It was nearly 10 p.m., and I was still looking at a more-or-less blank screen, the black cursor flickering on the white page in front of me. It had been a long day of studying, and now I was attempting to begin the work of writing my “personal statement” for my family medicine residency application.
As I struggled to find the words to describe my desire to build lasting relationships with my patients, I turned to my thesaurus and looked up “long-term,” hoping to be inspired.
Durable. In for the long haul. Stable. Indissoluble. Unceasing.
Every word dripped with my unfulfilled longings. Yes, these were things I hoped to, by God’s grace, embody in my work, but these yearnings stretched far beyond those professional goals and into the deepest parts of my soul.
As a single woman, a big part of my brain is wired to believe that a husband is the answer to these desires. This thinking is powerfully reinforced in certain seasons when it seems that every weekend is filled with the wedding of a friend from college.
The gift of married friends who share their honest struggles has helped dispel the myth that marriage is an ultimate end where every emotional need will be met and all comforts enjoyed unceasingly. But my soul still longs for forever friendship. As someone who often feels that the transience of this life is the greatest thorn in my side, I can easily lose myself in the lie that finding a husband, someone who will be bound to me “till death do us part,” will finally salve these aches of my heart.
And in some ways, I suppose it is appropriate that this is where my mind goes in the midst of my loneliness. I’m confident our Maker has made each of us for intimate, forever, covenantal love. However, God has been whispering over and over again that my longing for lasting intimacy will never be fully met in an earthly spouse.
I am learning that, instead, the fulfillment of my desires for abiding, deep-rooted, everlasting, eternal love can only be found finally, purely in Jesus. The husband I’m really longing for . . . is Jesus.
Part of why this is challenging for me is because I don’t really think I’m worthy of being Jesus’ bride. Nor do I believe that Jesus really wants me to be.
Yes, Jesus died on a cross for my sin. But does He really want to sit next to me in the car when I leave the hospital crushed after making a fool of myself in front of my more experienced colleagues? Or does He want to lie down beside me and comfort me on the nights when I wonder if I will go to sleep alone forever? Does He really meet me in my most fragile moments? Does His love for the world really include a personal love for me?
God has been teaching me that, yes, not only is this true, it’s the truest thing about me. Jesus in all His glory is madly in love with me—frail, fickle, anxious me.
A few years ago, I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. All the bridesmaids entered the sanctuary and made their way down the aisle until only the bride remained in the foyer.
As she entered, the groom caught sight of her, and his face totally changed. He bit his lip, his eyes welled up with tears, and every part of him just seemed to say, “I can’t believe I get to have her—this beautiful, brilliant, amazing woman. I can’t believe she’s mine!”
In that moment, the Spirit of Christ whispered, “That’s the way I see you. Like that.”
As Scripture records, “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20). Tim Keller uses this story as an example of Christ’s love for you and me:
The greatest act of self-control in history was Jesus Christ, knowing what was coming, having a chance to leave. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane—everywhere was dark, the guards weren’t there yet, and the three disciples were sleeping? He stayed with it. Then they beat Him. And he stayed with it. He actually said, “I could call a bunch of angels,” but He stayed with it.
Where did He get the most incredible self-control in the history of the world—the self-control that enabled Him to endure the cross? The answer, according to Hebrews 12, is that He endured the cross, He ran the race, for the joy that was set before Him.
But He’s the Son of God. What in the world do you give the Man who has everything? What prize could have possibly motivated that kind of endurance? What didn’t He already have? There’s only one thing that Jesus Christ did not have before the cross that He had after the cross—us.
The gospel says we are loved. The reason Jesus Christ endured the cross is because we, each one of us, were and are His Rachel.
Katharine Callaghan is a resident at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana.