You’ve met someone who makes you feel like you haven’t felt since…you can’t remember when. He’s meeting your emotional needs, just being himself. She “gets you” in a way nobody else does. When you imagine companionship with this person, you catch a glimpse of the life of which you once dreamed.
One problem: that person is off limits.
One of you is already married (or in a relationship that has not explicitly ended). S/he might be outside your age range. Or s/he might be unsuitable – mired in sin, or perhaps not a Christian.
Perhaps you started out with quite a compatible spouse, but you’ve long since lost that “peas in a pod” verve. Now you think you see it in someone else. Someone who’s dropped looks or hints that s/he’s thinking the same.
Being known, being appreciated, being fought for (instead of fought with) or finally triumphing over years of loneliness…
It feels like life.
We all reach for life. We might put other words to it – love, joy, peace, happiness, contentment, fulfilled dreams, good things, fill in the blank. But since we were little and found the coordination to reach for the blankie, the cookie jar, or a mother’s arms, we’ve been reaching.
And when we’ve gone without for a while, our hearts take on the disposition of a desert wanderer. We’ll do anything for an oasis.
Your mind races. You met this person, this “amazing match”, under fortuitous circumstances. What if it’s God’s doing? Surely God would not deny his children happiness? Isn’t he out for our good?
As far as God’s Word…well, you know what it says. But it’s been a long time since God was anything more than a candle burning in the next room. The salvation he’s achieved for you is appreciated but dry fact, like the Revolutionary War or your car insurance. Any fulfilling relationship you had with God is long evaporated. All you know is that you see no life in your current pasture.
This other person, however…stirs and excites you like nothing has for years, or decades. The feelings are overwhelming. Like trying to crest a tsunami. You say, “I can’t help whom I fall in love with.” It feels so much more real, more immediate, more truthful. It’s right there.
It feels like life.
And being asked to walk away from this opening in the fence, to keep looking for God’s promises in your current pasture after years of faithful but fruitless waiting, feels like agony. It’s the last thing you want to hear.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:3-5, 9, 10)
Jesus offers life. In every area of our lives. Human love wasn’t designed to be a perfect fairy tale, but it was still designed to be pretty amazing (a truth sometimes withheld from over-eager singles, but I digress…). Our desires are actually not that far removed from God’s intentions.
But we must never be deceived about where we will find this life.
We find it by following the voice of our Shepherd. Life is not found in any other pasture, no matter how appealing it looks.
This is the seismic shift that occurs when we view God’s instructions, not as a “should”, but as a “must”. They are for our good.
Satan offered Jesus shortcuts. He promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping him. It looked good. But if Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, we know we shouldn’t be trusting appearances.
Jesus chose the Father’s path. For three years he was rejected, scorned, and ultimately killed. He had every reason to pull chocks and get out of there, from a human perspective.
But God honored his humility and his patience. Jesus rose from the dead. And now we can follow his voice, which speaks across even the desert: “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:9).
I’ve never been married. But I do know something you might not. I know what your current pasture looks like for those you leave behind.
Beware of mirages, wanderer. I know things are tough. But you will find no life in breaking your vows. From where you stand, relief and love seem to beckon. But as a child of divorce, I can tell you that the reality is pain, confusion, and loss.
To the single who’s been waiting a lifetime, knows God’s promises, and just don’t want to bear it one day more and now there’s a prospect offering an end – you can. You can hold on. It might indeed be only one more day. Saul gave up on God while his answer was literally walking up the other side of the hill (1 Samuel 15).
God’s way always brings the more desirable outcome. Yes, even if you never receive the breakthrough you seek, even if the God-approved or God-rescued marriage never arrives in this life. More desirable than letting your feelings carry you into a relationship with that unbeliever, no matter how nice he or she is. More desirable than even a few short weeks of bliss with that lacking partner. The chaos on the other side isn’t worth it.
The only true life to be found is right where he’s called you to be.
You are not a slave to your feelings. What a horrible thought – a life spent violently jerked to and fro by emotions generated from who knows what. If you knuckle under, who’s to say you won’t arrive at this opening in the fence again? You never thought you’d see it the first time, either.
Thank goodness Jesus offers his voice to guide us instead.
I pray he opens your ears to hear. His life awaits.
Image credit: Pauline Eccles