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Melissa Presser shares how she learned that leaving toxic situations was within God’s will.

It’s been almost a year since I have been shot out of a cannon. Consenting to God’s will led me to leave an entire life behind. And when I say life, I mean it all.

When God is asking you to follow Him, He means serious business. I have found in my walk with Him that at every stage of life, He’s upped the ante. He starts in small footsteps and asks which grow gently over time into harder moves. These moves are many times physical, but the most significant ones are spiritual, internal reflections of the way He wants us to go.

I am in what some would consider the promised land, but this is foreign to me. For years I strived to get out of my own way, refusing to leave toxic relationships, believing I could change the other person. Clinging on to what I thought was my job as a believer, but never really was. Realizing that it is the Lord who changes hearts.

As a convert to the faith, I learned fairly quickly that I was not the savior of the world. I was not the one who determined outcomes or moved people’s wills. Yes, God was certainly using me as a vessel of His love and compassion, but my role was not to stick around until that person changed. My role was simply to be Christ to them. What they did with that was their choice, not mine.

This was a hard concept for me to understand. I thought if I just loved people enough, showed compassion to them, stuck around when they were at their lowest, that they would see the same Christ I saw. The all-knowing, all- forgiving, all- merciful God that I served would certainly rule the day. But these were my own misplaced expectations. These were not of God.

My husband had recognized a clear pattern in my life, my compassion and empathy continuing long after the environment had turned toxic, and then doing it all over again with the next person. He saw me get hurt time after time and asked me why.

“Why do these patterns keep showing up in your life?” he asked me. “It’s the same person in different forms, showing up all over again. What is God trying to teach you?"

The question pierced my heart like Mary’s with a thousand knives sticking straight out of my chest. He was right: why did I stay? Could it be that I was the creator of my own suffering?

It took several months for these thoughts to unravel. But the Lord, is so good, always sending us people into our lives who help us make sense of it all.

A dear friend of mine met me for coffee one morning to parcel things out. I was nearly catatonic. The unexpected ending to following God’s will for me had left me here, with much suffering. That was until he began to share His thoughts with me, words that changed my life forever.

“You have to know when to leave. You can always walk away,” he said.




You can always walk away

I am not quite sure why his words resonated so deeply that day, even as they continue to do a work in me today. They gave me permission that I thought I did not have. Jesus’s words from Matthew 10:14 rang loudly in my head:

“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” (NABRE)


Shake the dust off your feet and move on.

I realized in that moment that the suffering I had endured was not entirely of the Lord’s allowance. Some of it was mine. The holding on when it was time to let go. The refusal to walk away. Taking things personally when they were never personal at all.

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The suffering I had endured was not entirely of the Lord’s allowance. Some of it was mine. #catholicmom

The Lord used my friend to open my eyes, to free me and to realize that chapters of our life are just that-chapters. Another wise friend of mine used to say, “God’s assignments are not forever. Is He calling you to something else?”

I am grateful that the Lord surrounds me with people who love me, who can be truthful with me, who give me words of encouragement to live out the mission that God has given me. To love others, to show compassion, to bring Him into places and spaces that may never have experienced Him before. But now I know that I do not have stay when His love is rejected. I know then that it is time to shake the dust off my feet and move on.

Copyright 2022 Melissa Presser
Images: Canva