Some days I feel the familiar sting more than others. But there's been progress. It's not debilitating like it used to be. It doesn't stop me in my tracks anymore or take my breath away like it did for so very long. It doesn't happen every day, and for that I'm grateful. Sometimes it's a good long while in between before the sting returns and I realize I've enjoyed a long run without it.
But some days, the sting rears its ugly head and flares up in my heart again with no warning, no red flags, nothing to alert me that it's coming. And when it finds me, I've learned to respond differently than I once did. I've learned on those days to lean INTO it rather than try to resist it. I've learned to feel it fully instead of trying to rush past by finding ways to distract myself.
But mostly, I've learned that this sting is not a bad thing. Now don't get me wrong, I sure don't enjoy it. None of us do. But it's okay. Because you see, to feel that sting means my heart is still in a place where I'm eagerly listening. Anxious to hear His voice. Impatient to feel His loving care soothe the sting away.
That sting is the caveat to the only effective balm for lonely hearts which are so easily inclined to search for remedies elsewhere.
Many of you will understand. Sundays are often the most difficult days I battle the sting of loneliness. By the grace of God, I am in a place where I've been taken in and welcomed and loved exactly where I am in my journey. I've not been viewed as a project. I'm not a second class believer because I bear the scarlett "D" of divorce. I've never been made to feel shame because of my very public failed marriage.
And yet, despite being in a place I adore and am so grateful for, the very fact that I'm surrounded by loving believers can often lead to loneliness. I tend to have to ask the Lord to keep my thoughts focused on worship and study because I can so easily look around and be reminded that the seat next to me is not occupied by someone who is jealous for me. Church is so often, and rightfully so, filled with families. I see husbands with their arms around their wives. I see couples holding hands as they hear the preached Word. I see children sitting in their daddy's laps.
And my heart begins to whisper to me: "you might never have that. You might never experience the love of a man who is jealous for your heart. It may be just you, sitting alone, for the rest of your life. No one to reach over and squeeze your hand. No one to share the beauty of communion with. These other women know the jealous love of a godly husband."
I feel that weight. I hear the potential reality of those thoughts.
Just like he ALWAYS does, the Lord starts whispering to me as well, louder than the whispers of my lonely heart vying for my attention.
Today the whisper came in the form of a song which I've heard many times but never exactly felt in this way. The very first line gripped me:
"He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree. Bending beneath the weight of His grace and mercy."
"HE IS JEALOUS FOR ME"
I knew right then I was hearing the soothing whisper of my Father. And though nothing in my reality changed in that moment, my heart was suddenly calmer. My anxiousness quieted. The echos in the halls of my lonely heart filled by the sound of deep joy as it washed over me. Contentment and peace replacing the dull ache of loneliness.
I DO have the jealous love of One Who knows my every thought. If He were sitting next to me in person, He would've had His arm around my shoulder. He would hold my cold hands and share a smile with me. And His jealous love would never suffocate, would never keep me from good things, would never tear down or wound. Would never leave or have anything other than my best in mind.
I certainly can't and don't return that kind of jealous love for Him. It occured to me - I have some serious jealousy cultivation work to do in my heart.
I'm not nearly jealous enough - are you?
Oh, I can be jealous, that's for sure. I can easily fall into jealousy over trivial things like another woman's perfect figure or someone's seemingly perfect marriage or well-behaved kids or their popularity among our shared circles...the list is endless.
But I'm not jealous the way I should be jealous. I am not often quick to weed out those things in my heart which are distracting me from the love of Jesus. I tend instead to water those weeds, to nurture them and see them grow and spread in my heart.
And before I know it, I have no room left for the One Who gave everything to win me as His own.
I'm not jealous enough - are you?
It's so easy to let things slip in and steal my affections. Distract me from my first love. Convince me that I have enough love to spare just a little for something else without damaging my loyalty to Jesus. It happens slowly, almost imperceptibly, like a slow but steady leak in a balloon. Without quick correction, that balloon will at best not hold air at full capacity (and thus not be as useful as it should be). At worst, the balloon will be totally lifeless. Useful for nothing but to take up space in the trashcan.
Jesus addressed this with strong words for His children: "Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with ALL your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’
Just as I am so comforted by the thought of Jesus' fiercely jealous love FOR me, He desires that same kind of jealous love FROM me. I don't want the love of a man who only sometimes loves me. I don't want the affection or attention of a man who is only lukewarm about me. So Jesus, in all His perfection and in no way dependent upon my love, for some unexplainable reason, desires to have my WHOLE heart in a way that is given with abandon. He longs to see me fiercely protecting myself from anything that would take my first loyalty from Him.
Oh, what a wonderful relief that I don't ever, ever have to worry about Jesus' loyalty or affection being stolen away by something or someone else. No matter how godly or servantlike or humble another believer may be, Jesus has the capacity to love each of us with a love that defies explanation, knows no boundaries, and breaks thru even the darkest and loneliest of hearts. And His love is for keeps.
So I'll be working on becoming a more jealous woman. Step one: identify those things that threaten to steal my affections and take action to cut them out, roots and all. Sometimes that process is brutally painful, but oh so necessary. Just like I so jealously protected my little Barnum and Bailey cannister that held my savings account as a little girl, I should be standing guard over my heart, taking precautions to keep it from being stolen by people or things which can be so very alluring.
Jealousy - asking the Lord for more of it today. Won't you join me?