I checked my watch for the tenth time in five minutes, worried that the little time I had was going to run out too quickly. The minute hand hadn’t seemed to budge. Relieved, I returned to my book, skimming the pages for pertinent parts, trying to absorb whole paragraphs instead of individual words. I was sitting on the couch facing the fireplace in a Christian bookstore called Northwestern. I had made the trek from my house in southeast Minneapolis over to Roseville for the sole purpose of reading this book—Captivating by John and Staci Eldridge.
A couple months earlier, I had read one chapter of the book at Barnes and Noble located in the same strip mall. That one chapter had brought me so close to tears, I had to close the book, abandon it on an end table, and leave the store. The view of Christ that I went home with that night began to change my life.
I’ve always had a hard time with abstract ideas. I’m a concrete-solid thinker, as my friend Melody would say. I like physics and geometry, formulas I can get my hands on. I hate calculus and the intangible concept of infinity. I’m sure I wouldn’t be very good at logic either. So when I heard a concept like “Christ is everything I ever need,” I couldn’t quite put my mind around it.
“Christ is better than _______.” I knew I should have been able to fill in the blank with the word “everything.” With things like my career, my grades, my looks, and my friends, my mind and heart believed that, indeed, Christ was better than them. I did not have trouble putting those things into the “everything” category.
But when it came to love—that was a different story. “Christ is better than marriage” seemed to be the most preposterous statement I have ever heard. Another way to phrase the same ludicrous idea would have been to say, “I consider marriage a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In my heart, I knew that that statement should be true for me. I should have been able to it with all honesty and the full support of my entire being.
But I couldn’t.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of my knight in shining armor–and as a result, I’ve always liked boys. Unlike my female kindergarten counterparts, I never thought boys had cooties. I had my first kiss on the lips in kindergarten, underneath the table below the bulletin boards covered in pre-cut letters and brightly patterned borders. My future classmates held that I kissed another boy by the cubby holes. But I deny that accusation to this day.
In fourth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Robbins, had us make a book of different stories complete with drawings. While other kids told stories about their families and outdoor adventures involving the playground, my stories were a little different. One of my stories went like this: “One day, Jay and Jill went for a walk. They loved each other. When they were two, they kissed and hugged each other. They pretended that they were husband and wife. They took baths together. They slept together. They liked the same foods. They wanted to get married. The end! P.S. They did get married!”
Another story read: “Lisa was in love. She was in love with Jay. Jay hated Lisa. Lisa wanted to marry Jay, but Jay didn’t like her. He thought she was ugly. She was very pretty though. She had long hair. She loved only one boy and that was Jay. She and Jay got married. The end!”
More than being laughable stories from a child’s creative imagination, those stories show that I was born with an innate desire for companionship and marriage.
I always had a crush. After my kindergarten escapades, I held a boy’s hand in first grade. The boy I liked was a short, smart boy with short, blonde hair. We were both incessantly teased for holding hands by everyone else in our class who was still passing through the “cootie” stage of life.
Later on in my elementary school career, I liked a tall, awkward-looking boy. I went to his house for his birthday party, where we played outside in the backyard and then made tambourines in his kitchen by stapling together two paper plates and filling them with dried corn and birdseed. He also came over to my house once and we lie down on the top bunk of my bunk bed. My mom came and told us to get down.
During the humid Minnesota summers, I was constantly daydreaming about the boy of my dreams. I passed the three hours it took to mow our lawn on a riding lawnmower by talking to myself, imagining that I was talking to him. I watched movies and pretended that he was there holding me. I kissed pillows and saved one side of my twin-sized bed for imaginary Romeo, bound to arrive any second. I slept with my huge bunny rabbit, pretending that he was a real person, and trying not to notice that he was only as big as my torso.
And of course, my Romeo always knew exactly what I desired. When I was bored with watching TV, he showed up at my doorstep, wanting to go on an outdoor adventure with me for the rest of the day. When I was sick and lying on the couch, he brought me chicken noodle soup and spoke tender words while stroking my forehead.
Naturally, I repaid the favor. Whenever I went to the kitchen for a cookie or a glass of milk, I got him one too. Then I’d look the other way while I ate both cookies or drank both glasses. He never knew the difference.
I had an overwhelming desire to grow up. My head was constantly in the clouds, thinking “Oh, what if…” and wishing that I had a boyfriend, someone to share things with.
Offering that desire up to the Lord, then, was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. It was a portion of myself that seemed so crucial to my identity and being. But I couldn’t escape the Truth: Christ is better than love.
Walking out of Barnes and Noble after reading Captivating that first night, my concept of love had been revolutionized. I realized that all the images and sayings of romantic love that always made me wistful applied to my relationship with the Lord. He is my soul-mate, the One who I can’t live without. He is my reason for breathing and He gives my life meaning; He completes me. But more than that, He desires intimacy with me. He knows how to love me perfectly, in every way that I desire to be loved. He creates warm summer nights filled with the sound of crickets and big, fluffy, white clouds just for me—because He knows how much I love them.
God is the Ultimate Romancer.
How had I missed it? The one thing that I desired most I hadn’t dared include in the “everything”category. “Surely Christ can’t fulfill my longing for passionate, romantic love. That’s just not His deal,” I thought. So instead of trusting my heart to Christ, I clung to my desire for marriage, hoped in it, longed for it. All the while, the epitome of romantic love was being offered to me.
The night I sat reading Captivating in Northwestern bookstore, I had needed reassurance of God’s passionate, romantic love for me. Going to a book for such a thing had been a typical occurrence for me. A problem-solver at heart, I was always looking for the answers to my problems. I wanted to fix things and not wait for help. When I felt a certain emotion, I wanted to know why. And if I wanted to feel something else, I wanted to know how to get there.
The answer I was seeking in that book was to the question of why I was so attached to marriage, why my heart was always wrenched with a physically numbing pain each time my then-boyfriend, Travis, and I talked about our future. I wanted to give up my life to the Lord. But I couldn’t. I prayed and read my Bible. But my heart still raced with fear. I wanted answers.
I read the first half of the book quickly, skimming until I came across a part that I thought might contain the answer, the thing to help me sort through the jumbled mess in my head. My eyes stopped when I read the following description of myself:
“Fallen Eve controls her relationships. She refuses to be vulnerable. And if she cannot secure her relationships, then she kills her heart’s longing for intimacy so that she will be safe and in control. She becomes a woman ‘who doesn’t need anyone—especially a man.’ How this plays out over the course of her life and how the wounds of her childhood shape her heart’s convictions are often a complex story, one worth knowing. But beneath it all, behind it all, is a simple truth: women dominate and control because they fear their vulnerability. Far from God and far from Eden, it seems a perfectly reasonable way to live. But consider also this: ‘Whatever is not from faith is sin.’ That self-protective way of relating to others has nothing to do with real loving, and nothing to do with deeply trusting God. It is our gut-level response to a dangerous world.”
The world “vulnerability” stood out from the rest and raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I felt vulnerable just thinking about vulnerability. And I knew at that instant that I had stumbled upon the answer: fear.
I was terrified of exposing my heart to the thrills and dangers of love. If I let myself love Travis deeply and we didn’t end up getting married, I was setting myself up for a broken heart. And I had promised myself that I would never put myself in that position, never feel that pain again. I never wanted the man I loved the most on earth to abandon me and leave me shivering in the chilling winds of loneliness and despair.
So I wanted my relationship with Travis to be certain. If it wasn’t certain, I wanted out.
At least, Fallen Eve wanted out.