Finding Love Again

It’s as if I always knew that something was missing . . .

My first wedding day was lovely:  filled with pretty flowers, pearly alencon lace, and all the details that were meaningful at the time.  I was a new believer in Jesus Christ and in love with a young man named Craig.  We settled in the west suburbs of Chicago, worked in healthcare, and got busy with the tasks of fixing up our townhome.  In time Craig would lead us to a smaller Bible church from the seeker-friendly mega church that helped lead me to faith in Christ.  In time I joined him at that little church.  I also learned that Christians really do know how to have fun, meaningful lives rich in the knowledge and living out of the Word of God.

Then when Craig had to leave and decided never to return, my life turned upside down for about 4 years.  My last surviving grandmother, my youngest brother, and my mother all passed away out of state from where I was living.  I moved five times and my personal items were either donated to charity or stored in seven different places.  I had to change jobs three times and endured two work-related injuries.  The condo fire followed, displacing me for three months in a bare rental unit provided by my insurance company.   It was there, staring at the blank walls devoid of all of my earthly possessions and reminders of who I was that I discovered what else was missing:  my Heavenly Husband.

Isaiah 54:5 (NIV)

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

The Bible is full of analogies comparing our relationship with the Lord as a marital relationship.  Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride.  Our Heavenly Father is the husband and we are His beloved.  The imagery of an intimate relationship is too much for us to grasp fully yet challenged me to make Christ real in my life on a daily basis.  So I went for it fully:  when I got in my car and was in a down mood I invited Jesus to ride with me, take the wheel, and be my constant companion.  Before long I realized that I had placed Craig in a place in my heart not made for him.  Some of the disappointment I experienced in our marriage came from not understanding the VERY LARGE place in my heart reserved only for the Lord.  In time, that place grew larger, infilling the emptiness in my heart, filling me completely.

When I met my intended beloved, of course I still had a few kinks to work out in the man-woman relationship department.  One shift was clear however:  my need for wholeness was to be met by my Heavenly Husband not my earthly one.  Placing too much responsibility on my new husband to meet all of my needs, love me, provide for me, and guide me wasn’t fair to him or me.  The One who will always be there perfectly on-time with all the right stuff will only and always be my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am grateful that Steve is a mighty good second I must admit!  Pastor Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church said it best one Sunday service:  trust God.  Love people.  Trust God to meet all of your needs.  Love people including your spouse as imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ . . . just like me.  All of us have much to give and will fail at some point as well.  Only God is perfect.  The Lord is to be our first love.

With a perfect God, and a personal relationship through His son, Jesus Christ, we are free to live more lightly each day with the ones we love.  We can extend grace, grant forgiveness a little more easily.  We can love others and grow closer in fellowship despite all of our foibles.  And if you’re like me, you will find love again in all the right places.

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka,  they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold     from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Therefore, send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  (John Donne, 1624.  Meditation 17.  Devotions upon urgent occasions.)

man riging bell

Such is the reflection of these famous words scripted by John Donne and later repeated by Ernest Hemmingway in one of his most famous works of literature.  The intent of each author is to emphasize the interdependence of humanity; no man can truly live or function as an island.  Whether we live or die, honor God or blaspheme His name, our actions at some point will touch the lives of others around us given time and opportunity.

Case in point:  I’ll never forget that day in Dominicks, a grocery store in the west suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  It was my day off from work and I was picking up a few groceries before heading home.  I’m not sure why I was dressed up while running a few errands . . . I do recall wearing my nice and warm, long wool coat to fend off the early Spring chill still lingering outside.  Suddenly at the end of the aisle was my good friend’s dad!  He said a cherry “hello” and explained that he was in town visiting for some family occasion.  Mr. Y. always had a gracious way about him:  asking permission to tell you another story or joke before parting ways.  He laughed about me humoring an older person by talking with him or something like that then shared a quick note to give his regards to my husband.  I looked him straight in the eye.  He had no idea.

Immediately Mr. Y knew something was wrong.  I walked closer to him, recognizing that I was about to open my heart in the middle of a grocery store aisle!  My former spouse was discovered in an affair less than 3 weeks before.  Intervention from our church had begun and my life was in turmoil as my heart was still reeling in crisis mode.  It didn’t help that my grandmother had also died and I was in the middle of facilitating the refinancing of our home (not knowing if I would be living there in the future or not).  All of that stuff was about me and my drama.  What I did not expect was the look on Mr. Y’s face when I told him my story.  Do you know that look in the movies when someone has just been punched in the stomach so hard the person could not breathe?  The smile on his face turned to anguish.  He could not speak.

Mr. Y’s reaction showed me the reality of love between the body of believers or those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior.  We bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We know what it means from a human level, a heart level, and a violation of God’s plan for us when a brother in Christ falls.  Craig probably never realized that his actions affected so many people and perhaps did not care.  This was astounding to me.  He was a leader in our Bible church and a gifted Sunday school teacher.  Craig excelled in his work in the mental health field, loved working out, and was quite good at photography.  He loved a good philosophical discussion and we had many.  It is a matter of history that my coming to faith in Christ was facilitated by these very sessions:  Craig helped answer many of my questions and led us to both a seeker-friendly church then a smaller, more intimate body of believers.  I got saved because I dated Craig.  In that Bible church is where I had met Mr. Y and became good friends with his daughter, Deb.  Friends like this are closer than my own family at times.

So where am I going with all of this?  When I am home alone every day, not even leaving the house for days on end, of course it is easy to forget the love of dear friends and family in my life.  Sure the pup looks up at me with soft brown eyes when I walk into the kitchen but it’s just not the same!  My intended beloved, Steve, is away from home a lot and often into the early evening.  Since I don’t feel well most of the time I just stay home if I don’t have an appointment or urgent need for food!  This week was particularly dry in this regard.  As it turns out, most of the week was devoted to adjusting to a new treatment we’re hoping will eliminate the daily seizure-like episodes.  I slept or moped about most of the week anyways; I didn’t notice that I was by myself as the quiet was itself healing medicine.  When I come out of this fog of late and I’m still isolated at home, I must remember that I am totally never alone.

Do you have this confidence Gentle Reader?  We are connected by this blog.  For that I am humbled and honored, that you have taken the time to step closer to me.  We probably resonate some on the issues of life or you would not have chosen to stop by when so many other bloggers have their own yada yada yada to share.  Our connection will be even more meaningful to me if I know that it goes beyond my stories and our simple humanity to the very essence of what gives meaning to life:  a shared faith in God through His son, Jesus Christ.  If you do not yet have the peace, love, and joy that comes from knowing the Lord intimately then I invite you to step before the throne of grace today.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and seek Him with a sincere heart through the Bible, His words.  When we repent and invite Jesus into our hearts we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; we are never alone again.  Please tell me what you find, k?

For those of you who share the love of Christ already:  I look forward to meeting with you one day!  Whether in this life or the next, we’re going to have a great time celebrating the glorious riches of a life surrendered to our King.  Standing in the presence of the Lord will wash away our tears and troubles bringing joy beyond what we could ever see today.  May the glimpses of His holiness and glory in the goodness that surrounds each of us sustain you, encourage you, and lift you up until we arrive in our eternal home.  Therein the bell will toll with tales of triumph for all of us.  Such a sweet sweet sound that will be!