I wrote this a while back, before Jenny and I were married, but it meant something to me then and it means something to me now. Maybe it will to you, too
I was just thinking that one of the things I love best about God is the feeling of peace that knowing him brings to my life.
Peace. And also being loved, really loved.
I never had it before, or at least, I was not aware of it. I used to always, always worry about stuff. I used to spend so much time wondering what would ever become of my life. Would I ever get a decent job? Would I ever marry, or even be in love, for that matter? Would I ever really be loved?
That was the worst, I think. Wondering about love. I knew my sisters loved me–they’d always taken care of me, and had showing love down to a science. But family love is not the same as other love–it’s almost primal in nature, and in many cases, taken for granted.
But it’s not the same as other kinds of love. It’s not the same as being beloved.
I think that was the main thing for me. I needed to know I was beloved by someone. I think the friends I’ve had in my life–from the time I was a kid until now–were about as close as I’ve come to it. The love of my friends has saved my life more times than I can count.
And it helped me to find God myself.
But even that is not the same.
There’s something about being able to share the hard stuff with someone that makes it less hard. Sometimes life is just….horrible, and frantic, and scary. Sometimes life is colder than an arctic winter. Sometimes so utterly packed with bad circumstance after bad circumstance. It can consume you with business, and worry, and pain, and when that happens, all you want, all I want–is to just have it melt away.
When that happens, I want to step from the autobahn of my life into a valley full of peace. I want to rest, and rest, and rest.
When that happens, I want to be warm, and quiet, and still.
It wasn’t until I knew God that I knew any of that. Until the noise in my heart was quieted a little. Until the emptiness was filled.
Brennan Manning spoke at my Church once, and he told a story about a woman he met at a leper colony–Yolanda. She was young, only 37, and prior to her leprosy, had been stunningly beautiful. She had long, dark hair, a perfect body, and a perfect face. When she began to lose her perfection, her husband left her–the leprosy was too much for him to live with.
The leprosy took her beauty, little by little. He nose and lips became twisted. She lost fingers. The only part of her untouched was her eyes–they remained a beautiful and shining brown. One day, Brennan had just gotten to the colony when they called him to pray with Yolanda–she was dying. It was a dark day–cloudy and cold, with rain on the way.
He went to her room, and was preparing to pray. He faced away from her, near a window, and as he began to take his vestments and oil from his bag, he felt warmth on his face, as if the sun had broken through the clouds. He briefly that God for the sunshine, and thought that Yolanda would enjoy it.
But then he looked up, and there was no sunshine. He turned to Yolanda, and saw that the light was coming from her–her face, once beautiful, was shining, and it was beautiful again.
She told Brennan that she was happy.
Why, he asked.
She told him that Jesus was going to take her home that day. He’d spoken to her.
Manning asked her what Jesus had said.
Yolanda said that Jesus had reached out to her and said, “Come now, my love, my lovely one, come. For you, the winter is past. The rain is gone. The flowers appear on the ground. The cooing of turtledoves is heard in the land…”
Brennan recognized the above as from the Song of Songs, and assumed that she’d heard it or read it before. He prayed for her a few minutes, put his things away, and left. Later that day, Yolanda went home.
The next day, Brennan was speaking to a nun, and found out that not only had Yolanda been illiterate, but she had very little familiarity with scripture. Yet Jesus had reached out and spoken to her, to his beloved.
I was thinking about that this morning when I started to write this. I was thinking of how much different my life is now. I still have amazing friends, and family. And I’ve finally met the woman God always intended for me to meet, and am beloved on earth. But even more than that, I know that someday (hopefully not for a long time), my body will begin to wither. I might be sick, and scared, and in pain, and it might be too much to handle.
But I will still be beloved, and I hope to rest with the knowledge that my Abba is calling me home.
And then, like Yolanda in Brennan Manning’s story, I hope to fill a room with light.
from the Song of Songs, Chapter 2:
10 My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
I think also of a snatch of an old hymn–at least I think it’s a hymn. Something about Christ being the lover of our souls.
The lover of our souls.
And we, the beloved.