HE and I went on a date this morning. Okay, we're pretty much gonna spend the day together. All of the "spiritual foreplay" of testifying to His perfection this week via this blog series had me yearning to be more intimate with Him. (Such an unexpected and beautiful benefit!) So, WE went to the beach. It seemed an appropriate place to be together, what with the bajillions of spiritual metaphors the ocean He made brings (My favorite this time was the way the waves would build up to something right before they had this mega impact on the water in front of it. Oh, how often I have seen my God do this very thing in life!) My Best Friend and I just got to sit and talk. I told Him about how much of a joy it is to be in love with Him, and He reminded me of Psalm 36:7-10:
"How precious is your STEADFAST LOVE, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the ABUNDANCE of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights,
For with you is the fountain of LIFE;
in your light do we see LIGHT.
Oh, continue your steadfast LOVE to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!" (emphasis mine)
The wave of this truth, the bottomless depths of it struck my heart with a kind of stunning profundity. It is in His Love that there is abundance and endless life and light. It cannot be found anywhere else because nothing else is the Source of all of those "things." If I can feast, there must be PLENTY to keep me full and satisfied. How could this not make me think of Psalm 34:8:
"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" (emphasis mine)
Yes, my Exceedingly Great Valentine:
Empathizes. is Near & Outstanding. & his love is Unceasing. is Gentle & Handles everything.
He is Enough, yes, more than enough. Nothing I desire can compare with Him, and rightly so because nothing else is ABLE to do what He can in a heart. Even withing a week of drawing near to Him.
So, dear reader, and I earnestly hope, Lover of God, may today and everyday be one where He overwhelms You with His consistent, never-failing, intimate, kind, perfect, secure, incomparable merciful and gracious LOVE. Keep fixing your eyes on Him, ever removing any threat ("Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love." Jonah 2:8) to closeness with your Tender and Outstanding Savior.
It is not easy being a woman, especially in a culture where independence is considered a triumph and self-sufficiency a victory for feminism. We lead lives where our proverbial plates are full and our sleeves are worn from rolling them up to accomplish yet another task. I know I am weary of trying to live up to countless expectations.
Many times I have longed for someone who can swoop in and make decisions for me, most of which seem to relate to living life in the world. My brain is often incapable of figuring out things like taxes, what health insurance to get, best price to fix my car, what job to get to pay off my school loans, where to live, even the millions of ministry pursuits that beckon temporal and financial sacrifice. I'll admit I have avoided those things plenty of times (quite frankly, some of which I still am), committing envy after envy when I see my married girlfriends having someone who knows (and UNDERSTANDS. WHAT?) all that stuff that simultaneously bores me to tears and elevates my blood pressure. Having to deal with any one of these life-sucking entities can even leave me paralyzed for days. Oh, how I wish I were kidding. (*The fact that these words are even anywhere on my blog is stirring a foul taste in my mouth.)
It is a good thing I am not alone.
For my Valentine:
His arm is not short. He is capable of reaching down and rescuing me, my Hero (Isaiah 59:1). Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27).
He is Jehovah Jireh after all, my faithful God-Provider, who has every resource at his disposal to meet my needs (Genesis 22:14). My Betrothed is not scared or freaked out about finances because it all belongs to him; He gives and takes away (Job 1:21).
He alone builds houses; my efforts are in vain if He is not involved (Psalm 127:1). Apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
I find that I am desperate for a God-Man who can help me live life in the world in which He Himself has placed me. I am SO thankful that my Jesus takes care of me so well, managing every situation with the dexterity and ease of someone familiar with using his "hands" well. This makes me trust and rest in Him more fully.
When I would think through my list of "Things I Want in a Husband" in the past, there was one quality that never made an appearance. It wasn't that I didn't value It, or appreciate It when others demonstrated It to me; It was just not something I thought to be that crucial to marriage.
I love my Dad, and I am so thankful that my God gave him to me to model aspects of godliness. But I don't think I saw this quality in him either (and he would likely agree that It is not typically used to describe him) , which may have been partially responsible for why I didn't see It for the treasure that It could be in a home environment. At least, not until God's perfect wisdom and plan moved me to San Diego. Here I have seen my mentor's husband, a sort of father-figure, display It bountifully, and now I feel so foolish that it has not been on the List all along.
My Valentine is:
He CALMS me and ASSUAGES my fears, eliminating them altogether. He reassures me that He is worthy of my trust and dependence because He CARES for me and CARRIES me, speaking to me with the SOOTHING Voice of the Word, inviting me, never forcing me, to rest in His arms. (Fascinating also is the fact that His Spirit produces fruit in me so that I too am somehow able to show off gentleness!) (Isaiah 40:11, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 John 4:18, Psalm 34:4)
He is KIND. Such kindness leads me to repentance. He is patient towards me, knowing exactly how to bestow goodness upon me in such a way that I will be attracted and drawn to Him because there is so much safety in kindness. It is the kindness of my Savior Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for me, that holds back the wrath of God against sin. Indeed, what LOVING KINDNESS!! (Romans 2:4)
(Psalm 18:35 in the ESV says, "Your gentleness made me great." The original Hebrew word and perhaps a better translation is Your condescension made me great. Christ's willingness to humble Himself by coming to earth so that I could one day be raised and ascend to be with Him makes Him enticingly appealing to my heart. Such a beautifully KIND act of love, wouldn't you say!?)
Now that my God has reminded me of the delight that is His Kindness, I rest that regardless of my status, He will always have been and will be the most Kind God-Man to ever exist, the Lover of my Soul.
Scattered. That's how I awoke this morning. It wasn't the kind where a jumbled mix of positive and negative thoughts duke it out to see who wins. It had more of a "lose-lose/catch-22" vibe going on as my heart and mind quickly jumped from fear of failure to shame and guilt to selfish, pitiable ideas, all of which "threatened to undo me," as the hymn writer once said. And all this before I had even put my feet on the floor.
Time with Him felt like a chore this morning. I read the Word, attempted to organize the gibberish mush of my being into a journal, confessing navel-gazing pride while pleading with Him for reminders of the Life He brings. Knowing that this year would be full of change, I determined at the onset to store up the Word in my heart, meaning my quiet time now consists of intentional verse memorization of Psalm 119 (I know, tall order). Today was the first day of a new group of verses, and these two stuck out, "My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!...My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!" (v. 25, 28). Nothing could be closer a closer description of both my state and my supplication, and the irony of those words was not lost on me.
In my flesh, I am all over the place. And so, the need for someone stable and unchanging is great.
My Valentine's Love is:
His affection is CONSTANT. I might be frazzled, but He calmly whispers the sweet somethings that His Omniscience knows my heart requires. (He definitely did that this morning with 2 Timothy 2:19.)
The love between us is IMPENETRABLE and UNBREAKABLE(Romans 8:38-39). I am His, blisters and all, and with such a deep and abiding friendship comes the abundant benefits of belonging to such a Lover. And yes, all for HIS Name's Sake.
His RELENTLESS Love is true even on a day that starts off funky, with the foul stank of sin. For that same Love also delivers me from that which would threaten to keep us apart (Romans 5:8).
Praise the Love Who has brought me everlasting rest, that I no longer have to wait for that kind of affection which this world could not satisfy anyway! If what I am looking for is Someone to deeply and sacrificially love me, even at my worst, then yes, once again, it is Jesus Christ who meets/exceeds such a standard.
Yesterday I was reading 1 Corinthians 11 and verse 9 started "glowing" a little bit. It says, "neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." Because of the way it is swaddled in what has been a more controversial text, I just kept right on reading until it slapped my forehead again this morning. All sorts of messages from the past (and the present culture) began to echo in my heart, everything from, "You don't need no man!" to "He better be good enough for you!" to "Without a husband, you are not complete." I mean, it was all over the board.
One of those aforementioned expectations that the Lord has been unraveling is my desire for perfection in a future mate. To be fair, I don't just expect these things from him, I burden myself with the same sort of unattainable folly. It's hard to zero in on the source of such utter madness, though it is tempting to blame culture, even Christian culture, or upbringing, etc. And of course, it plays itself out in the subtlest of ways such as this little cheap fool's gold: "You tend to marry those of equal attractiveness to yourself." Boy, am I sure glad my True Valentine didn't follow that malarkey for I am, without question and in every way, ugly compared to the stunning Beauty worthy of my gaze today and forever.
For my Valentine is:
He is the STRONGEST Being to ever exist in eternity past, present, and future. He outranks every other man in what He can lift, and sometimes it is my heart that weighs more than 8 gillion pounds. That kind of muscle definition is as chiseled as it gets. One fell swoop of His might demolishes the most gargantuan thing my mind can create (Exodus 15:2-3).
He PROTECTS me. My enemies? My Strapping God-Man TAKES. THEM. OUT. He shields me from harm and guards me as He surrounds me and fills me with His presence. There is no need to fear when my God is around...which is ALWAYS (Psalm 27:1-3).
He is the SMARTEST of Beings too. (Once upon a time, I'll admit I was drawn to the occasional genius or two. I know I am not alone in this since such an attribute falls usually right after "funny" in the General List of Things I Want in a Husband.)He invented everything, knows how to keep it all going, and outwits anyone EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (Hebrews 1:3).
He is exceptional, superlative, excellent and marvelous in every way, and my feminine heart is drawn to such "brains" and "brawn" (for lack of better words to describe Him). I am safe in such "biceps" and will never be bored by so great an intelligence. If what I am looking for is a strong, smart man, then Jesus Christ, which should come as no surprise by now, is that and SO much more. Oh, that I might rest securely in His grip.
I spend many a Sunday alone. Most of that, if not all, is by my own design and preference for recuperation and preparation prior to the week ahead. Now that I attend a church that meets on Saturday nights, my Sundays have become rife with possibilities. And YET my mood those days tends towards sadness, wishing I could lounge around (i.e. no obligation or anything resembling a plan) with another; ergo many tears are shed and Mondays quickly have become one of my favorite days of the week because they mean structure.
That rather common desire for intimacy that God instilled in His creation must come under the knowledge that God is perfect and all His ways are right. Shall I, the creature, ignore, begrudge, or disdain this aspect of His design? If I were creating Mankind, and I knew which ones would remain single throughout their time on earth, I can tell you I would be tempted to eliminate that particular feature in those individuals. I mean, it would seem logical, and it might even show how much I love them. But my Wise God, whose ways and thoughts are better and higher than mine (HALLELUJAH!), has made intimacy a default in humanity. And certainly, we know from Genesis 2 that this mode was meant to be experienced with others He has created. Experienced yes, FULFILLED? SATISFIED? N to the O. There is only One who is able to do that.
For He is:
He NEVER leaves. I can't shake Him or hide from Him. Rather it is His nearness that KEEPS ME FROM BEING SHAKEN! (Psalm 16:8) Wherever I go, there He is (Psalm 139: 7-11). He goes behind me, before me, and for crying out loud, His very Name is Emmanuel so He is definitely going WITH me (Matthew 1:23). He is consistently present.
He WANTS to be there. He is near enough that when I call, He hears (Psalm 145:18). My tears or brokenness do not scare Him off rather such a heart appears to draw Him even closer (Psalm 34:18, Jeremiah 23:23*). He commands us to draw near to him and He will draw near to us (James 4:8).
He's the One who makes the comparison of His relationship with his people to marriage all throughout Scripture, and He's the One who gave His Holy Spirit so that we would NEVER be separated (John 16:7). He's the One who says that eternal pleasure supersedes that which this world offers, and this comes from the Voice of Truth (1 John 2:16-17).
If what I am looking for is someone to be close to, then it is JESUS CHRIST who I long for since He planted that desire in me in the first place and since He is the only One who can get that job done. Oh, may He satisfy my soul this day with His lovingkindness and with the delight of His nearness.
"Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart,
Draw me, my Savior, so precious Thou art;
Fold me, O fold me close to Thy breast,
Shelter me safe in that 'Haven of Rest,'
Shelter me safe in that 'Haven of Rest.'"
~Leila N. Morris, "Nearer, Still Nearer"
This is one of those weeks where I know the attacks are coming. I am confident that the dastardly and more evil "Cupid" known as Satan is going to try and shoot those fiery arrows at my vulnerable heart, in the hopes of poking holes in my relationship with the Lover of my Soul. He will be out for blood, shamelessly and destructively trying to shift my focus onto my supposed "lack" of true love, attempting to make me forget the innocent blood that my Savior shed so we could be together.
That said, I certainly cannot attempt to live without that protective covering of Ephesians 6: 14-17 nor the focus and dependence on my Strength through prayer. With the life-giving and strong grace of my God, I hope to blog every day this week, proclaiming the smallest of ways that my Jesus is better, that regardless of status He. Is. Enough. Perhaps in my desire to post for my own relationship with Him, the Redeemer will use it to keep you close to Him too.
With time, my list of "Things I Want in a Husband" has gotten significantly shorter, not due to compromise, but mostly out of the reality of what living life as a God-following human ACTUALLY is. HE has adjusted so many of my expectations through the gift of observing marriages, conversations about relationships in general, and a deeper understanding of the Perfection of God and the Composition of Dust that is Mankind. I am SO thankful that He sees fit that I should get to have this beautiful present of singleness and have the opportunity to enjoy all of its sweet implications. If He chooses to swap out gifts one day, replacing singleness with marriage, I will rejoice that He imparted the truth of His Eternal Nature to me as an individual that can carry through my marriage.
He gets me. I cannot tell you the number of times one of my jokes has been met with a blank stare or worse still, the look of slight disgust that says, "Girl, you are weird." The Author of Joy gets my jokes every time. He knows they are coming, so maybe He even chuckles before I say them. Even those ill-formed thoughts that come out like a recently-shaken Boggle board make sense to Him. (Psalm 139:4)
He made me. Who better than a Maker to have intimate knowledge of His creation? I mean, the Originator of an Idea is always going to know it best. (Psalm 139: 13-14, 1 John 3:20)
He relates. Having lived as an actual human in this world, He knows every emotion and temptation AND He also happens to have the "inside scoop" as to how to combat it all because He was perfectly victorious. His ability to relate goes further in that He comforts me in my affliction. (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
If what I am looking for is someone who understands me, then Christ fits the bill, even exceeds it because, quite frankly, my knowledge of His Nature is finite. There is no lack here since the Perpetual Pursuer of my heart is relentless in making sure I know He gets me. Any perceived deficiency is a lie the world is telling me, that my flesh is putting on the stove to boil, and that the enemy is working to manipulate. I pray that today, my True Husband, would remind me, as only He can, that He empathizes, knows and understands me completely, flawlessly, and beautifully.