This month, 19 years ago, Dwight & I fell in love. I wrote about it here. It’s part love story, part testimony of God’s work in my life.
To be honest, it kinda freaks me out, sometimes.
I mean, God is so… BIG, and we are so small.
It just leaves me amazed and speechless and…
kinda freaked out.
Even so, I can’t help but look back and see our love and marriage as one of the deepest ways God speaks to me.
It’s a love that grows and matures with each passing season. It’s changing, yet constant.
Physical touch must have been one of my main love languages when we were newly-loves. I have this vivid memory of Dwight’s strong and gentle embrace.
The fall colors that had been a beautiful backdrop to the start of our relationship were soon covered in snow and ice. It was a bitterly cold winter that year that kept us close, indoors. Funny how the landscape seemed to portray the past hurts we carried into this new relationship. The stings of life and love connecting us more deeply, but also making us much more cautious.
Was my heart safe with him? His embrace said yes.
As we lay on the bed turned toward one another, I can still see and feel him attempting to hold all of me with all of himself. If there was ever an unforgettable feeling, this was it. If he was trying to communicate genuine love to the best of his ability, it worked. He made more progress to the core of my heart than I’d ever known with a tenderness that wouldn’t let go.
It thrilled me and terrified me at the same time. No matter how good things felt, I was well acquainted with heartbreak — the giving and receiving end. I wasn’t about to expose every last inch of my heart. The deepest, darkest part of it remained untouchable. Trust issues, substance abuse and fears of all kinds threatened our relationship.
I had expected Dwight to provide my deepest security and it caused all kinds of problems. Eventually, God used all of my failures and fears to lead me into His arms. And get this — it was the same strong, gentle embrace that gripped me — only this was God, as in perfect love and security. No other human being could offer me what God could. For that matter, Dwight had failures and fears of his own. He too needed to be held by God.
So, God “spoke” to me with the very same love language of physical touch that had drawn me to Dwight. But, there was more — as I considered all of my failures, He brought the cross to my mind and helped me understand that He paid for my sin there and forgave me of everything. He had loved me with a perfect, everlasting love.
Jesus had truly embraced ALL of me with ALL of Himself.
My life hasn’t been the same since, but it was a love that needed to grow far deeper than feeling, just as it needed to in our marriage.
I’m so glad to have a patient husband, and especially a patient God. Immaturity makes any relationship SO EXHAUSTING. We love those high highs but them low lows??? Not so much.
When we’re in an immature stage of love with someone, including God, our description of it will largely involve our feelings. Since circumstances and feelings change, it’s a vulnerable place to stay. As long as we are dependent on feelings, fears can more easily threaten and deceive us.
If feelings can tell us we’re loved and secure — they can also tell us we aren’t. So often, we don’t realize just how feeling-dependent we are.
It’s not that feelings are bad. They’re created by God — they’re good and necessary, but just as a child must learn to use his own two legs to walk, rather than being carried around, so we must learn to trust that we’re loved by God and safe in Him, without being carried around by good feelings. We must develop the freedom and confidence to be ourselves without fearing a loss of love. It seems easier to stay in the immature stage of love where it’s all about comfort and how we feel, but staying there is missing out on God’s best for us — a far deeper love that overcomes feelings, especially fear.
For love to mature, it must be a knowing love, not just a feeling love.
The difficulty lies in the fact that knowing love can’t grow much with good feelings. We grow the closest in any relationship, whether human or divine, through suffering and sorrow.
Circumstances involving extended family led to a time of suffering like nothing I’d known. What’s worse is that I no longer felt loved by God. It seemed His embrace was gone. All I felt was panic, and the deepest, darkest depression. But that’s exactly where God began teaching me to trust His Words of Affirmation over my feelings. It’s not that I didn’t already have the highest regard for His Word. It’s that feelings are extremely POWERFUL. We don’t realize how much so until we are racked with pain or depression.
When I lost the feelings of assurance I was so dependent on, my other senses were magnified, so let’s just say it was like turning UP the volume on His promises in Jesus Christ. WAY UP. I’ve had to learn that His Word is enough. Feelings or no feelings, HE IS THERE. Until we walk through that valley, we can’t really know just how difficult it is.
I’m still weak — still human, but my feelings don’t have the power to mislead me as easily as they once did. I’m developing boundaries for myself and others that I didn’t know I was allowed to have. In my relationship with God, and with my husband, I’m not as reactive to my feelings. So, the greatest suffering was used for my good.
Our marriage is a beautiful, mysterious thing — living, growing and maturing — a picture of our union with Jesus. It’s not because either of us are so great at love and relationships. It’s because we both know we’re very broken, that we’re a gift to each other from God, and He’s holding us together.
I’m so grateful for a husband who still holds me the same way he did from the start, only now, since we’ve made it through many hard seasons, our love is far more about trust than feelings. It’s a hold that runs deep. How much more I’ve needed to understand this in my relationship with God. He never let me go, He took me deeper. Our love is changing, but constant.
So, what is your main love language? I hope you’ll consider which one it is … gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation??? Look for the many ways that God has spoken to you through it and tell us about it!
Growing with you in life, faith & art ~Jamie