Quite some time ago, I received a devastating email from a reader, and…
I didn’t have an answer.
This young woman wrote me for some shred of advice after discovering that a young man that she’d come to know -and love -quite well over the past few years, who she and her parents had begun to assume was going to be her husband if and when he eventually asked for her hand in marriage… had just told her (one of his best friends) that he was courting another girl.
Usually, I’d rattle off some “snap out of it!” advice, but her grief had me paralyzed. For one thing, this was a mature young lady who had developed real feelings, not a schoolgirl crush. I had no idea what I could offer that wouldn’t come off sounding slightly Pollyanna-ish.
A quick excerpt:
What is the meaning to all of this? Is there a meaning? A better one? Please, if you know, tell me how to find it. I am so sick of hearing helpless little phrases; that it was to teach me trust, teach me about myself, teach me about guys, teach me to love and let go…whatever. Is that ALL? All this…for just that? I feel as if I have staked my soul on everything, on a promise I believed to be of God’s, and found that He snatched it back just like that, and left me with crumbs in exchange for the world. Please, tell me that there is more.
It was definitely one of those moments that I really hated the fact that I had been asked to give advice. I mean, okay, you know what? I don’t have all of the answers, girl! And your email made me want to cry and wonder why on earth you’d have to go through such heartache. And the last thing I want to do is tell you that it’s your fault, you should have guarded your heart better, or it’s your parents’ fault or the young man’s fault… I know it isn’t God’s “fault,” and I know that, in the words of Corrie ten Boom, “…the experiences of our lives, when we let God use hem, beome the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do” and in the flawless words of the Scriptures, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” ~Romans 8:28-29
God is good.
The other day, I was reading The Hiding Place, getting ready to teach one of my English students about the life of Corrie ten Boom, when I remembered that twenty-three-year-old Corrie ten Boom had also experienced heartache.
She met a young man named Karel who seemed to be promising her the moon -who, by all appearances, wanted to spend the rest of his life with her -who devoted his time to long walks with her, long letters with her, and hopeful promises with her… and Corrie, despite the warning from her older brother that Karel would only “marry well,” and not into the impoverished ten Boom family, fell in love and built her hopes around this guy.
Now, I’ve always said that I can identify with Corrie ten Boom’s personality and struggles (her faults if not her strengths), but just so ya’ll know, I have never done something like this. Ever. 😉
Karel did choose someone else, and he came to the ten Booms’ to introduce his fiance. Corrie was cordial, but the moment he left, she ran up to her room and threw herself across the bed and cried, knowing that her only love had just walked out of her life.
And then Father walks in:
…suddenly I was afraid of what Father would say. Afraid he would say, “There’ll be someone else soon,” and that forever afterward this untruth would lie between us. For in some deep part of me I knew already that there would not -soon or ever -be anyone else.
The sweet cigar-smell came into the room with Father. And of course he did not say the false, idle words.
“Corrie,” he began instead, “do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.
“There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
“God loves Karel -even more than you do -and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us his perfect way.”
I did not know, as I listened to Father’s footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that owuld open far darker rooms than this -places wherer there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all. (The Hiding Place, pg. 44-45)
And I’m reading this passage, the one I’ve read a million over the last ten years, and I’m thinking, that’s the answer: for minimal crushes, crushing heartache, for dealing with young men who have feelings for you that you cannot reciprocate, for awkwardness around young men in general… to love them the way God loves -to seek their best interest, even if we are not what happens to be in their best interest. To love steadfastly and unconditionally, but in that God-honoring, uplifting way, and not necessarily in that romantic way. To love selflessly.
God loves you, and has given you the task of bringing him glory and delighting fully in him as he reigns sovereign over your life’s journey –the moment that tasks requires a husband, he will send the right one. There will be no guesswork or false hopes or false starts necessary. And part of trusting God’s sovereignty in that area is being willing to love -truly love -the young men in our lives, beyond the love we’d lavish on a prospect, and straight onto the love we’re to give our brothers and sisters in the Lord (Ephesians 4:25-32)
There will come a day when some of us are blessed to be married to men that we love in that slow-motion, violins, wine, and waltzing sort of way… but even in our marriages, I think the best moments in our lives will be when we show our husbands the unconditional love the Father gives -the kind that goes way beyond a Celine Dion love song and into the realm of true servant-heartedness -submission -and sacrifice. It’s the kind of love that isn’t always easy -that comes directly from God -that will make the marriage of two grace-saved sinners worthwhile.
I love that -I truly love that. And my prayer for this young woman and for any other young dealing with these romantic issues that we’re all inclined to struggle with every once in a while is that we would strive to love with the love of Christ.