The slogan on this graphic reads:
“Only God can give you the love you’re looking for, and only God can give you the person that loves Him enough to deserve you. “
It was posted by someone called Trent Shelton, whose page on Facebook is available here and whose organisation, RehabTime Organization, is available here.
Disclaimer: Before seeing this graphic, I had never heard of Trent Shelton. I cannot categorically endorse his ministry because I have not had time to truly evaluate it. However I have had a brief scan over his page and Facebook profile, and on the strength of that who he is and what he is saying seem to be biblically and spiritually authentic and legitimate.
So I recently came across this graphic on Facebook. When I read it, its message immediately resonated with me. In fact, I assumed that it had originated from a woman, because so many of these relationship messages on social media are directed at women, and are dreamt up by other women to encourage them to hold out for God’s best.
“Only God can give you the love that you are looking for.” How deeply true this statement is. And yet how easy it is to lose that understanding. This is part of the reason that I like this particular meme so much. This first sentence articulates so well something that is so important. When your heart is yearning for intimacy and friendship and understanding and acceptance and everything else that one can dream of in love, it is so easy to start looking longingly not at God but rather at the potential spouses that you wish to provide that. However these people, as lovely as they might be, are not going to be able to provide that love in and of themselves. Ultimately it is going to come from God. I need to remember that. I need to keep going back to God. I need to make sure that my eyes and heart remain focused on Him. I need to trust Him that He will choose a handsome and holy servant of His as an instrument to use to grant me this love, even as He will use me as an instrument to love this servant of His in return.
I sometimes find it easy to forget that God is the ultimate source of the deep love that I am looking for because God Himself is not going to physically give me a hug, is He? Jesus is not going to return to earth just to stare dreamily into my eyes. And yet God made marriage. He made it to be good. He delights in everything good and beautiful about marriage, and if I have a good and beautiful marriage, it will definitely be because He has granted it as a gift. So He is the true source of the kind of beautiful love that I am looking for. I guess it’s fair to say that I have been focusing on the instrument (the man) rather than on the God who is the source of the love. So this meme is a timely reminder to stop focusing on the imperfect instrument that God might use to grant me this kind of love, and focus instead on the God who is the true source of it all. This also means that I can be more open-minded regarding whichever instrument or man that God will choose to use in this way.
“Only God can give you the person that loves Him enough to deserve you.“
This was the clause that really spoke to me in the above meme, and yet the phrasing is a little difficult. Once again it manages to articulate something that I have been trying to express in various ways for so long on this blog. And yet talk of “deserving” another person romantically always makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
This is why I love the statement: because it manages to get across the idea that someone’s suitability in marriage will be determined by their love for God. If I could have told the honest truth to various men who have previously expressed a romantic interest in me, this is what I would have told them, that they simply did not love God enough for me to truly consider them as serious marital prospects for myself. There are a few aspects to this:
1. Thinking in a self-protective way: after being around these men, it was very easy to deduce that they were moved primarily by their own selfish desires, rather than by a desire to please God. It did not take much imagination to envisage that in marriage that would be the pattern that would continue; that they would continue to act in just whatever way that pleased them, rather than having any true regard for me as their wife, or my feelings, or whatever they might be “supposed” to do Biblically speaking. All of this is down to the level of love that they had for God, and the level of commitment that they showed to Him, and to His word. In short, thinking in the most self-protective terms, they simply did not love God enough to make them good marital options for me. Or to put it another way, sometimes as Christians we do things not because we ourselves desperately want to do these things, but simply because God commands it. Sometimes every natural inclination we have is screaming to do something completely different, yet we eventually do not what our hearts are crying for, but rather what we do not want to do, because God says so.
From my observation of these men, they lacked this level of obedience to God. In these difficult situations, they would simply have gone ahead to do whatever their inclinations were telling them to do. It is simply not a safe place for me to put myself at the mercy of anyone’s selfish desires for a lifetime.
2. “Deserving you”. While I wince at this phrasing, I have to admit that it kinda does also make sense. As if it is not bad enough that these men were insufficiently committed to God, what makes it worse is that I truly am committed to God, by God’s grace. This means that I am committed to treating people (like a future husband) well, even when they treat me badly. I honestly think that that was a large part of the reason why these men were interested in me, because they could sense the wholeheartedness of my commitment, and they looked forward to being able to win for themselves my lifelong hundred percent while “blessing” me with their zero percent in return – for a lifetime.
This is where the notion of “deserving” comes in. Someone who is not sufficiently committed simply does not deserve the level of my commitment. It is just not fair that I should be giving 100% in marriage in return for someone’s zero percent. I would not be happy about that. I would complain endlessly, if only in prayer to God. I don’t want to spend my marriage complaining, so as far as is possible I am going to avoid putting myself in such a situation with such a person. Such a person should go and take their committedlessness* to someone who is as uncommitted as their are, so that they can fully “enjoy” one another’s self-centredness to the fullest extent, in a thoroughly equal way. On the other hand, you could say that there are equally men whose levels of spiritual commitment I simply do not deserve. And yet speaking personally, by the grace of God I can honestly say that I am fully committed to spiritual growth in every way. I sincerely pursue it with my whole heart. So if indeed there is something who could legitimately have found me wanting, my aim always is to learn from that situation, to grow, to correct those defects in myself, so that by the time the next person comes along, I will be utterly outstanding in that area. I honestly believe that the question of spiritual commitment is not only about how much you have attained, but also about how willing you are to keep growing, to keep evaluating yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep pushing, striving and battling forward, while saying “More like Jesus!” – and meaning it.
And yet talk of “deserving” someone else still immediately makes me cringe. This is the reason why: because of the way I have previously seen this phrase or idea being used. I am a very big believer in the fact that as human beings we all have the same inherent worth and value. The way I have seen this phrase, or similar ideas, used in the past, would be to suggest that other people are of inherently less worth than others, and simply because of who X has been from birth, he or she is inherently of less worth than Y, and therefore could never “deserve” Y. No matter how hard X tries. No matter how hard X pursues God. This is why my thinking is different. It is not as if these uncommitted men are inherently of less worth or value than I am. It is “simply” that they have not made the same amount of effort as I have. If at any time any of them decided to embrace true commitment and pursuit of God, then suddenly they would be more than eligible! And this commitment is open and available to all of us. Any of us can choose at any time to say “I am going to live for God!” And yet for me, it has to be sincere! I don’t want someone to say this just because he wants to win me in marriage. That would make me doubt the sincerity of that statement. That would also make me suspect that after marriage, that is, after he has gotten what he wants, he is going to lapse to his real self. This is why I resist the idea of encouraging anyone to embrace the faith of Christ for the sake of winning me. What I prefer to see is when someone has been saying this for a very long time before meeting me, and pursuing it with all their heart. That fills me with greater confidence that it is truly sincere.
So this then is how I would rephrase it. Instead of talking about someone who “deserves” me, I would say “someone whose level of commitment deserves my level of commitment”. And of course, it also works both ways. My level of commitment also has to deserve their level of commitment. In the Christian faith, we will never “arrive” down here until we arrive in heaven, so it is primarily about pursuit, and pushing forward. So I would also add: “Someone whose level of pursuit deserves my own level of pursuit – and vice versa.”
*This word does not exist. Well, now it does! After all there is a first time for everything – and for every word! Someone has to coin neologisms after all!
Meme from Trent Shelton on Facebook