty of being a housewife with children is an equal beauty with being a CEO or a career women. I am not sure how you define beauty, but these vocations are not equal in cooperating with God’s grace with faith.
    A CEO or career women picks this vocation because it benefits themselves with no outside strings of responsibility or obligation attached with it. They are compensated financially for their work and spend their money on themselves. If you want to live this lifestyle, then go for it! However, this is typically a promiscuous lifestyle, but if you remain chaste, then no harm or foul!
    But you are doing it for yourself like you admitted, and this is a big difference.

    “The forgiveness that I so desperately needed to purify my soul was saying, “Leah, it’s okay that you picked yourself.”

    The housewife looking after her kids and the husband who supports them are working selflessly for the benefit of others who depend on them. There is no pay or freedom of responsibility, no calling into work sick. The scope of the work is selfless and giving. The pleasure of the couples sex life is not a shallow hedonist pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure because it serves a purpose that benefits the church, society and the after life. The same selflessness applies to a person living among the poor and serving their needs with no pay and recognition. It is a selfless vocation.

    There is no equal beauty with these selfless vocations and a single person forgoing them to pursue a career. The career person has their reward in their pay and freedom from obligation as they make a name for themselves. No need to forgive yourself if this lifestyle doesn’t appeal to you! Just don’t equate them as being the same spiritually.

    Christianity is a faith that is lived out in the physical world, it is not just a personal feeling.

    • Let me start by saying that you’re making a vast amount of assumptions about me based on what you ***think*** I mean, and even when I try to explain it, you explain my intentions back to me. That’s laughable.

      I also would love to fill you in on what my job actually is. I work at a church. I am the creative director there. I put in countless hours to ensure that every single person that walks into the building has an experience in every sense of the word. But guess what? I could run a fortune 500 company and my work would still be just as meaningful. You are greatly putting limits on how God can use people simply because you don’t see their work as worthy. I wasn’t aware that he needed your assistance on this!

      The housewife and the career woman are choices, yes. But why can’t we be both? Why can’t I have both? It’s not selfish of me to follow along the path that I feel God is leading me, even if it’s not what ***you*** think is right. God never needs to speak to us about what he’s doing in another person’s life. If we trust him, we trust that he is moving, as he promised he would. It’s that simple. We either trust him, or we don’t. Jesus never called us to fix people. He called us to love them.

      I would say we should gracefully part ways and agree to disagree on this. I hope you have a great day.

  • “But there is an equal amount of beauty in being a CEO, a career woman, or a person who never wants or even can’t have children. We are not less because we aren’t in the majority.”

    THIS.

    My husband and I were discussing this and how not having kids doesn’t have to be the definition of us as a couple. I get that shame. Thanks for sharing!

  • Leah,

    I’m a big fan of your work and very bummed to hear your time writing for Jory’s site is coming to an end. Being a single in my early 30s myself who is tired of playing the comparison game, I get a ton out of your column here. Excited to see what God has in store for your writing going forward.

    It really breaks my heart to go through this comment thread and read some of the things people are posting. It is so telling of our society, where people so easily just spew out their immediate assumptions no matter how off they are. I truly believe that God calls us to not rebuke or attack people we disagree with, but go where they are and learn about them and what their life is like and see if we can even learn from them. Some basic Google searching would show that these assumptions people are making about you are so wrong. They would see how open and devoted to your faith you are but that wasn’t the point of this blog and you shouldn’t have to preface every article “With even though this isn’t what your walk with God looks like I assure you I am a believer.” These people have a truly warped and narrow idea of what Christianity and what womanhood looks like. Thank you so much for writing this and thank you even more for your humility in addressing these comments and showing everyone how it’s done. YOU ARE MY BLOG HERO!!!

  • Women are equal no matter what they do, but pursuing a career is not beautiful. Women caring and sacrificing for their husbands and children is beautiful. A woman pursuing a career is just beautiful as a man pursuing a career, i.e., it isn’t beautiful.

  • Thank you for responding!

    I am very concerned for your spiritual condition since every response just goes deeper into the self. I would urge you to take a step back and re-read your article and responses. I could offer a few responses, but at this time we probably just need to agree to disagree.

    I will answer your question of why cant we be both a housewife and a career person? Why make a choice?
    Well, many women have a family and work due to various life circumstances which include sickness, death, divorce or a single mother and more. However, lets not focus on the exceptions like pharisees, instead, lets focus on God’s design for marriage, gender and sexuality.

    Lets get back to the basics. Why is premarital sex wrong? The most popular explanation is the couple were not married. While this is true, it is rather vague and tells us nothing about why premarital sex is wrong and why sex needs commitment. Since we are children post-sexual revolution world, I am willing to bet many people reading this have had sex before marriage. So, what are the preconditions of engaging in premarital sex? Well, It needs to be rendered a sterile act in order to avoid the consequences of using sex for the purpose of sexual gratification. Therefore, birth control, non coital sex acts, emergency contraceptives and abortion is an absolute necessity with this worldview. The same applies to adulterous relationships, prostitution and pornography since they share the same sexual philosophy.
    The big problem is when we transport this sexual mindset into marriage and a piece of paper makes the what is unrighteous into righteousness. This is a religious mindset.
    This is why some young people who have given their lives to Christ and decide to get married after living together claim to me “nothing has changed”. Well, a piece of paper is not going to change the fact they are treating married sex like they were still having premarital sex.
    For example: It is common for some religious people to shore up in the fortress of what is left of marriage and take shots at everyone else while sharing the same core sexual mindset as the people they condemn.
    The bible strongly condemns homosexuality, but many just don’t know why. The typical response is vague and static like “it is because they are the same gender”. But why? The sexual nature of same sex sexuality is the ultimate form of the premarital sex mindset because the nature of the act can only offer self gratification and seeing others as an object. The strong condemnation of homosexuality is a lesson of once it is accepted, the premarital sex mentality will be accepted. In fact, the Sodom narrative is connected with the sexual message God was teaching Abraham and Sarah. The road down to Sodom starts off with God telling Abraham and Sarah He would bless them with a child after a long time and many lessons on the subject. Abraham was to be the father of many nations, and the lesson of Sodom was to show him (and us)what happens to civilizations when they pervert the sexual act for their own gratification. God was teaching the couple his purposes for sex and marriage with their infertility and Sodom.
    Now I will answer your question. I understand you are coming from the ideology of feminism where a wife is entitled to have a career like a man. Lets see how this works out? In order for a sexually active woman to have a career like a man, she has to have free access to birth control, emergency contraception and abortion to be free from pregnancy like a man. We cannot be equal to men and sexually active without these items being freely available to us. To argue against this is to undermine your ideology to the core. This is the same premarital sex mindset because it is self serving
    It does not stop there either. We have to impose this equality in the workplace where an employer bears the cost to train us and then we go on maternity leave in the future. The employer bears the cost to train another person until the maternity leave is over and the other person looses their job, This maternity leave is subsidized with pay by the taxpayer, and strangers are responsible to raise the child at the taxpayers expense.
    Not very equal is it?

  • I would like to follow up with clear examples of the bibles message coming alive in real world examples. We don’t aspire to some form of mysticism, rather, the faith is rooted in the physical world.

    The church in utero had to tackle and overcome the montanist and Gnostic heresies. Here is an excerpt from the Gnostic gospel of Thomas 114
    “Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”
    Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    This is the same core tenant of feminism.

    The church overcame these heresies until the enlightenment and humanism came on the scene. Karl Marx taught a utopia where females could be freed from the shackles of marriage and family. They could become like men as the proletariat

    “Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.”
    -Karl Marx

    His sidekick Engels knew what would happen.

    “What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation has grown up…they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual – and that will be the end of it.
    Engels, origin of the family

    Engels speculates what will happen when women are free to work and have sex free from marriage and family (capitalist production in context) He knew sexuality would be redefined with it.

    Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood visited this feminist utopia in 1934

    “Russia today is the country of the liberated woman,”

    “The attitude of Soviet Russia toward its women…would delight the heart of the staunchest feminist,”

    “Women being, as one Communist expressed it to me, “the oppressed of the oppressed,” measures were taken to make her free–free to work and to take her place in the community as a free citizen. Hence easy marriage, easy divorce, all occupations open to her, even in the Red Army, equal pay, birth control, right to abortion, institutes, nurseries, hospitals, schools for babies and children to set her free to work and to play. Children too must be free, hence no illegitimate children, education free from the day nursery to the University, parents not allowed to give their children corporal punishment; the aim, as an intelligent girl of fourteen told me, is to encourage “self-conscious discipline” and to place the “discipline of the school in the hands of the scholars.” Punishment is replaced by the idea of re-education, and a naughty or tiresome child is said to need the attention of a pedagogue”
    -Margaret Sanger,1934

    Sound familiar? Progressive Russia collapsed to its immorality. We have followed in their footsteps and have even gone into further into immoral decay with gay marriage.
    It is only a matter of time before we collapse. Have fun with your ideologies while it lasts

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