An Abstraction on a Boy: The Chains of Old Love

This is an amalgam of stories for a reason. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look back, but I can trust God enough to go there and ask Him where He was in it all. I’ve shared much of my story, and in response, others have been compelled to share their stories with me. One I’ve heard repeatedly is the confession that past relationships haunt, even years after marriage. I’ve been hearing it for a while, so today is the day I finally go there.

When I got pregnant with my second child, everyone said, “Don’t worry, sweetie; your heart only grows. You’ll love the 2nd and 3rd as much as the 1st.” But when I was a child, no one told me it would be this way with all love. No one said that every time I gave myself over, love would stack on love, and years later I would remember, have to unlock those chains to tie myself completely and rightfully to God, and so to my husband.

It’s not hard to find the first link to undo it. I hear a line from the song as I walk down Dickson Street, and I go there in a sudden.

Polly, I heard it in the choir room, his guitar, and he had long hair, and I’d seen him walking down the road alone. I visited his house, and it made me feel like the world was a huge globe full of water and fire. He had a piece of leather hanging from the pull on his ceiling fan,  a venus fly trap with a sensitive mouth. I’m free from the pull chain, threw that leather string in the trash can years later.

Free Bird blared from the garage in the woods, and his parents didn’t care, smoked it with us. The window above his bed, you could see the tops of pine trees dancing. I’m free now from those chains, those wind chimes.

Mad Season, the road between our houses was winding, and I hit the tops of the hills, speeding so for two years, speeding with a rolled up dollar bill for a straw. It’s taken me years for this one, buried down in my chest, the chains of addiction. I find it hiding in strangest places, the way I hated my own body. I unwind this one still.

And then the stars out the truck window, it all felt like a promise to Stay. We were best friends, and I said I was free, but I lied and left. I ran actually, all the way to Arkansas. The chain of promise, untying myself doesn’t mean I’m not sorry, but I’m not a prisoner of sorrow anymore.

I go back and I speak to those moments, acknowledge God there in the widening world, in the pines, the hills, and the stars. I see what He intended for me and what I chose instead, and I say it out loud: those chains are broken, were never ever meant for me. The habits of self-loathing are harder for me, consequences of giving myself too soon, but I even act free from those when I remind myself that I am not my chains. My story does not begin or end with a boy.

On Mondays I write on writing, which means that mostly I’ll write out spirit by practicing a little with the concrete things in my life and maybe in a fictional life. We’ll see. If you want to mess around with these little prompts, send your readers this way, and link up below. At any point this week, link below to any concrete post you’ve written about a book. Practice writing, the craft; share it with us. Next week’s topic is on the TABLE. Make sure to use #concretewords on twitter. Thank you always for coming here.

‘); // ]]>

There’s a freedom I hear about that I just don’t always recognize in my life. I long to be free so much that maybe I’ve built a habit of feigning it. I would love it if you would like to join me in exploring this path to true freedom, A Study of Chains in 31 Days. You can follow along on Facebook or subscribe to these posts by email or in a reader. {Thank you so much, by the way, for walking with me.} Are you ready to shirk these chains?

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Reply October 8, 2012

Thank-you for your honesty in sharing this. "My story does not begin or end with a boy." Yes. A chain maybe every woman must break. Your words always resonate.

Shelly Miller
Reply October 8, 2012

oh my, I've been there, Free Bird and all. Except it blared from my own living room. It took marrying the man of God to live into "my story does not begin or end with a boy." Redemption is beautiful ya know.

Reply October 8, 2012

The stacking up, the saying out loud.... Really beautifully put.

Reply October 8, 2012

I was working through a day in the "Jonah - a life interrupted" study this morning and the waves of memory come whisping back, the memory of a past relationship. He was an answer to one of the questions on this morning's study. Then came the memories of all the others that I left a piece of my heart with. Some genuinely cared, most didn't. I've been married 7 years and honestly can't imagine my life had I ended up with any of THEM, but they still hold memory and I resent that.

Reply October 8, 2012

I have enjoyed your thougths on chains and appreciate you sharing these places in your heart! Thank you!

I couldn't help but think of Philippians 3 today as I read your post. I too have had to forget...lots of forgets and links to cast off. My identity has been built in so many things other than my Creator and His love for me. Paul gives us such a testimony as well in these passages and I thought that they might encourage you and your readers today to continue to trust in Christ, to really believe what he says and may the Word of God cut so deep that our hearts and identities are not found in the chains of which we would carry but rather chained to the love of a lover so drastic and so magnificent that we can't but be found in Him!

love to your family,


Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Truly the whole passage is very rich. But I finally commend to you vss. 20 & 21

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    Jessica Y
    Reply October 8, 2012

    Thank you, Scott. I need this truth to sink down deep.

Amber C Haines
Reply October 8, 2012

Friends, I'm with my little phone on the couch, and this Haines crew has been hit by an unfortunate tummy bug. I'm reading away as you comment, encouraged by you. I think I'll be quiet today though. Would love for you guys to promote those who've linked here today. If you don't usually read them, please do! I've been blown away by them in the past. Pray for healing. Ick.

Also, way good stuff, Scott. Thank you, brother.

    Brandee Shafer
    Reply October 8, 2012

    My man and I are recovering from bronchitis. So blessed in that the children haven't, so far, gotten it. I'm on Day 11. It's been a slow healing b/c no meds while pregnant. I'm still coughing a ton, which means I'm peeing my pants a ton. So over it. Hope you guys feel better soon. I thought yours a brave post. I think it's admirable that you can write so frankly about past relationship; I don't have that much freedom. I don't think back that often, but, when I do, I pray for the person and find he leaves my mind immediately afterwards...which encourages me that my praying is the right thing.

    Lynn Morrissey
    Reply October 8, 2012

    Sure hope and am praying that you and yours are on the mend soon. Yuk! I hate the flu!

Lynn Morrissey
Reply October 8, 2012

"I remind myself that I am not my chains." This is truth, Amber, pure, sweet, powerful truth. You are *not* your chains, but your past links you to the One who burst your chains, while He, Himself, bore the weight of them. Whether one calls it being nailed to the tree or chained to it, in the end, Jesus refused to free Himself so He could set *you* free, free from all those insidious chains that bind, strangle, cut, shackle. You are telling the story of Hosea and Gomer, of Jesus and any woman who comes to Him, who lets Him buy her back from the chains of sin. He treasures you. He honors you, oh you, of great worth, more priceless than gold, more precious that rubies. He speaks tenderly to you and betrothes you to Himself forever. now have been given such rich vineyards, such bountiful fruit where you are sharing your life with your readers and the great healing and hope that God has given you. Indeed, your Valley of Achor *has* become a door of hope for us who taste the sweetness of this fruit. Bless you for your courage, Amber.

Reply October 8, 2012

Amber, bless you and your family as you heal. Thank you for your courage in speaking the chains to be broken of them, for declaring what God intended for you. How redemptive to identify those glimmers of his beauty in the midst of those places -- "the pines, the hills, the stars." In that way it seems that even those chains of painful past memory can be proclaimed as God-touched, made new. Yes, he met me, even there. And now.

Reply October 8, 2012

Praying, Amber, for your sweet family!

Diana Trautwein
Reply October 8, 2012

Praying this bug will move through quickly and efficiently and that all of you will be right as rain SOON. Sorry. :>(

Kim Sullivan
Reply October 8, 2012

So sorry you all are feeling poorly. Praying for a quick recovery. Loved the piece you wrote. It has me thinking a few things further through.

Cassie Boorn
Reply October 8, 2012

As I work through some big life changes right now I have been struggling to make sense of my past. I am not exactly sure how my past fits into my present and not sure I want to let go of it.

It is good to know that I am not the only one working through this.

Thank you for being so bold to speak up.

Alia Joy
Reply October 9, 2012

Oh Amber, so thankful you went there. Those hidden places, chains and past whispers still speak loud sometimes and it takes seeking God to show how to break them and be free. Praying for your healing.

Reply October 11, 2012

My chains are connected to music, too, and when the songs come on I rush to change the station. I didn't even realize how strong the connection was until I clicked on Mad Season and that isn't even one of my songs and yet it sent me right back to one of mine. Clearly there's still work to do.

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