By Stephanie Parker

Today, I heard something that rocked me to my core. I heard someone say that everyone goes into marriage with a picture of what it should look like. A very perfect, idealistic picture. The problem is, you marry a person, not a picture. But there comes a time in every marriage when you have to decide if you are going to destroy the picture or the person. Only one will survive.

What I’m about to share is terrifying to say the least, my prayer is that it will help at least one person. It will be worth being this transparent if it does. So here goes...

Early on in my marriage, I chose the picture over the person, and it nearly destroyed my marriage. You see, my search for “the one” has defined a lot of my life. “The one” was someone who would “complete me,” who would be my “other half,” my “soul mate.” Someone perfectly designed just for me. I even had a list describing some of the attributes “the one” would one day have. Ever since I was little, I watched Disney princesses getting swept off their feet by princes who would carry them off into the sunset and into their “happily ever after.” But have you ever noticed how most movies stop at, “and they lived happily ever after,” never even giving you a glimpse of what that “ever after” really looks like? Well, I was convinced, through and through, that I’d find “the one,” and that, together, we would exceed all, “happily ever afters” that ever were. My picture of marriage was complete.

The quest for, “the one,” began at an early age. I remember being really little, maybe seven or so and praying for my future husband. I don’t know where I even got the notion to do that. This search continued throughout my life. Everywhere I went, I would see boys and wonder, “is that ‘the one’?” When I learned to drive, I was sure one of the cars sharing the road with me might contain, “the one.” I had these fanciful notions that I might just pull up to a stop light, make eye contact with a cute boy in the lane next to me, he would take one look at me driving my Chevy Cavalier stick shift, get out of his car and propose before the light turned green! Seriously!? I have a very vivid imagination.

My imagination was a gift and a curse. All through school I was that annoying over-achiever in all things creative or imaginative. I genuinely didn’t want to ‘outdo’ anyone or show anyone up. It simply never occurred to me to do anything half-heartedly. Because of that, I was made fun of by other kids at school. I would eat my lunch in a bathroom stall because no one wanted to sit next to me in the lunch room. In those quite moments with the porcelain, I would cry and I would pray. Deep down, I had this sense from God that I was meant for something greater than toilets. Deep down, I felt sure that if I could just find “the one,” it would somehow all make sense and come together. Looking back, I know that God used that season in my life. He protected me from my boy crazy self. Had any boy showed interest, I’m sure I would have gladly obliged. No one barely looked my direction even if I was looking in theirs. In fact, my first kiss happened when I was 18, in front of nearly the entire school and my parents when I was playing the lead in our school musical. His onion breath was epic.

In high school, I started attending a youth group. There were 800-1000 kids that went to this youth group every Wednesday. That room was chock full of cute Christian boys! Everywhere I turned, there was, “the one!” Let’s be real, I went for the boys. While I was there though, God showed up. The youth minister, Jeanne Mayo, showed me what it meant to be ‘on fire for Jesus.’ I had never seen anyone so excited about God and his Word. That excitement was contagious and I will forever be grateful for her influence on me.

After high school came college. I was thrilled to discover the college I had chosen had nearly a 3 to 1 ratio of men to women. SURELY I would find “the one” there. No such luck. After college, I continued my search for the man who would “complete me” in my travels to Ecuador. I thought for sure I had found “the one” while I was there, he was Latin and had a unibrow, but I didn’t mind. I remember my best friend in Ecuador and I would pray desperately about the boys we liked but neither of them ended up liking us back.

After a year in Ecuador, I got a job traveling the world as a wine and art auctioneer on cruise ships. It sounded so luxurious! But cruise ships are like Vegas... completely void of God and any sort of Christian community. I did not withstand that test on my faith. I found myself floundering. My search for ‘the one’ trumped my relationship with God while I was on those ships. All of a sudden, I had men pursuing me for the first time in my entire life. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I dated men from England, South Africa, Canada, Australia and Israel… all in search for “the one.” I ended up giving myself to a man that told me I was the woman he wanted to marry. Two weeks later, I found him with another girl. I had been saving myself for marriage but that all went downhill when that boy, who I thought was “the one,” told me what my itching ears wanted to hear. While on that ship, I fell into what I can only describe as a depression. God sent a pastor and his wife to my onboard art gallery shortly after this heartbreak happened. They were just guests on that week’s cruise and I had never met them before. They said they felt like they needed to pray for me. I immediately began to weep. God met me right there in the midst of it all... in the midst of my sin. I resigned from the cruise ship shortly after.

That last heartbreak phased me for a while but soon I was off on my quest to find, “the one,” again. After some time passed, I decided to take a chance at eHarmony. I figured, I’m clearly not getting to “the one” in my own strength so maybe I could use some help. Then, this cute blonde guy reached out. He was different. He asked questions that surprised me instead of using the pre-made eHarmony questions most guys sent, “If you were a crayon, what color would you be and why?” He was confident and successful, but not arrogant. He didn’t think or talk like normal guys. He was generous and forgiving and he made me laugh every time we talked. We talked for about four hours a day for two weeks before we finally met in person. When we met for the first time, he told me he was going to marry me. This time, I wasn’t so receptive to that idea. It took a little convincing but I soon realized that this love was real. He loved me more than anyone in this world ever had. He swept me off my feet in more ways than one. He would randomly start dancing with me in public even if there was no music playing! How romantic!

I had finally found “the one!” He would be my “happily ever after,” my “Prince Charming!” He would complete my picture of marriage that I had been painting for a lifetime!

We were married a year after we met. Our wedding day truly was one of those deliriously happy days. I was sure it could only get better from there! That’s what happens after they say, “and they lived happily ever after,” right? Problem was, no matter how much Brett showed his love for me, it was never enough. He never texted me enough, we didn’t make love enough, he didn’t hold my hand enough, we didn’t go on enough dates, he didn’t give me enough words of affirmation, he didn’t value me enough, he didn’t try hard enough, and the list went on. I’m not one of those people that stuff their emotions inside, so I made sure he heard every disappointment and frustration that I had with him and his inadequacies as a husband. At one point he said, “I’m afraid to do anything bad OR good because I’m scared you’ll just be even more disappointed with me somehow.” That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I hit a wall. I was devastated. I had this vision of what “the one” was supposed to look like, what my picture of marriage was supposed to be, and this was NOT it. But, I was humbled by what Brett said. I wasn’t loving Brett the way he deserved to be loved either. I kept making him feel like he wasn’t enough for me. All he wanted to do was make me happy. He told me that a million times over but I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t seem to put my finger on why… my reasons for my discontent with him seemed to change every day.

It wasn’t until I came to the end of myself, that God could start His work on me. Everything I had put my hope in had failed me. My attempts to be a good wife, my perfect picture of marriage, the husband I thought was, “the one.” None of it was enough to satisfy. Nothing I was doing or saying was changing anything so I had to turn to God for help. In desperation, I started praying this verse over my life, “Search me and know me O God, see if there is any unholy way about me and lead me to the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)” Essentially I was saying, “ok God, I can’t change my husband so change me.” I started intentionally reading my Bible every day like I never had before. It was then that God’s Word started doing surgery on my heart. I discovered that my picture of marriage and my exhausting search for, “the one,” held the throne in my life above God. What’s more, I had set MYSELF up above God. I wanted to be worshipped precisely how I felt I deserved to be worshiped in our marriage. If I wasn’t getting the type of affection, worship and acclaim that I wanted, the way my “picture of marriage” depicted, I made sure Brett knew it. I thought I was going to be this perfect, supportive, loving wife and all I was doing was tearing Brett down at every turn. I was tearing down the person instead of the picture. I had been so tainted by this airbrushed version of love that the world portrays that anything less than that was devastating to me.

When I finally surrendered it all, it was as if my eyes were opened for the first time. I had to make God, “the One,” so I could truly love and be loved by the one man God had given me as my husband.

Then it dawned on me. My whole life I’ve been searching for “the one.” All the while, the One and ONLY has been there from the very beginning. He sat with me when I ate my lunch in the bathroom. He was in the car with me when I looked past Him to see if “the one’ was waiting for me at the stop light. He met me in my youth group when the only people I really wanted to meet were cute Christian boys. He wiped my tears when my heart was broken after being betrayed by a man who I thought would ‘complete me.’ He continued to pursue me when I chose to pursue other men over Him. He forgave me when I nearly destroyed my marriage to my husband by trying to place myself and my “picture of marriage” in the position only God could fill.

Jesus is “the One.” He’s the only One who completes me. He is the only Prince that can give me my “happily ever after.” He was “The One” all along but I couldn’t see it.

In Isaiah 46, God says, “I have carried you since you left your mother’s womb, I carried you when you were born and I still carry you when you are old. Your hair will turn grey and I will still carry you. I made you and I will carry you.”

And for the first time in my marriage, by the grace of God, I let God truly carry me. I tore up my picture of marriage and replaced it with the One true God.

I can’t express to you the freedom that has come into my life. Freedom to love my husband and to be loved by him with a love that is not my own. Oh the joy! Oh the peace! Thank you Jesus, for you have set me FREE!

Our marriage is not perfect nor am I. I know I will be a work in progress for the rest of my life. The freedom comes when, in our imperfection, we lay ourselves at the feet of a perfect God.

I share this because EVERYONE has something they strive for in life. For me it was ‘the one.’ For you it might be money, position, power, the perfect body, the perfect children, etc. Whatever it is, I’m here to tell you that if your ‘one’ isn’t God, it will ALWAYS leave you unsatisfied and wanting until you go to The One and Only who came so that you could, “have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance. (John 10:10)” In true and complete surrender to God comes abundant life. I know this to be FACT.

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”
-John 4: 13-14

“But he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9

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Stephanie Parker has 3 main loves: God, her husband, Brett and her kids!  When Stephanie created the Zipadee-Zip in an effort to solve her daughter, Charlotte's, sleep issues, she never imagined that it would become a business.  She is incredibly grateful to God for how Sleepingbaby.com has grown and how it has enabled other families to get the restful sleep they need.   Stephanie's husband, Brett Parker assumed the role of CEO which has allowed Stephanie to focus on what she loves which is the creative side of the company, like product and print development.  After the Zipadee-Zip was featured on Shark Tank, Stephanie went on to create the book Shepherd's Treasure, a Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf. In her free time, Stephanie loves to spend time with her family and friends.  Her hobbies include acting, singing, painting, learning and speaking foreign languages and going on adventures with her family!  You will find her all summer waterskiing, fishing and laughing with her family on the weekends.