It was a summer day in 2005. I sat on my apartment floor crying out to God. “Lord please, you’ve got to change me. I want to know that you satisfy. I want to know that you are enough even if I never marry. I want to say that I’m ok with that.” I was 23. I had just returned from a wedding weekend as a bridesmaid. I had been surrounded by couples. There was the couple getting married, the couple married for a year, the dating couple, my best friend who got engaged on the way to the wedding, and then there was me. Single without any prospects. At the time 23 and single seemed ancient. I smirk at myself just a little.
Nonetheless, I was deeply struggling. I was the girl who had wanted nothing more than to get married. I knew it was an obsession, and I knew it had become my idolatry— the thing I had to have to make life work, the thing that without it I could not be happy. I dreamt of a home and a family, but instead I was alone and in grad school, a plan I’d never wanted.
On my knees I pled for help. And God met me there and began to radically shape my understanding of His love. So clearly illumined was Jeremiah 31:3.
“Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
I’ve since come to adore it in several translations.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
“I have loved you my people with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
As I considered the verse, I journaled “Everlasting love. Always without end and without fail. You’ve drawn me, Lord? But still love seems so stoic.” I pulled out the giant Strong’s Concordance (no online tools in those days), and looked up the Hebrew word for love. I was astonished.
“with ardent and vehement desire, with tender affection and emotion, with great delight for the one loved.”
This is how you love me God? This is how you view me?
“Ami you want a man to love you this way, but this is how I love you.” No, the words weren’t audible, but with clarity the Spirit made His word alive.
The catalyst sparked and grew into enormous flame.
God’s loved for me was not business-like. It was not without emotion. He desired me to be with Him. He delighted in me. His love was vehement. It was fervent, fierce, powerful, intense, earnest, zealous, enthusiastic, and passionate!
I never knew that before.
I had been a believer for 9 years. I knew Jesus had died for me, and knew He was my Savior. But I never really comprehended the true manifestation of His love. I was trapped in an “earning favor with God” mentality. I knew I couldn’t earn salvation, but I thought that by reading my Bible, serving at church, and all the rest, God was somehow more pleased with me. I thought that in my failures He was less delighted with me. I thought His love was stoic.
I had never known the emotion my Lord has for me. I didn’t understand that on my worst days, He loved me no less, and on my best days no more. For, He already gave me the full measure of His love. I didn’t understand that His sacrificial love was inherently mingled with delight.
So God began to teach me He was enough. Over the next several years He taught me to treasure Him more than marriage. I never reached the illusive “magic state of complete contentment in which God can now bring the one,” but I did learn to love what God was doing right then. I did learn that I was not waiting for life to begin.
I’m still learning.
Who knew I had quite a few years of singleness left and a broken engagement before I would marry my beloved? Who knew I would experience a different type of singleness, called widowhood? Who knew that words like Ms, move on, and single adult would cause stinging pain when I thought I’d never hear them again?
“Lord, so beautifully you reminded me of the verse that changed me almost 10 years ago. So beautifully you reminded me of its precious truth. Your love is fervent and zealous. You are jealous for my affection. How drastically you changed my perception of you! Keep changing my faulty perceptions. It still overwhelms me that you love me so! Your faithfulness is astounding. Thank you for drawing me to you. In this new singleness, these words are still true.”
“with ardent, vehement desire. with tender affection and emotion. with great delight for the one loved.”
This is the love that truly satisfies. This is the way my husband could not fully love me. His love for me was great, but nevertheless imperfect. This is the love that is more than enough, even in widowhood, a plan I never wanted. This is God’s love for His people.
With unfailing love Jesus sought me. With unfailing love He bought me.
“And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord… and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31)