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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12

I have a headache tonight and am tired.  I’ve been tired for a long time. I am weary.  Its been a long three years.  More than three years ago we decided to move to a neighborhood that is different from what most people find appealing.  A little over two years ago we began the process to adopt from Uganda.  A year and a half ago we finally got a contract on our townhouse and moved out (to get to the new neighborhood) but after moving into an apartment the contract fell through and we were stuck.  Then we found renters for the townhouse and a smaller house in the new neighborhood.  A little over a year ago we began self-renovating the house that is not pretty and was really disgusting after being inhabited by squatters.  Then we were sick for about three months and then we got our referral for our new baby in Uganda.  We traveled to Uganda in August and endured some of the hardest weeks of my life.  We came home and after settling back in, we began the life of a homeschooling family which looks nothing like the cool, achieving and impressive life I had in mind when I graduated from Vanderbilt.  So here I am, in a hotel room alone, and just cried one of those from the chest cries that is so blubbery you can’t even blow your nose for relief.

I’ve been trying to dig and understand what the idol of my heart is that keeps robbing my joy and peace.  What idol am I replacing God with that leaves me so angry at the little things in my house and so weary in my weeks?  What sin was filtering my experience in Uganda that made it so hard, when others fall so in love with it that they return over and over?  And tonight, in the midst of those tears, I think my Wonderful Counselor may have shown me it actually hasn’t been the idols of power and control as I suspected nor has it been a great sin of mine.  The deep desire of my heart is that I want to be loved.  I know that sounds lame or cliche or just said so often that it is meaningless, but tonight, it was a profound and slightly embarrassing truth.  When my cookies get eaten by the dog, that makes me feel unloved or like my special treat isn’t worth preserving or respecting.  When our house gets trashed, furniture scratched or stained or ripped, it makes me feel trashed, scratched and ripped.  And when I was in Uganda, bringing a former orphan into her forever family, I felt like an orphan, left alone to survive.

I know that God promises never to leave me nor forsake me, that He promises that nothing can separate me from His love in Jesus and that He loves me with an everlasting love.  But knowing isn’t the same as believing.  I’m a perfectionist.  It is much easier for a perfectionist to see sin, to acknowledge shortcomings and even to unequivocally claim, “Its not about me!” than it is to believe “It is finished!”  My anger, my weariness, my critical spirit and judgment aren’t about idols after all.  They are about unbelief.  I do not believe it is finished but am continuing, like Macbeth, to keep scrubbing out that damned spot.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  Romans 3:21-26

I want to be justified through my membership in the Westminster community, a community of scholars and leaders by which my children are given credibility as “insiders”.  This association makes me feel more definably lovable or worthy of love.  I want to be justified by writing and am looking for love to be demonstrated to me by “followers”.  As the two of you who read this can attest, that is a weight neither of you can possible carry.  I think I’ll feel more loved if I can be up on stage teaching others.  I think I feel more loved if I am better known.  I think I’ll be more loved if I am more clearly seen.  I am still striving to be loved and lovable.  I am still searching for affection in the deepest parts of me.  It is this deep need to be loved that provokes anger when one more item that I like in our home is disregarded, when a good friend is silent for months on end, when the followers or rsvps aren’t enough to justify my efforts, or when I’m not asked to lead or speak or share or even participate.  It is the unbelief in my heart that is at the heart of my sinful responses.  None of those things were, are or ever will be capable of loving me in the deep, knowing and accepting way of parent retrieving their child from time in a nursery.  None of those people, places or things will ever stand with arms outstretched, an affectionate and warm expression on their faces and the welcoming embrace that the toddler sees at that nursery door after being left alone for what feels like an eternity.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:2-4

God knows.  He sees.  He understands.  He appreciates.  He cares.  He is interested.  He is delighted.  He isn’t looking for perfectionism from me because He’s already gotten that from His Son.  He is satisfied.  He is well pleased.  He cherishes.  He embraces.  He loves.  And He loves me.  Can anything refresh my soul better than that?  And if He can refresh my soul with this truth, if He will convince my heart of its truth, if He gives me faith to believe more than just know, how might I then begin to love my children throughout the day, particularly on Monday mornings?  How might I begin to respond to broken dining room chairs and ripped curtains?  How might I change my disposition toward homeschooling and be freed from my need to impress others or seem cool and superior to them?  If I quit looking to anything and everything other than God for the deep love that fuels life, oh what abundant life I might then be able to offer to others!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Cor. 13:4-12

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