twenty seven: dear hidden heart

This year I have been surprised by the kindness of God through the gift of a most-sweet love. Who would have thought, especially in the midst of the pandemic? As one who has walked through a prolonged season of hiddenness, these months have rendered me in awe and gratefulness. And so here I pen my own recollection of the pain of loneliness, and the faithfulness of God, with hopes to encourage other with hearts that long.

These months I have had the privilege of sitting with many dear friends with deep, longing hearts. Listening to their hopes, their pain, have both brought me to grief and gladness of heart—grief at the realness of their sorrows, and gladness at how even our broken lives can remain to be a testimony of the sufficiency of God.

The particular pain that comes with longings of companionship is real. I myself have felt the anguish that would creep in, at the most unexpected of nights, even sobbing myself to sleep at the haunting loneliness.

Personally, the longing dug deeper as time progressed. Where time would heal in other circumstances, in this case it served as a ticking reminder of my own discontentment. Each well-intentioned inquiry, and witnessing others progress through every new milestone in their lives, would again and again prod at my own wanting heart.

I knew that God never promises us a spouse. And so, should it not be the will of God to give my hand to another—I must humbly accept my lot. But my silent plea had been, “Lord, the road ahead is lonely. Won’t You send another for the journey?”

after the Father’s heart

Countless times I’ve been told, “perhaps you’re too particular.” But singular was my non-negotiable: that the man shall be one after the Father’s heart.

[He must] ask of You, submissively—
For I shall submit to none,
But him who has wholeheartedly
Resigned to You alone.
(taken from a poem I wrote on July 29, 2019).

(I am not here to discount the many honorable men—brothers—I know who fervently live for Christ. There are many of them whom I hold to high esteem.)

For what I believed reflected the Father’s heart in relationships recapitulates Christ and the Church. I am a big believer of male headship in the home (Eph. 5:23). Growing up witnessing my own parents live out their marriage in mutual service and respect, yet honoring the roles God has assigned to husband and wife, made me yearn likewise. Yet fears crept in as I saw my own circumstances, and the positions of leadership entrusted in my hands.

Surely I knew that the woman’s call to submission was not dependent on the “dominance” of the man. But I feared my own fleshliness, that might render me unable to learn humility in submission. For far too easy would it be to outwardly obey, yet inwardly resent. But does God not demand obedience from the heart?

Furthermore, I feared that His entrustment of leadership and “power” to me would mean either one of two things: that it might attract the power-hungry, and repel those who sought a life of cross-shaped self-denial. And surely, the latter was whom my heart longed for: the man who would forsake all worldly treasures and pleasures in pursuit of the Father’s heart. A man who resembled Christ, who, though very God, took upon flesh, to serve mankind (Phil. 2:17).

So there were times that I’d ask God to take them away. But even so, my heart was torn. For it was not just the leadership roles assigned at work, but various missions work that God had tugged at my heart to start. My conviction had been to despise idleness and to follow. For obedience to good works was what, I believed, running after the Father’s heart entailed (James 4:17).

But through it all, I cannot deny, that I, too, would often fear that my commitment to laboring in the field of the Lord would mean missed opportunities at finding companionship. Was I too much? Too passionate? Too idealistic about the world?

The temptations to abandon my post were real. I wanted to trust in the Father’s heart, but fears continued to shadow my faith.

my heart, the Father’s

And these fears made me hide myself all the more. Contrary to the advice given to “put [myself] out there,” and being intentional about meeting “potential” others, I instead buried myself under what I believed to be the work of my King. This had become my coping mechanism. I would run away at any hint of romantic advances. And though family and friends had encouraged me to open my heart up, it was a difficult ask, as neither courage nor love can be forged.

So even as I continued to live a very public life through my work and through my ministry, this department remained, unto myself and others, a much-resented mystery. In my weeping behind closed doors, my prayer and hope would simply echo this:

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
(1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)

And so I resolved. That I would hide my heart in the safekeeping of the Father’s hands. That at times that I longed for companionship a little deeper, I’d flee my own passions, and run to Him to whom my whole life belongs.

The anthem of my heart, in the season, especially, had been the old hymn, which had been an anchor in times I found myself wanting: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”

For though my actions seemed counter-productive to my own longings for companionship, I did not want to take matters into my own hands, for I do not trust myself. I am not my own. And so each time that I’d find my heart yearning, I would immediately, and even unkindly, strive to beat it to submission yet again.

So let me be accountable to You, Lord. That my thoughts may not wander far away from You. Especially not to the territories of forbidden love. May the anchoring of my heart not be in even the sweetest figures that the world is able to offer. But in the sweet praises of Your Name. (Journal, September 14, 2018)

Oh, but the Lord is kinder to us than us to ourselves. He hears even the silent wishes I had not dared to bring before my Maker. For little did I know, in giving my heart to the Father, I would instead be met with the Father’s heart. A heart that delights in bestowing good gifts to His children. A heart that loves us deeply as He pens our stories and weave them into His.

found in my hiddenness

The reason why I am writing this at all, as my reflection of my 27th year as a sojourner in this world—a sojourner on an uphill trek towards the City of God, when I would see Him, whom my soul loves, face to face—is because this year, I cannot help but exult Him for His kind, unmerited, provision.

I was not searching. Neither was I waiting to be found. Far too often the term used to describe the single woman has been, “lady in waiting,” (as though waiting becomes our only task; oh, but even in our waiting, we are called to faithful labor!) but at that point, circumstances (the pandemic and the need for social isolation) had dulled my longings—I was no longer hopeful nor expectant.

But then, he came along.

A fellow sojourner, who had, in his hands, his own set of shovel and fork, ploughing through the field where my hands had, too, been toiling.

I can’t help but recall the story of Adam and Eve. Where God would tell Adam to “work the ground and keep it,” and to obey His command, before He would put the man to a deep sleep, and provided for him a helper for the work He has assigned (Gen. 2:4-25). We also know of the story of Ruth, who simply sought to be faithful to love and serve her mother in law, Naomi, but who found herself working in the field of her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz (Ruth 2).

We read about these stories all throughout Scripture, but when it comes to our own lives…truth be told, I was hesitant to believe it. I was skeptical that God could, and would, be bothered with my petty love story.

Oh, but is He not a God in the details?

after my heart

However, I shall not go into the details, for my hopes are not so that others may covet nor compare our love stories. I believe our Master Storyteller crafts the most beautiful of romances, for they are to testify of the love of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

I also do not wish to be presumptuous. For before we make our vows before the Lord and His church, we must humbly speak of our relationship, preceded by the posture and phrase: “God-willing.”

Rather, my hopes in writing this, is that I may share with others of my own hopelessness and my own unbelief, and the Lord’s hand and faithfulness in it all. Trust that He has not forgotten His writing pen. He is orchestrating it all, even as our eyes can’t see it.

For if you had asked me a year ago, if I believed I would be met with such a sweet love—I would have told you that I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

But these months of growing in being known and being loved have been a well of deep joy. What has been all the more rewarding has been how we are both on the same singular pursuit towards Christ and His righteousness, so that we may now labor side by side in His field.

Oh, I cannot ask for more. For this is a man who is not only after my heart, but after the Father’s, too.

my heart, still His

These days my prayers have been filled with thankfulness and a plea for the many single brothers and sisters that God has placed in my life. I pray that should the Lord bestow upon them the gift of companionship, they may, too, be met with such a love. A love that is both passionate and pure, and is single-minded in the fervent pursuit of God.

  • I pray that God would be the one to keep their hearts, when they cannot see that He is still (read: always!) working behind the scenes.
  • I pray that they may learn faithfulness as they seek to labor and toil unto Him, even in their “seasons of waiting.”
  • And I pray that, should He desire to send them a partner, that God may send a colaborer for the task He assigns, a sojourner for the path He sets out.

If you are single and reading this today, this is my prayer for you.

For the particular pain that comes with longings of companionship is real. Though in our minds we know of contentment, the heart yearns and wanders. And in those times, as I wrestled through the years, I had to tell and retell my heart of the truth of the Gospel. That even as I prayed, “the road ahead is lonely. Won’t You send another for the journey?”

The truth is: God has never left me alone.

Yet the stubborn heart often wishes for God’s intervention. In one of my low moments of profound loneliness, I recall having penned a song to God, “keep me, Lord, for I have no strength to hold You. Keep me, now, from straying too far. Keep me, Lord, that I’d find myself beholding You—keep me from lesser loves.”

For to lesser loves we continue to run. Lesser loves continue to entice. And even now, as I am met with a love so sweet, a love that constantly beckons me heavenwards, and brings me to praise my God—this, still, remains my prayer, my plea: that neither one of us shall “place our trust in the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.”

So dear hidden heart, know that there is always only One. Who shall be your Truest Love, your Fount of Joy. Him who fills us, All in All, and who sits with you in your hiddenness. In times of wanting, longing, yearning—press on, seek His face always. Know that your time in hiding shall find utmost consolation in the company of the Almighty who knows you by name, who bestows good gifts to His children, and who: in keeping you, is most able to keep another, for the journey ahead, should He, in His infinite wisdom, desire to bestow—in His own timeline and in His own ways, to the praise of His glorious Name.

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