Sometimes I try to trick God when I pray.
Father, I want to know your love more fully. Marriage can be a beautiful picture of the gospel. Wink. Wink. The love between man and wife should mirror the love between Christ and His Church. Maybe you could send a man into my life so that I could have the opportunity to experience your love on a deeper level. Amen.
I’m sure He laughed.
Then He answered my prayer—but kind of like the way a loving father would give his child an apple for a snack instead of the whole chocolate cake for which she actually asked.
I was selfish and short-sighted. I felt lonely and like an outcast, so I wanted a man to step into my life and love me and show me how valuable I was.
God in His infinite wisdom knew a man would never fulfill those longings in my heart, and it would be wrong to put such high expectations on another human just as flawed and broken as me.
But God did send a man into my life. A great man who was funny and kind and outgoing. He challenged me to be better and brought me out of the safety of my little introvert shell.
We were friends and nothing more.
That was fine in the beginning because I knew he was nothing like the man I always pictured myself falling for (it’s like I’d never read any Jane Austen book). But as I got to know him more, I quickly realized he would mean more to me than I would ever mean to him.
I was right. He never loved me, and early on in our friendship, I forced myself to stop hoping that he ever would. Well, at least I tried to stop hoping for that.
I began praying God would take my feelings for this guy away. But it seemed after every prayer, I’d have a conversation with him and learn something about him that would make me like him more. I’d prayed that prayer about other guys before, and God had answered quickly. My heart was confused as to why this time was different.
Circumstances made it impossible to cut him out of my life completely, and in seeking wisdom from God in how to continue the relationship, I felt that He was still calling me to be this man’s friend.*
So I stayed his friend and we hung out and laughed and talked about our dreams and had fun. But then when I got home, the tears came because I was such a small part of his world while he was shaping mine.
Months had gone by and God still wasn’t taking my feelings for him away, and being his friend continued to be equivalent of running my heart up and down a cheese grater.
I kept reminding myself that God was good and sovereign and faithful, but I was so weary and tired of feeling this pain day in and day out. Can I also just admit here that I simply felt embarrassed that a guy was causing me so much grief.
Frustrated and at the end of my own strength, I called out to God with the kind of candor only a desperate heart can muster:
Do you have any idea how much it hurts to care for someone so much and have him look right through you? My happiness is tangled up with his, and his sadness breaks my heart. But I feel like if I disappeared from his life, he wouldn’t even notice. He doesn’t see me. Do you know what it’s like to be so insignificant to someone who is so significant to you?
My tears flowed freely because without any condemnation, God simply enveloped me in his love and whispered, “Yes, Sarah. I know.”
He delights to bring me joy in His presence. My tears break his heart. And most days, I look right through Him to temporary pleasures I believe will bring me more happiness.
My feeble little mind will never fully understand the scandalous love of the God who holds the world in His hands and still gave up everything to ransom my soul and win my heart.
I prayed to go further into the depths of this reckless love thinking it would cost me nothing.
God answered my prayer knowing it would cost me greatly.
Love cost God everything, and He willingly paid the high cost. He gave up heaven for a season and His own life so He could love me forever. He never asks us to walk through anything He hasn’t already walked through Himself.
So my prayers began to change from, “God, please take these feelings away.” to “God, I still don’t want to feel this way, but I trust you and your timing. Please don’t let my pain be wasted. Let it send me deeper into your heart. Give me strength and patience to endure and not grow bitter.”
My circumstances didn’t change immediately, but my heart did.
Caring deeply for someone who has so many other things and people to keep him happy gave me a tiny glimpse into the heart of my Father who yearns jealously for my heart because He knows He’s the only One who can satisfy it. Now the analogy can’t be stretched too far here because it would be foolish to think that I could bring ultimate joy or fulfillment to anyone—only God can do that.
I began to recognize that by not loving me, this guy actually propelled me out of my complacency and into a deeper understanding of God’s love. My belief of his indifference daily sent me running to my God for comfort and peace and strength.
While God’s love knows no end, caring like this for a man who is not my husband must be temporary—even though in my heartache, it certainly felt like forever to me.
For a season, God invited me to experience the great joy and pain of loving someone while expecting nothing in return. Which is kind of the whole point of love, but I had never experienced love like this before because all my friends and family had always reciprocated my love. This unselfish love that He cultivated through many tears, by His grace, still grows in my heart and now affects all my relationships.
This unselfish love unlocked deeper mysteries of God’s great love for me. And His love growing in my heart has defeated bitterness and cast out many fears.
I would have never prayed for unrequited love and don’t particularly want to experience it again, but in the pain, God saw me and met me and sustained me.
In His wisdom, God is sneakier in how He answers my prayers than I am in how I pray them. He didn’t send me a man to love me; He sent me a man to love me not so that He could be the Hero of my heart and love me more completely and fully than I had ever known before.
*Disclaimer: Let me explain that this was never an abusive relationship. From the beginning, he was always just my friend and a good friend. He never even acted like he wanted to be more than friends or led me on. He was certainly never abusive to me physically or emotionally. It was just your cliché girl has crush on her guy friend and he’s completely oblivious situation. If you are in an abusive relationship either emotionally or physically, you need to seek help and get out. Those are not relationships God calls us to endure.