HER Stories

From Heartbreak to Salvation: Zemi’s Story

The below is an excerpt from Wife HER! founder Zemi Stewart’s book “Becoming HER”.

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

“I’m not ready to be in a relationship.”

Eight words (or nine if you split the contraction) broke my heart. My then boyfriend—let’s call him David—and I had been dating for four months. I know, I know. Four months is hardly any time at all, let alone time enough to end up heartbroken. But I was. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, I was a serial dater. I jumped from relationship to relationship and as I got closer to God and began examining myself, I realized this had to change. I didn’t want to be known as the girl who couldn’t stay in a relationship—I wanted this to work! So, I tried.

There were so many red flags: I caught him engaging in conversations with girls on a dating website, he would send private snaps to women he’d never met, he was semi-addicted to pornography and there were quite a few other indicators that this just wouldn’t work. But I loved him. He made me laugh, he was fun and…the sex was amazing! (P.S. We’re all grown-ups here right?) 

Looking back through the eyes of maturity (and self-worth), I should have left very early on in the relationship, but being with David gave me such a high. He would hug me while I slept—like lift me up towards him and just hold me tight. No one had ever held me like that before and, for whatever reason, it made me fall deeper in love. 

Who was I back then? Well, your first impressions are probably correct. I was immature. I lacked self-worth. I was naive. And yes, I lacked an actual relationship with Christ. But more than that: I was broken. I had lost my mother (and her amazing hugs) when I was 12 years old so those hugs from David seemed to fill a void that I didn’t even know I had. So much of me was broken back then. I was a year out of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and I was just tired. I wanted to love strong. I wanted to stay. I wanted to commit. I wanted this relationship to be “it”. But just as soon as I could blink, it was over.

“I’m not ready to be in a relationship.”

So what did I do wrong? Well, for one, I didn’t trust him. Yes, it does appear that I had no reason to, but even before I identified those red flags, I didn’t trust him and it showed. I would search his phone and his email, stalk his social media, attempt to read messages over his shoulder. The works! I mean it’s totally embarrassing to even write this down, but that was me. I came to his job with my arguments, I would talk down to him and, essentially, I drove him away. 

I’m sure he loved me at some point. I’m sure he didn’t enter the relationship with intentions to be unfaithful (emotionally, even if he didn’t do anything physical—although I wouldn’t be surprised if he did), but that’s just the way it went. I made him feel like he couldn’t do anything right, so he pulled away and used whatever means he could to cope with the emasculation. 

And so, I got dumped. Then deep into depression I went. When I felt him pulling away I began reading my Bible earnestly: “Lord, if you let him stay I promise to spend more time with you.” I’m sure God just looked down at me and thought, “This girl can’t be serious” or some variation thereof. 

First of all, I walked into the relationship in total disobedience. God had been calling me to celibacy and I totally ignored Him. I made these stupid rules like “No sex on Sunday.” When I think about it I wish I could go back in time and wag my index finger in front of my 22-year-old face: “Really Zemi?! No sex on Sunday?! Whether you do it on Monday at 12 am or Sunday at noon, it’s still a sin!” Well there you have it—that was me.

I took the breakup so hard. I didn’t want to have to try again. I was tired of being mistreated or cheated on or let go. I was tired of feeling like I was worthless and worth less. I was just tired. I wasn’t fully healed from the abusive relationship I had left a year before and felt so empty and so broken. I know many will give me the side-eye, but I literally wanted to die. 

In the year leading up to this point, I had tried counselling and I thought I was okay, but so many wounds were left inside of me. I would have flashbacks of being kicked. I would remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I found out about my former boyfriend’s betrayal (he, let’s call him Nelly, cheated on me with one of his “friends” while I was home during summer break). And I felt crazy. Now, here I am trying to put my best foot forward to love again and I’m thrown away. It hurt. It really hurt. (Not to mention this was the second time I had heard those same eight/nine words “I’m not ready to be in a relationship.” – in a six month period! – I was a serial dater remember.)

At this point, things were very tight financially. I had to leave my last residence hurriedly and I didn’t even have a bed at my new apartment: just a small mattress my roommate had lent me. I’m only 5’5” and to fit my entire body onto the mattress I had to curl up in fetal position. So here’s the picture: 23-year-old me in fetal position, crying my eyes red while eating a bag full of Oreos. My skin broke out, I lost a lot of weight and I was knee-deep in depression. (If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly 23, it’s because David dumped me 4 days after my birthday. Yeah, no comment.)

I prayed so hard in that season for David to come back. I sent him so many apologies, but he wouldn’t even talk to me. That cut me so deeply because we had been such great friends and then, just like that, he was gone. 

One night, as I lay on my “bed” with my face streaked with tears, Justin Timberlake’s song “Mirror” started playing in my head.  It happened so randomly that I immediately googled (that’s a word now right?) the lyrics and played the song. Most people find this strange but I felt like those words were God speaking to me: “I don’t want to lose you now. I’m looking right at the other half of me.” At the time I thought God was saying that David was my soulmate and that he would be coming back as, in reality, Justin Timberlake wrote the song to his now wife while they were going through a breakup. Later on, I realized God was telling me that I was His mirror and that He didn’t want to lose me to the plans of the devil or to Satan himself. He was telling me that I was loved by Him and that I had a place in His heart. To this day I cry when I hear that song because it brought me to Christ. On that very night, on my tiny bed, I recommitted my life to Christ.

I know many women have this story. They go through intense heartbreak and cling to the only person who comes to their bedside, the only person who is never too busy or too tired or too annoyed: Jesus Christ. Well, that was my story. Still, I know I came to Christ with bad intentions. I followed the Shepherd thinking He would lead me to my beloved David. I was steadfast and devoted because I thought that if I changed my life David would see me, value me and want to love me the way I knew I was meant to. But that’s not how my story went. (Plot twist…I’m now married to an incredible man.)

As time went on I realized God separated David and I because we were just not meant to be. Although David hardly left the house without his Bible in his backpack and sang worship songs occasionally (loved that!), he was not submitted to God. (Ladies, take note. If a man hides the word in his backpack but not in his heart, chances are he’s not the one for you.) David couldn’t lead me to where God wanted me to go. He still loved the world and it was evident. It was a harsh reality for me to accept and I stained my journal with many tears hoping our circumstances would change, but they didn’t. God was resolved that I move on, that I heal and that I took time to just be His.

“Ladies, take note. If a man hides the word in his backpack but not in his heart, chances are he’s not the one for you.”

The first weeks of my return to Christ were beautiful. It felt like I was the prodigal daughter returning from a life of lack back to the abundance and comfort of my father’s home. In my heart we had a feast and a joyous celebration, then, after a few weeks of being “home”, the work began. There were fields that needed to be plowed (i.e. my old attitudes), animals that needed to be fed (i.e. my new habits), and bits and pieces that needed to be mended (i.e. healing and facing my past). Yes, much work needed to be done. The honeymoon phase couldn’t last forever. Slowly, God began to reveal my heart to me and, as the saying goes, “God don’t like ugly.”….to be continued.

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Zemi is the founder of Wife HER! Ministry and the owner and lead coach of Heaven Sent Her. She is an Eve’s Journey Life Coach and uses her certification both in business and in ministry to help women navigate the wedding planning process as well as in their transition to becoming wives.

Zemi is the author of several books and serves as a youth leader along side her husband. In addition to coaching brides and wives, Zemi also mentors and inspires hundreds of women using her social media platforms. She is passionate about helping others and seeks to serve wherever God leads her.