I love those little candy, Valentine hearts that say little things like ‘hug me’, ‘cute stuff’, ‘true love’. It was always so much fun to get those in the little bags we made in elementary school, decorated with lace paper and hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper. I would wait impatiently all day for the moment when we could open the bag, wondering if the boy I liked would give me one of those little, candy hearts with a cryptic message declaring his undying love for me… the beginning of a happily-ever-after love story.
I am the biggest, sappiest, girly-girl romantic on the planet and always have been. The only real dream I ever had was to fall in love and live happily ever after. I never cared about a career, or money, or success… I wanted to love and to be loved. However, I’ve never had a very good love story. I just haven’t. I’ve come so very close, but in the end, it just eludes me. It’s no one’s fault, really, and I don’t harbor resentment or blame. In fact, I’ve so often prayed that I learn to love unconditionally, without receiving anything in return for my love… well, perhaps God is just answering my prayer. Who knows??
I remember a sermon a while back, about Abraham’s willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice … the son he was promised to have, his dream, and the absolute love of his life … and the pastor asked us, ‘What are you holding back from God?’, ‘What dream are you unwilling to give up, keeping you from a fulfilling relationship with God?’ I was convicted then, and I’m convicted now… it’s my dream for a good love story here on Earth.
Ultimately, I do believe this …
God wants me to set my heart on him…
… and him alone. And be completely satisfied in that.
John Eldredge’s books, Wild at Heart, Sacred Romance and Desire, and William P. Young’s, The Shack, have each had a huge impact on me about the subject of love… of true love… of God’s love story with us. God wants me to be head over heels in love with Him. He wants me to find the love and safety and comfort that I long for, in His own perfect love. He says it very plainly in Isaiah 43:2-4.
‘I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.’
I have gleaned from the Bible and the books I have mentioned that God is crazy about me. He loves me perfectly. Everything He does is to win my love, to romance me into his arms, to care for me. Everything. John Eldredge notes, ‘What he is after is us… our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our heart of hearts.’
I know how painful it is to be rejected… to have someone turn their back on you, to take another lover, to take your heart and toss it about… all of these have happened to me. John Eldredge says in Sacred Romance, ‘To make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our well-being to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.’
Oh, I do know this. However, I’m actually grateful for it (well, most of the time) because it does draw me into the comforting arms of my eternal love… the one who will never harm me and will always protect me.
I can only grasp how God must feel when we ignore Him or turn our backs on Him for stuff and people and pleasure and comfort and more stuff… idols all. He is a jealous God… not in the negative sense, but in the sense that he desires all of us in relationship, because he loves us so much. I’ve heard it said that God created males and females as a living metaphor for His relationship with us… to remind us of the love He desires to share with us.
However, because of our desire for a tangible, earthly love, we can create idols out of the very construct that should remind us of God’s love for us… the object of our affection can actually be the greatest hindrance to knowing God’s love fully. Recently, I have been reminded that this is precisely what led me away from God in the first place so many years ago. Because of my desire to be loved, I strayed away from God, chasing a worldly dream, beginning a journey filled with despair, rejection, extreme loneliness, a battle with alcoholism and very nearly death.
Eldredge says, ‘Our desire becomes insatiable because we’ve taken our longing for the Infinite and placed it upon finite things’.
Guilty. I often find myself daydreaming, longing for ‘someone’ and I can still so quickly forget that what I’m really longing for is God. Of course, we should hope for love in this life, for companionship. God says it’s not good to be alone, so yes, it’s good to hope for a love with whom we can navigate this life. But we must always be cognizant of where love truly resides and be completely satisfied in the greatest love story we’ll ever know … God’s love story with each of us.
In his book, Desire, Eldredge says,
‘God is the wellspring of everything that has ever romanced your heart…the thundering strength of a waterfall, the delicacy of a flower, the stirring capacity of music. The masculine and feminine that fill all creation come from the same heart. What we have sought, what we have tasted in part with our earthly lovers, we will come face to face with in our True Love.’
God romances me all the time and I don’t always realize it immediately… a perfect daisy along my path, a beautiful sunset, a butterfly landing on my shoulder. I remember my first solo vacation ever. I went to Thailand feeling lonely and blue. I was so reluctant to go on vacation alone and felt a bit pathetic. On the very first night, heading to Railay Beach all alone on a small, wooden, Thai boat, God romanced me with the most beautiful evening sky, filled with a gorgeous sunset, an already risen, perfect full moon and a thunderstorm on the horizon. It was so beautiful… of course, I was wishing I had someone there to share it with me, but I now see it as God romancing me, encouraging me to seek Him in the beauty of that place. I couldn’t help but be brought to my knees by such beauty. And I did. I spent the whole week with Him. It was a very meaningful, lovely vacation with ‘the lover of my soul’.
I’m also convinced that it is not the love I receive, but the love I give that enables me to even experience love at all. I want to be God’s love letter to those he places on my path and I want to love without expecting anything in return. God showed us how to love by giving us our freedom. He let us decide. He seeks us with pure love. He doesn’t force it on us because that would not be love. And he is patient with us. A quote from The Shack reminds us that…
‘So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing.’
I love that quote!! The more we know about a loved one… their quirks, their mannerisms, even their flaws… the more we come to love them… at least that has been my case.
I am reminded that the Bible tells us that God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. He knows everything we will ever do or think or feel. If love is the ‘skin of knowing’, then I can’t really even grasp how much he loves me. My knowledge of love is SO limited. And no one could ever even come close to loving me like he does. It reminds me how critical it is that I pursue him like he pursues me … to know Him, to spend time with Him and to seek Him.
Lately, a favorite Bebo Norman song, How You Love Me, has been the background music playing in my head as I go through my day. The lyrics say:
And should my dreams fall through
I will be safe with you
And with every breath I can breathe
I’ll sing about how you love me
I’ll sing about how you love me
Yes, God romances me … declaring His undying and unfailing love…offering little candy, Valentine Hearts that say ever so simply … but with such longing…