Cleaning the kitchen, I stood with the phone cradled between my left shoulder and ear so I could keep my hands free for the mess. I was chatting with my sister-in-law about everything and nothing as the conversation slowly turned to ‘the guys’. We are married to brothers so there are plenty of eye rolling moments that we share (behind their backs of course and occasionally in their presence too). This was a more serious conversation, though.
My sis( I like this better than the whole –in-law thing) is at least ten years older than I am, maybe more-I don’t keep count because it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we, occasionally, carry on like children, laugh until it hurts, and can talk about anything. After the age of 50, that can mean EVERYthing. I especially love it when we get down to the nitty-gritty of spiritual matters. We are very different here but agree on the most basic and important facts.
Our talk turned to value and more specifically why we have a hard time feeling special or important which also led to discussing our relationships with ‘the guys’. Sis shared that she had come home from church troubled and her hubs noticed she looked sad. She, being wiser than I, told him it was a sit-down discussion for an undistracted time. I probably would have rushed right in and dumped. She did open up to me though and I could feel every painful word.
She wondered why she just didn’t feel all that special; how she knows she belongs to Christ and should find her value in that truth but deep down feels something entirely different. Where does this ‘less than’ feeling come from in the presence of the fullness we believe comes from Him? Where is the disconnect between our intrinsic knowledge/understanding and something we feel? My first reaction was to tell here it was because we are human. I quickly followed this up with because of our husbands and how they ‘are’ (she knew exactly what I meant). Good sis that she is, she let me fill in the quiet space that followed with an explanation.
As girls, we grow up longing to be adored, desired, and woo-ed. To feel special, no, more than special, to the one someone that will fill the length of our days and the gaps in our broken places. I think this ends up being the standard we measure most relationships with, in one way or another. We have this ideal that we hold in front of us, and pursue, because we see (or think we see) that it exists when we hear other people talk about their relationships with supportive, doting and emotionally connected spouses. So, of course, this is what we will have too. Right? With this vision of what relationship is supposed to look like, we go through life waiting for it to come along.
I should give you a little more background. Our husbands are the low on the emotive scale, stoic, frugal, practical, Dutch reformed sort. Ironically, they are both married to creative, artistic, fun-loving, and a little bit nutty sort of women who, I might add, challenge them on a regular basis. My sis and I both possess a deep need to feel loved. Being loved and feeling loved are different-let’s face it-we know we are loved-it just doesn’t always feel that way. Add to the mix that the difference between ‘the guys’ spiritual lives and ours and it can get pretty harry once in a while.
There is a crossover that happens between the daily life we lead, the deeper spiritual life we long for and the perception of what we think these should look and feel like. I won’t say this is everyone’s experience because that would take a tremendous amount of hubris. Neither am I not going to say it is uncommon. I have talked to plenty of other women who struggle with the feeling/knowing conundrum to know that this is real.
At some point in the last ten years, I came to a place where my struggle with this conundrum had to end. It haunted my days and heart and I needed to make a decision. Either I believed or I didn’t. I had to choose the struggle itself or to surrender to something I just couldn’t understand. I wish I could say I had a strong grasp on scripture memory but I don’t. It wasn’t a part of my growing up and it’s a discipline-like remembering people’s names-I simply don’t have in my DNA. So, when scripture suddenly recalls itself to me I pay attention. I paid attention when Hebrews 11:1 sprang up in the midst of the dust bowl of doubt I had been sitting in.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Faith. Faith in the middle of the unknown, in the questions, the journey along the edges of the path that sometimes leads into the brush of confusion. Faith. Hebrews provides a litany of ‘by faith’, it stories out how our predecessors walked and lived ‘by faith’. By faith Abel, by faith Enoch, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and the list continues on. All they accomplished, in obedience, was by faith. Not because they had the answers in front of them. They didn’t and they didn’t receive them this side of heaven.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised. Hebrews 11:39
Here’s the rub-we are human. Fallibly and wholly human. What the head and heart know can often conflict and when feelings are involved the intensity is ramped up to be sure. Our head tells us that we know we are loved and valued in Christ. That his love for each and every one of us ran so deep that He gave up everything for us. This head knowledge should sustain us through anything. Our hearts grasp this too but hearts can be fickle things.
We also have a tendency to equate our heavenly relationships with the earthly. We look to our spouses to feel desired, special, cared for, fulfilled and when that doesn’t happen we have a relationship crisis and when we place these same expectations on our God we develop a faith crisis. We, in this human condition, can struggle with our value in Christ because we see it in the tangible terms of an earthly example instead of one heaven bound and greater than physical bonds. In our fallibility we long to have it all when what we really need to do is have faith.
Remember the giants of the Old Testament? They hadn’t received the redeemer yet. They had faith to trust that he would come, and being human too, they probably longed for him to come in their numbered days, but that didn’t diminish their faith. It wasn’t easy for them, they were stoned, sawn in half, flogged, jailed, persecuted and died not seeing what was to come. BUT. I love that there is usually a but. BUT, though they didn’t get what had been promised, it was because…
… God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:40
Those of the OT who lived by faith lived by a different faith. They were looking ahead to the coming of the messiah, for a redemption that required an immense faith. We have received that redemption. We have the promise they only hoped for, only had the faith to look towards. We can, in confidence, live by a faith that carries both the generations of believers who only had the hope of Christ’s coming and the knowledge that he will return for everyone. Because it is ‘only together’ that we will all be made perfect. While it would be great to have all the great feels I think I need to feel in order to feel whole and loved I really only need to know that God has something better planned for me, for us, and that living by faith, one deeply rooted in a knowledge of the Christ our ancestors only hoped for, I can be fulfilled in a different BUT better way.
BUT, that doesn’t let ‘the guys’ off the hook when it comes to buying flowers for us once in a while…