A Decade. Ten Years.

There’s something about bare, winter trees that captures my attention. At first glance they’re nothing special, merely creation lying dormant. But if you gaze long enough, you might notice beauty in the blank spaces, each taking its own shape, each lovely in its own way. Some days the winter sky behind them is is a flat gray, dreary, sad, and lonely. But sometimes sunlight glimmers through the branches. All of a sudden what was just an empty space reveals a beauty of its own.

Likewise, you can’t see it, but of course something’s going on beneath the surface. Without basic understanding of seasons, one might look at a winter tree and presume, “Dead, dead, dead.” How could life possibly come from something so barren and brown? Yet if you’ve lived even a few years on this earth you know in just a little while new buds will burst from those branches followed by a canopy of fresh green. 

Spring does indeed follow winter. Always.

Sometimes winter is unbearably long, arduous and harsh. Buy there’s hope in the blank spaces, beauty even in dormancy. Eventually the sun peeks through and warms those trees. The sky behind the empty spaces turns a striking, brilliant blue, and shifting clouds wander lazily behind.

It was winter when he died, a brutal northern Illinois winter, frigid with layer upon layer of snow. Winter in the midwest had been culture shock to my southern girl soul, but now it was agony. It snowed again the day of Jon’s funeral, and dear men from church stood out in the elements all afternoon helping people find parking, shoveling, keeping the sidewalks salted.

I wore a dress more fitting for warm breezes than zero degrees. Colors. I had to have colors and not black. My flats were a rich royal blue.

Funerals are not for widows. They are for a couple hundred others who knew and loved your husband also, and need to share in grief. I stood at the front of the church for several hours embracing friends, crying with them, letting them feel their sorrow with me. I was surrounded by pictures of Jon, pictures of his family, and pictures of us. There was no casket present, for I could not bear it. 

Grace was thick, palpable, tangible. I let them in. They let me in. 

Then we sang and worshiped. In that way the funeral was for me. It was a chance to glorify God in suffering. Through sobs, with lifted hands the song “All I have is Christ” washed over me. 

“Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone

And live so all might see

The strength to follow Your commands

Could never come from me

Oh Father, use my ransomed life in any way You choose

And let my soul forever be my only boast is you

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ

Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.”

I had never sung the words as broken as I was in that moment, but also never as sincerely. And still 10 years later, I cannot sing them without tears. Sometimes I still have to stop singing and let the words sink deep, a silent prayer accompanied by emotion streaming down my cheeks.

A decade. Ten years. What a definitive milestone this seems to be. 

That first winter, trees bore no beauty. Their barren ugliness was a reminder that life would always be winter. No more spring for me, only winter. Without Christmas.

Christ clung to me. He would not let me go. And I clung right back. But it took awhile to believe Spring would actually come again.

After the funeral I escaped downstairs to our bedroom (rather “my bedroom” as I learned to say). Picking up a photo of the two of us, I sunk down on the bed. 

“I’m so proud of you Lovee. I’m so proud. You did so well.” 

Theologically I’d tell you it probably wasn’t him. Humanly, I’d tell you it absolutely was his voice. One cannot know for sure. Perhaps it was just the way the Holy Spirit met me with specific comfort in the moment. Either way, it need not be debated here.

Ten years. I’m letting my fingers do what they did in the early days—type in whatever direction they want to go, not worrying about “polished” or “cohesive.”

I’ve wondered at times what he might think of my ten years older self. There are certainly more fine lines, more stretch marks, and enough grays that I no longer try to pluck them out. I think it’s my hands that shout “40,” though. However, Jon remains in my mind’s eye, a youthful 30. But he had the best laugh lines by his eyes even then. 

More than the physical differences, I wonder what he’d think of the fundamental differences, for it is impossible to walk through the valley of death and not come out forever altered. He might see someone a little more serious. But then again, he always drew out silliness and laughter.

I think perhaps he’d see a more radiant version of myself. I hope. Yet even as I type emotion wells up because I know I still struggle with some of the same old sins. Even now I see parts of me that aren’t so radiant. I’m not as sanctified as I’d like to be.

He might see me fighting for joy in the seeming slog of mundane days. He might see me fail my family and repent, over and over again. 

But I hope if Jon could see me now he’d see a woman still following hard after Jesus. A woman who’s faith and compassion have grown exponentially. I hope he sees one who sees others better and sits with them in their grief.

I hope he’d see a woman gripped by the hope of eternity.

Indeed the confident expectation of a renewed earth, of the death of death itself, of all that is broken restored, of real life, of “further up and further in,” of worship face-to-face— of the full consummation of God’s grand plan of redemption— this spurs me on more than any other facet of the gospel. 

I hope he’d still see “Father use my ransomed life!” resonating from my soul. 

There’s been a lot of life in ten years. So much processing, so much writing. So much growth as new life sprung from a tree burned and charred. 

I can tell you now with the hindsight of 10 years that it’s true. Some aspects of grief never fully leave you. While its weight and effect on daily life diminish greatly as Jesus binds up broken bones and heals gaping wounds, in significant moments grief must be taken out and examined again. Remarriage, pregnancies, the births of my children, motherhood— all of it has had to be processed not only through joy, but also through a lens of grief. And sometimes through fear that had to be squashed by truth.

I’ve also wondered what he would think of me as a mom. I long ago left mourning the fictitious children we never had. But I wonder what he’d think of my precious little ones and who I am with them. 

I also imagine he and David would be good friends. I see conversations about guitars and books. I see David answering Jon’s bold questions with dry humor, and I envision corresponding awkward grins on Jon’s face. I don’t imagine what life would look like married to Jon now, for the life I have now is inextricably mine. David and these small ones are inextricably mine. And it’s a beautiful now.

Some memories fade, some remain crystal clear. The day I made funeral plans, I specifically wanted a gyro for lunch. And then I barely picked at it. What a funny memory to stay sharp over the years. 

Scenes of the night he died also remain. 

Jesus likewise remains. Faithful. Triumphant.

In the early days of grief we don’t get the benefit of seeing what lies ahead. We can only hope. When strength fails, when waves are a tsunami, when mounds of kleenexes lay strewn on the floor, when all we see are barren trees, Jesus carries. The Holy Spirit speaks words of truth and comfort.

We weep and we cling. “God you are good. You always do good.”

People come along and speak words we cannot always speak to ourselves. “He’s not done writing the story.”

If I could I’d gather my 30 year old, crushed self into my arms. I might tell her “Just wait! You’ll see! God is going to do magnificent things.”

But I don’t have a Tardis, and I am not a Time Lord. That’s a good thing, I think. Time travel would not be a gift.  Because maybe those weren’t the words I needed right away. Maybe I just needed someone to sit beside me and weep. Maybe I needed to live it. 

Maybe the valley of death taught me to know Christ in ways I never dreamed. 

Without winter, there would be no spring. Without death, there is no resurrection. It’s winter that taught me my desperate need. Sometimes I still forget, but I learned what it is to long for Jesus. 

Bare trees still catch my attention. They remind me of the valley, of where I’ve been. And as a crisp blue sky, rays of sunlight, and white stratus clouds burst through the blank spaces, I know Spring will come again. It always does.

Behind the empty spaces is the unchanging God who loves me and gave himself for me.

On that fateful Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, all creation lay silent, waiting, holding its collective breath. Had the powers of hell prevailed? Would Jesus rise again as He said?

The dark of night is greatest just before dawn. Winter often seems worse right before fresh buds appear. But his friends didn’t understand. All hope was lost. The Savior was dead, dead, dead apparently not really the Savior at all.

Or so it seemed. As Sunday crept over the horizon, light eradicated darkness. Life burst forth from barren trees! Colors spread through a world painted gray! 

“Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” 

As the new life of Spring erupts from the death of Winter, so did Jesus rise. So will we rise.

And perhaps one day Jon will greet me with a bear hug and a radiant grin, even more exuberant than on this side of eternity (if that’s possible). 

“Come on! I can’t wait for you to see Jesus!” he’ll exclaim.

Me neither. The true Spring begins!

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No More Gloom (Remastered Edition)

Imagine not hearing from God for 400 years. He said he was going to act. He said a Promised One would come, but year after year, generation after generation there is nothing but seemingly stony silence. No prophets, no voice from heaven.

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall.You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Armies. (Malachi 4:2–3)

Among the last prophetic words given to Israel, these radiate hope, but where is this healing? Where is this sun of righteousness? Has He forgotten His promises?

Sometimes the world seems to hold nothing but injustice, oppression, and gloom. Many have turned away; it is they who have forgotten the promises. But a remnant remains waiting eagerly, or perhaps in anguish, as they long for Messiah. Generations come and go; still, in darkness, they sit and wait. Gloom settles in, a dense blanket of fog.

Gloom. It’s a state of partial or total darkness, of despondency or depression.

Two thousand years later, our world today is much the same. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, school shootings, human trafficking, refugees displaced from their countries, abortions by the millions, natural disasters. Sometimes it’s just too much.

There’s a handsome, smiling face, a man surrounded by his wife and three children—the photo is all joy. But in heartbreaking, devastating contrast the words paired with it are ones no one ever wants to write, “My Michael has gone to Jesus.” 

Sometimes darkness crushes.

What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket or heaven seems silent?

Oh, my friends, there is indeed hope, for one magnificent word turns the world on end—But.

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (Isa. 9:1 esv, emphasis added).

No more gloom! Let that sink in for a minute. No more gloom.

Rather, light has dawned. Joy has come. 

This imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation has a name. He is King Jesus who eradicates the gloom!

For, 

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time. (Isaiah 9:2–3)

Like fissures spreading in cracked glass, so the Light of the World penetrates the darkness.

Like fissures spreading in cracked glass, so the Light of the World penetrates the darkness. The astonishing, glorious Sun of Righteousness has arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.

“That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Light always overcomes darkness. Jesus, the Light of the World, penetrates to the depth of our souls, pushing back despondency and despair. Gloom gives way to hope.

Sally Lloyd Jones wrote, 

In the little town, in a little shed, in a little window a candle flickered in the dark. And a tiny cry rang out in the cold night air. And high above a single star set in the highest heavens shone out brighter than all the others and poured down silver onto the little shed . . . A Light to light up the whole world! (Sally Lloyd Jones, Song of the Stars).1

That first Advent long ago may have begun as a candle flickering in the dark, but Light burst through, lighting the whole world. 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, 
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!2

But wait, the news gets exponentially better.

The Light Is Precise

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. (Isaiah 9:1 esv)

Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12–16:

When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
along the road by the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the land of the shadow of death,
a light has dawned.

Do you see it? 

A seemingly insignificant detail: the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but it is a laser beam of precise care. God redeems with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, the people of Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.” 

BUT when Jesus began his public ministry, He went to them first! The Light of the World dawned first on the ones who were captives first. I don’t know about you, but that pierces my soul and makes me sing with joy. Jesus could have started anywhere. How easily such a small detail could have been overlooked. Not so with God. Jesus not only fulfilled prophecy, He did it with exquisite precision. He couldn’t wait to rescue the ones who sat in darkness first!

God’s sovereignty is not an indifferent wave of the hand, a vague maybe. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of His plans. 

Is His care for you not also precise? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?

Oh, friends, how deeply He cares for you. He knows your needs and fears far better than you do. He knows the hurts you never voice. He sees you when no one else sees. 

We can rest in his precise, intimate care.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

What’s more, God became man at an exact moment in history. As a fully human, yet fully divine embryo formed in Mary’s womb, God hurtled His redemptive plan forward. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave. Redemption reached its pinnacle on the cross, and Christ’s resurrection sealed it for eternity.

The Light Reverses

When the Light dawned and shattered the darkness, He began the work of reversing the curse. Isaiah 9 radiates with shocking contrasts. God reverses.

Gloom          No gloom

Darkness      Light

Remnant      Multiplied

Sorrow         Increased joy

Captives       Liberated, delivered

Oppressed    Free

This is what He does for His own! It’s astonishing.

I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. When you first walk in, the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, tears trail down cheeks. It’s a scene of horror—a history of genocide and a sober indictment that we never let it happen again. 

Finally, just as despair permeates and hope seems a vapor, patrons wind their way to “Liberation,” the end of the war! The lighting and design of the museum shifts noticeably as Allied forces liberate captives, righting what was wrong. There is light. Dissonant crossing beams give way to clean, straight lines. Normal conversation resumes, and the claustrophobic soul can breathe again.

So much greater than mere architecture is God’s reversal. This is redemption. He makes the world right side up. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His Holy name!

The Light Reigns

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6–7)

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. This royal title combines the idea of “doing something wonderful, extraordinary, and miraculous with the skill of giving wise advice or making wise plans.”3 The divine, second Person of the Trinity reigns with infinite wisdom.

He is the Mighty God, the mighty warrior. His power is divine, and nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for us.

He is the Everlasting Father. Literally the title means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal protector. By eternally exercising perfect wisdom and perfect power, He accomplishes intimate fatherly care of his people. 

And He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus comes to make an end of war. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.” The world is certainly not at peace, but one day it will be. Even now, our hearts can know peace that passes understanding as we’re guarded by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

This is our King.

But you say, “There is still gloom in the world. Still horrific things. Still death and sorrow. Where is this King?” 

Oh, friend, He is coming again. Like Israel of old we long for his Advent. Let us hold fast to our confident expectation. Remember the promises. And the next time, not only will light dispel the darkness, it will utterly eradicate it. 

The Light Pursues

The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.

“With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion,” says one commentator, “God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deed . . . His people can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”4

When darkness threatens to crush, when holding fast to promises seems impossible, when our faith is weak, when we are the faintly burning wick—He holds us. And he spares no omnipotent effort to keep His promises. 

The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won. The Light has dawned. Heaven isn’t silent anymore.

So we rest and we worship.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Amen.
 

The Light breaks through the darkness! That’s why we love to celebrate the Christmas season here at Revive Our Hearts. And as a ministry, we have so much to celebrate this year. Want to celebrate God’s goodness with us? Check out our 2022 Annual Praise Report. It’s a dynamic good news review! 

1 Sally Lloyd-Jones and Alison Jay, Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

2 Hymn lyrics in this post by Placide Cappeau, “Oh, Holy Night,” Hymnary.org, accessed December 16, 2022, https://hymnary.org/text/o_holy_night_the_stars_are_brightly_shin.

3 Gary V. Smith, New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 240.

4 Smith, New American Commentary, 240.

(This version of the post No More Gloom also appeared at Revive Our Hearts)

No More Gloom

no-more-gloom“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish.”  Isaiah 9:1

For me it’s been a year of “no more gloom.” Rather, 2016 has been mostly light and overflowing joy! How thankful I am for such a happy season, a beauty out of ashes sort of year. It’s been awhile since sweet didn’t mingle with bitter; I’m enjoying the stark contrast. I delight to be married to the second love of my life, my new best friend. And I stand in awe of the God who reverses, who brings light out of darkness. It’s been a pretty great year, I’d say.

Of course there’s been some sorrow. I didn’t expect my dad to die this year. His death has felt so different, though. At 79, he was completely ready to be with Christ, to leave the decay of old age. I dearly love him and miss him, but for me it hasn’t been “hit by a freight train, life altering grief.” I suppose, in this occasion joy has eclipsed sorrow. I guess after the death of a spouse, it’s easier to process the death of a parent.

But I also know it’s been a difficult year for many. The world is full of gloom. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, racial tension, an endless election cycle, civilians caught in the middle of a firestorm, refugees displaced from their countries—I’ve heard it called it the “worst year ever.”

For some I love dearly, 2016 has been thoroughly devastating. I clapped my hands and wept for joy when my friends found out they were expecting twins after a long journey with infertility. Then I sobbed with them as they cradled two perfectly formed, precious babies who were just too small to survive. I have family facing chronic illness. And I’ve wept with those whose marriages have collapsed. I’ve seen them reel with the pain of betrayal. These are the sorrows so deep they feel physical. 

If I could, I would jump in front of the crushing blows so my loved ones would never experience them.

The world is still broken, and sorrow comes.

Gloom. It is “total or partial darkness, a state of melancholy or depression.”¹ As 2016 draws to an end, people clamor for the new year, grasping for the hope of something better. We’re a people constantly searching for something better. What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket?

Oh my friends, there is an imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation. His name is Jesus! He’s the King who eradicates the gloom. He is something better.

“There will be no more gloom!”

For, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nations, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…”  Isaiah 9:2-3

As a smoldering wick grows to blazing flame, so the Light of the World penetrated the darkness. The astonishing, glorious rays of sunshine arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Light will always overcome darkness. 

But wait there’s more! Have you ever had the moment when a familiar passage leaps from the page, and the words are fresh and new as if you’ve never truly seen them? Hang on to your socks kids, there’s some serious truth ahead.

Our God is precise. He reverses, He reigns, and He pursues.

The God who is Precise

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. in the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the was of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  Isaiah 9:1

Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12-16

“Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death
on them a light has dawned.’ 

Do you see it? 

I’ve read these verses a thousand times, and never before noticed the seemingly insignificant detail: Zebulun and Naphtali. This is the God who is precise. He brings redemption with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.” 

BUT Jesus went to them first. The Great Light dawned first on the ones who were captives first. I don’t know about you, but that pierces my soul, and makes me sing with joy. Even now it makes me a little teary. God not only fulfilled prophecy, but He did it with exquisite precision. 

His sovereignty is not consumed by vague maybes. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of HIs plans. Is He not then precise in His care for you? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?

God perfectly orders my life. In His unequivocal concern for my good and His glory, I walked through the valley of death and made it to the other side. In His explicit care, He brought me a second great love.

More than these, God became man at a precise moment in history. The Father propelled His redemptive plan forward, and brought it to its pinnacle at the cross. He didn’t send the Savior His people wanted, but the One we drastically and desperately need.

The God who Reverses

Isaiah 8 ends with gloom and anguish, but Isaiah 9 is light and joy, radiating with stark contrasts. God reverses.

  • Gloom               No gloom
  • Darkness          Light
  • Remnant          Multiplied
  • Sorrow              Increased joy
  • Captives           Liberated, delivered
  • Oppressed       Free

This is what He does for His own.

I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. At first the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, and more than one tear is shed. It’s a scene of horror, a history of genocide, and a sober indictment that we never let it happen again. 

Finally, just as despair permeates, and hope is a vapor, patrons wind their way to “Liberation,” the end of the war! The lighting and design of the museum shifts noticeably as allied forces liberate captives, righting what was wrong. There is light. Dissonant, crossing beams give way to clean, straight lines. Normal conversation resumes, and the claustrophobic soul can breath again.

So much greater is God’s reversal. He makes the world right side up. He has taken this hopeless captive and set her free, trading my sinfulness for His righteousness.

And He is also the God who Reigns.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of PeaceOf the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” 

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. This royal title combines the idea of “doing something wonderful, extraordinary, and miraculous with the skill of giving wise advice or making wise plans.”² He reigns in infinite wisdom. 

He is the Mighty God. A mighty warrior, His power is divine, knowing no limitations. Nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for me.

He is the Everlasting Father. Literally it means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal, good protector. By exercising perfect wisdom and perfect power, He accomplishes intimate, fatherly care of His people. 

And He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus comes to make an end of war: spiritually and physically. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.”² The world is certainly not at peace right now, but one day it will be. And even now, my heart can know peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:6-8)

This is our King.  

Finally, He is the God who Pursues.

“The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Isaiah 1:9

It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

From eternity past, God planned to bring His people home.

He is the subject, the main character, the author, the narrator. Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.

With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion, God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deeds….[His people] can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”² 

The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won.

Does He not pursue you even now? 

Therefore, whether 2016 was devastating or delightful, there is bright hope for tomorrow. My soul rests in the God who overcomes darkness, who shepherds me with precise care, who reverses, who reigns, and who pursues. 

I’ve got a sneaky feeling 2017 is going to be a great year; Jesus already defeated the gloom.


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¹ Webster’s Dictionary, ²The New American Commentary

Delight to Gaze upon Him

everythingI love when people feel at home in my home. I really do.

“Grab a blanket if you’re cold.

You know where the coffee mugs are.

Come on in without knocking.

Feel free to go in the fridge.

You’re a welcome guest. Moreover, I want you to know I consider you family.

Such delight it brings when friends know what they are to me- family, beloved!

I hope my home is lovely, and I hope folks feel loved there. But I know of a far more precious dwelling place.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:1-2 )

Now, there are some things you must know.

  1. In the Old Testament, God chose to dwell in a tent made by hands, first the Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel could meet with Him there.
  2. The journey to God’s dwelling place was a long, arduous, and often treacherous pilgrimage.
  3. For many, it may have been merely obligation. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
  4. Common Israelites were permitted to enter only the outer court of the Tabernacle. Even more restrictive was the Holy of Holies, the very seat of God. Solely the high priest, ONE man, ONE time a year could enter it.
  5. The sons of Korah, the authors of this Psalm, rejoice even in their lowly positions as doorkeepers. (Psalm 84:10)

Now, keep all that in mind for a minute.

To be welcome in the house of the Lord, the God who created everything, the God who is majestic and transcendent is in a word, astonishing.

So, the psalmists long for God’s dwelling place, yearning for it with a sense of urgency. They understand that meeting with God offers true delight, true satisfaction, and true fulfillment.

Therefore, to dwell with God is their chief desire.

David reiterates the theme.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27: 4)

Wow. I want God to be my chief desire, the captor of my affections. I want to sing and shout for joy, knowing He far surpasses all my hopes and dreams. I know He is the fulness.

But I’ll be honest, I don’t always want God the most.

Sometimes, other things vie for my attention. The hazards of the journey ensnare me. Sometimes, weeds and thorns threaten to choke out the truth, and other pastures seem greener.

But there are things I must recall.

God no longer dwells in a tent made by hands, but in hearts made of flesh. Through the completed work of Christ, God dwells within His church. He ALWAYS dwells with me.

I get to meet with the living God. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. In a word, that’s astonishing.

I’m not restricted to the outer court. The veil was torn, the Holy of Holies opened. Rather than ONE man, ONE time of year, I’ve been given constant, total access to God, Himself. Jesus pleads for me. And I can expect grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Furthermore, God calls me not a doorkeeper, but FAMILY. (Romans 8:14-15)

How then can I not delight to gaze upon Him, singing and shouting for joy?

How then can I not recall what am to Him?

Beloved. Called. Chosen. Redeemed. Purchased. Family


This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

 

I don’t have to be tough.

toughI got up early, showered, straightened my hair, and overall just looked cute. I thought about corporate worship, and couldn’t wait to be with the church. What snow? I’d be just fine.

A southern girl living in the midwest is bound to have some angst about five months of winter (as I’ve noted before), but I feel like I’ve conquered many of my snow issues. I’m not afraid to drive in it; I think I can handle a snowy road like a champ these days. I’ve learned to accept it, dress in layers, and buy thermal socks. Therefore, when the forecast called for a blizzard, I was not alarmed.

I backed out slowly. All was well; there was no getting stuck in this driveway.Opening my garage door, I wasn’t surprised to see several inches of the white stuff and more still falling. “No problem. I’ve got this.”

Well, until I got stuck, that is.

The wheels spun, and the engine revved. But it was just a show. Hmm, that was futile.

First action step, call a friend, of course. A true gentleman, he offered to come get me. Meekly, I accepted. In the meantime, I shoveled with determination and perhaps stubbornness. At least I could get it back in the garage, right?

I’ll spare you all the grizzly details, but I ended up wet, freezing, covered in snow, mad, crying, and no closer to getting the car unstuck. The wind was unforgiving, hurling snow at places I’d already cleared. And you can forget that lovely, straightened hair.

mad

Tears stung my face. I was angry I no longer had a husband to take care of such things. I was angry I couldn’t do it, and angry I had to ask for help. When I called my friend back, I felt like an incapable wimp.

“Don’t come get me.”

“Why?”

“I’m so angry and upset that I can’t get my car out. I’m mad that I have to, and not at all in the right place to be at church.”

“Ami, you’re being ridiculous. I’m coming to get you,” my guy friend calmly replied.

Later during worship, he slipped me a note. “I need your car keys. Several of us are going to go over and get you unstuck.”

Tears formed again, yet these were full of gratitude. I’m strong in many ways, but it’s okay to admit my weaknesses.

I am weaker in physical strength than men, but that’s not a bad thing.

So, here are the lessons.

Culture says, “be a strong, tough, independent woman.” But God honors women as the “weaker vessel.” I don’t mean that women aren’t capable, but our Lord says be honored, cherished, protected. Be the fine china. My pastor put it this way, “A chivalrous man takes the bullets, does the nasty work, and gets dirty because he realizes a lady shouldn’t have to.”

“…showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” I Peter 3:7 ESV

“Weaker vessel” doesn’t mean it’s inferior or any less valued. Rather, it is to be protected, esteemed, more highly valued.

That’s a difficult thing for widows to hear. “Who’s protecting me now? Who is doing the nasty work? Quite frankly, I have to do it a lot these days, “ my heart cries.

Yes, that’s often true, but it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes it’s even needed. I know that’s a challenge, but people may not know the need until we ask. While Peter is speaking specifically to husbands in the verse above, there’s broader application within the church. Men can still honor the women around them with appropriate boundaries.

More importantly, Christ already did the nastiest of work. He already provided the ultimate protection. What’s a little snow compared to my need for salvation? When I remember my ultimate weakness, it more drastically contrasts His ultimate strength.

Being cared for is a lovely thing. I miss my chivalrous husband dearly, but I’m thankful God still puts chivalrous men in my life- family, friends, pastors. I’m thankful for men who help with home repairs, lift heavy objects, and pick me up in a blizzard.

I’m most thankful for Jesus, the ultimate chivalrous man.

I don’t have to be tough.


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

Anticipating Tomorrow. Looking toward 2015

The countdown began. The ball descended slowly, inching to its destination. 3-2-1! Happy New Year! The room filled with streamers, noise makers, and lingering kisses. He wrapped me in a giant hug, eyes dancing, grinning broadly. When he smiled, his whole face smiled. And of course, he kissed me with gusto. Goodbye, 2012. Hello, 2013!

The trip to the emergency room several days earlier already seemed a fading dream. I stole a tender glance at my husband. Thoroughly alive, passionate, vivacious, charismatic, and definitely goofy; these embodied him. Sure, there’d be valve replacement surgery in the near future, but medication would manage the problem till then. Jon would recover, and we’d go on living, dreaming, and pursuing Christ, worshiping Him together. We expected the trial, but we were ready. God had always taken care of us. He’d see us through this one as well.

But our hearts were light, hopeful, looking toward the new year with anticipation. We’d recently moved to a new home. Jon had started a new job. And we hoped this year God would bring a child.

New Year’s Day I awoke thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings.

“Lord, You’ve brought us so far this year! 2o12 was a year of abundance. I’m so thankful.  Father, in the coming year, consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified. Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom, Your gospel? We’re hopeful, Lord. We’re excited.”

Fresh Starts. New Beginnings. Hope.

In the middle of the night, less than a month after we greeted the new year with gladness, I lay in a tight ball, clutching my husband’s wedding ring. How does one describe that first horrific night? Shock. Numbness. Nausea. I think there are no adequate words. A single thought repeated endlessly, “Jon died. My husband is dead.” My brain could not process reality.

Hope? Excitement for the future? What future? It died with him.

Or so it seemed.

Almost two years later, at the dawn of 2015, again I look toward the coming year with hope and anticipation.

“But how could that possibly be? You were utterly crushed, your dreams wrenched away, ripped apart like a doll house in a hurricane.”

Yes, that’s true. But remember what I prayed that New Year’s Day. “Consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified.” He has done it. Through tragedy, God was there, meeting me with grace upon grace. Gradually I remembered that I had not also died, and I recalled the One who promises a “future and a hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11)

It was the death of my beloved that caused me to be captivated with Christ. I’m mesmerized by Him, utterly fascinated with Him, and long for eternity with Him. And in this place, there is profound, penetrating, soul satisfaction that this world cannot hope to provide.

It’s an anticipation of things to come, the not yet. I’m looking toward a day when the church will be perfectly united, glorified in heart and mind, rejoicing forevermore, face to face with the One who redeemed it! I wouldn’t have chosen God’s answer, but He faithfully heard the cry of my heart. “Teach us to know You. Lord, be magnified through us.”

With the apostle Paul I’m learning to say, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).

Yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the second prayer. “Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom?” If you had known my husband, you’d know this prayer was his heartbeat, even more so than mine. And, oh, how God has granted that desire, multiplying the fruit! Confidently I see God using Jon’s life and death to strengthen marriages, to call a man to preach, to save the life of another heart patient—literally, to push me to things I never would have tried. Through writing, I get to proclaim to thousands that Jesus is hope, that He is life, and that He alone makes reconciliation between God and man!

These are merely glimpses. I know there’s exponentially more than I understand. So, I kneel in awe and humility. For God does not need me or my husband. I cannot add to His sufficiency. When I ask that God be magnified, it’s a prayer that men would ascribe the honor to Him that He already has. T

hrough Christ there are always fresh starts and new beginnings. And He satisfies. How then, could I not face tomorrow with gladness?


This post appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

He met destruction so I wouldn’t have to.

I sat on the edge of the pool, carefully heeding the instructions, “Do not get in the water without your teacher.”

Without warning, I tumbled headfirst into the deep end. Unable to swim, I flailed, completely immersed, panicking with no ability to bring myself to the top. I could feel water searching for a way into my lungs.

In an instant, strong arms encircled me and drew me up to safety. Coughing, sputtering, and crying, I clung to the one that held me. I was afraid, but I was safe. I was five, and I vividly recall wanting no further part in swimming lessons that day. I also clearly recollect the boy who pushed me in, but I’ll not throw his name under the bus.

Lifeguards are magnificent people.

It’s realistic that I could have drowned that day were it not for someone who was my help and my deliverer. But of course, I tell you this story to point to a greater Help, a perfect Deliverer.

Psalm 40 begins “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

In the moment where I thought I was drowning physically, I can emphatically tell you that I was not waiting patiently.

Yet here the psalmist describes a time when he cried out to God, waiting patiently for Him. In his spiritual distress, he was given grace to wait. He waited, and he cried out–so simple, yet so difficult sometimes.

But God in response did so much more.

He inclined to me
He heard my cry
He drew me up from the pit of destruction.
He set my feet upon a rock.
He made my steps secure
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise.

God was the one who could save. He was the deliverer. He was the one who acted. In the immediate context, David reminds us that God hears our prayers and responds.

His response may not be in our timing, nor in the way we think he will act, but he does hear. He does draw our fearful, anxious hearts from the miry bog.

As a result, “Many will see and hear and put their trust in the Lord.” When I recall how I’ve received mercy, when others see God’s strong arms, together we praise Him! We sing, we shout to the God of our salvation!

These are lovely, comforting thoughts. But there are far more radical implications to be gleaned. First, Jesus drew me up from the pit of destruction. He set me on a ROCK, which is himself. Through his death, burial and resurrection he made my steps secure.

“You have multiplied O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” (Psalm 40:5) How my soul magnifies the ROCK of my salvation!

Praise God for salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

But secondly, we can view this psalm as if Jesus was the one who prayed it! Take a moment and let that sink in.

I know this is true because Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes Psalm 40:6-7 as the words of Christ. “Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come.”

Jesus came as the humble, obedient servant. God became the sacrifice.

jesus destroyedThink of it this way, Jesus knew destruction. The cross was the miry bog. He faced death to save those his Father loved. Furthermore, verses 12-17 foreshadow the garden of Gethsemane. “For evils have encompassed me beyond number… Be pleased O Lord to deliver me! O Lord make haste to help me!”

But there in the garden, Jesus said perhaps some of the most extravagant words ever spoken. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours.”

The priest became the sacrifice. The perfect one was cursed, so we could be blessed. He took destruction so we could be whole. He went down in the miry bog of death, but he was raised again to life! Now from his place on the rock Jesus reigns as risen King!

And that my friends, is the wonder and majesty here. It is not “Wait patiently like David.”

Rather, the immense beauty of Psalm 40 is that we have a Savior who prayed it perfectly. We have a Savior who lived it perfectly. Therefore, we have grace when we are weak.

So my soul sings, “Great is the Lord!”

Father, thank you that Jesus faced destruction in my place. He bore the wrath that I deserved. Thank you for Jesus, the true Savior, the rock who made my soul secure. Thank you for Jesus who also rescues me when daily struggles threaten to drown me. When I think of all Christ has done, I can’t help but praise you! I can’t help but want to serve you always!


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

 

It’s heaven because Jesus is there.

love for ChristThe other day I came across a sentence written in the margin of my Bible.

“Behold the glory of Jesus!”

It was dated January 27, 2013.

I stopped in my tracks, stunned. I had no recollection that I wrote it, but there it was in my handwriting.

The date was merely two days after the death of my husband. No wonder I don’t remember the words! But the day itself is extremely vivid.

It was the first worship gathering after Jon died. Though I was still in shock, I was compelled to be with the church. Grief crushed me like a freight train, but I had to go. God’s  grace was tangible. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so powerful, almost physical.

I was surrounded by so many who loved me. That day I knew my church was family. Every person wanted to bear the weight of sorrow with me. Tears flowed freely. No one seemed to want to leave. My husband was also deeply loved.

I scanned down the page of my Bible, trying to recall the sermon. I don’t remember it, but somehow, “behold the glory of Jesus” broke through the fog.

As I read the passage my pastor must have preached, I landed on some tough stuff.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

And then I remembered. When I heard those words two days after my greatest fear became reality, I thought “Yes, my heart is heaven. My treasure is there because that’s where Jon is.”

Somehow I think “behold the glory of Jesus” was the response I wanted to have.

But at two days, my most cognizant thoughts were “I just want him back, or God, you could just take me there too? Please.” I longed for heaven because Jon was there.

Over time, I’ve pondered “treasure” often. To treasure something is to value it highly. An ultimate treasure is what we value most highly, that which takes precedence over all. It’s the thing that captures our attention and holds sway over our emotions.

I’ve reached some difficult conclusions. Jon cannot be my ultimate treasure, but Jesus must be. 

I’m reminded of another passage.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73: 25-26)

What? Does your jaw drop to the floor like mine did? I’ve read this verse so many times, but now it carries radically new significance.

I do have someone in heaven. The man with whom I wanted to grow old, the man I adored is there.

And you’re telling me that the psalmist said he had only God?

Yes.

Well surely Asaph, the Psalm singer, must have experienced the death of a loved one?

Probably, but he made a definitive point that God was the satisfier of his soul. No one else he loved could compare.

God was the captor of his primary affection, his ultimate treasure. Like the Psalmist, I am learning that Jesus is the best thing.

It’s tempting to remember my husband through only rose-colored memories. He was wonderful, but he was also fallible. He loved me, but he also failed me, as I did him. Yet Jesus never fails.

Now let me clarify, to treasure Christ above all does not mean I love Jon any less. But it does mean I want my love for God to be so exponential, that love for Jon seems paltry in comparison.

That’s hard thing to hear. I know. It’s a hard thing to write.

A song I love called “Bare White Walls,” beautifully expresses truth.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nobody. There is nobody. If heaven’s just a room with bare white walls and you and me, that’s all I’ll ever need.

My kids, my wife (insert husband here), my job, my car, my friends, my health, my heart, they fail me. But you don’t fail me. Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nobody.

When I compare your glory with these present pleasantries, they don’t matter. And when I compare your glory with these present sufferings, they don’t matter.”

I’ve found that the more I know God, the more I treasure Him. The more I dwell on the realities of the death and resurrection of Christ, the more I am mesmerized by Him. I have learned what it is to long for Jesus.

When I was crushed by a freight train, when I longed to go where Jon was, even then my soul grasped for truth. My emotions screamed the opposite, but the Holy Spirit broke through the fog.

“Behold the glory of Jesus!”

Heaven isn’t heaven because Jon is there. It’s heaven because Jesus is there.


This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries.
“Bare White Walls”, copyright Temples from the album Against the Grain

This Clumsy, Broken Thing

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 

I’m really clumsy.

If you knew me, you’d laugh because that’s an understatement.

I call the phenomena “Drop the book.” It’s like my brain decides, “You’re done holding that. Drop the book.” Then the book falls. It’s real.

I have a friend who calls me “Trip,” not because I’m funny.

And I think there are things in life that happen only to me. I mean, it takes a special person to cause a spectacular splatter of gooey chocolate all over her wall and stove.

Once I accidentally flushed $150 down the toilet. You don’t even want to know.

Most of the time I just laugh at myself.

After some manifestation of my clumsiness, my husband always cupped my chin in his hand, grinned, and said, “Oh Lovee, what am I going to do with you?”

“Just love me,” was my coy reply.

A friend told me that it really is a cute elegance. I’ll go with that.

I also break things, but not on purpose.

It always seems to be something with memories attached, though–a coffee mug my husband and I bought on vacation–a hand-painted spoon rest from when we were dating.

On our first anniversary I even broke one of our personalized wedding flutes. You can imagine the tears. We never got around to replacing it either.

To date I haven’t broken a dish in anger, but I’ll admit, when Jon died I often wished a box of cheap dishes would magically appear so I could smash them to the floor.

And had they appeared, I’m almost certain they would have ended up in smithereens.

Even then I had sense enough not to hurl the Fiestaware.

Recently I broke my special spoon rest…again. I don’t remember how I broke it the first time, but I’m sure I was distraught and Jon his usual calm. We carefully fixed it with super glue, and its flaw was barely noticeable.

I think I’ll be able to mend it again, but I this time the scar will show. When memories are all that’s left, a shattered one pierces that much deeper.

So, I’ve been thinking about how God speaks of broken things.

Often being broken is a mark of humility or surrender.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

I’ve been broken so many times. The process is painful, but it’s a sweet brokenness that teaches me to understand the fierceness of God’s tenderness. He draws near the broken hearted.

Being broken and restored also reminds me of Kintsukuroi, a Japanese repair method that infuses broken pottery with gold. How ironic that the shards are mended with scars of gold! The result– a piece far more exquisite and costly, not in spite of the scars but because of them.

In other places, broken things represent extravagant love.

“…as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.” Mark 14:13

A familiar story, but don’t lose its radiance.Ultimate broken thing

A woman, identified elsewhere as Mary the sister of Lazarus, took a flask of ointment worth almost a year’s wages, broke it (for there were no screw tops in those days), and used all of it to anoint Jesus.

Others around the table were outraged at her ridiculous waste and flagrant behavior.

But her broken thing was an avenue for lavish affection and worship. She knew what was most important.

Finally, sometimes God combines these three: humility, scars, and extravagant love.

They intersect in the ultimate “broken thing,” Jesus.

He humbled himself even to death on the cross. Now alive, He bears the scars as a mark of His extravagant love.

He heals broken things. He mends them with something much more valuable than gold.

I marvel that He loves this clumsy, broken thing.

Father thank you for spiritual brokenness. Thank you for bringing me often to a place of surrender and humility. Keep my heart ever tender before you. Use my brokenness to manifest your extravagant love. I have scars, but you heal them with something more precious than gold, that is, Yourself. 

This post appeared first at A Widow’s Might.

 

Satisfied. Truth for my “new singleness”

jeremiah 31 3It 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.”  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.

At that time I’d 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)

Satisfied.