Valentine’s Day is here and love is in the air. The allure of chocolate is everywhere! I’m definitely a fan of both. A little over a decade ago, however, I wasn’t sure love was an option for me anymore. I thought I might have to settle for chocolate.
My first marriage of almost twenty-one years ended rather abruptly. Less than six months transpired between the “I don’t love you anymore” conversation that shattered my world, and holding the “dissolution of marriage” document that declared the death of my marriage in black and white.
I thought I would die. I wanted to die. But over the last fifteen years, God has put me back together again piece by piece. He also brought me the treasure of new love. Despite that joy, I know even if God had chosen to let me remain single, I would still be His Beloved—cherished, treasured, loved beyond comprehension—just as I am.
The remarkable discovery that I am loved, and learning to believe it, has healed me most of all. Even though I was married before, I never could quite grasp the concept of God’s unconditional love. I always felt deep in my soul that I had to earn affection by being perfect, yet I failed constantly. My divorce seemed to confirm my inadequacies.
However, when I was an absolute wreck of a human being—barely functioning, fearful, and crying—the lover of my soul showed me how much He wanted me. Me! And that He would never, ever, let me go, for any reason. I could never be perfect enough to earn His love, and I couldn’t blow it so badly He would turn me away. His promises are irrevocable as long as I want a relationship with Jesus. And I do, oh yes, I surely do!
Eleven years ago August, I married a most amazing man. He accepts who I am and loves me unconditionally. I feel like I’m living a second life—charmed and cherished. But this love, as good as it is, is no match for the love of God. I’m so grateful for the bountiful goodness of my God, who held me and filled me, and keeps on filling me with assurances of His neverending love.
In writing my story of God’s healing after divorce, I have learned so much more. I realize many of you are happily married, and may not be looking for advice on love. But with statistics as they are, I’m sure there are a fair number of you who are single, single again, or have friends who are. So here are a few quotes from a recent chapter of my book (coming out later this year) on what I have learned about love.
- We don’t heal by taking our pain into a new relationship, hoping love will make us all better. Dating is not a place to seek healing, but a time to get to know someone you might want to spend your life with once you’ve worked through your grief.
- Mourn your broken dreams and lost opportunities. Talk about your losses with a counselor or mentor, list them in a journal, and allow yourself to feel deep sadness. Sift through memories, good and bad, until there’s space in your heart for new dreams to surface.
- All kinds of people around you need affection—children, neighbors, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, and women who crave a listening ear or sympathetic touch. As a woman, God has given you a vast capacity to love and nurture; so don’t hold back…But be wise.
- When we meet a man who makes us feel beautiful, funny, intelligent, and valuable, emotions can get in the way of wisdom. That’s why we need to seek input from those who know and love us best; people who refuse to be dazzled by romance, and will give us clear-headed advice, holding us accountable to what we said we wanted in a lifetime partner. It’s essential to know ourselves and what we need before emotions take over.
- Men are drawn to women who are comfortable in their own skin. We need to let God confirm who we are through scripture and the nurturing love of His people. Surround yourself with positive girlfriends who are living vibrant lives. Try new things. Savor simplicity. Anticipate God’s goodness. Become the kind of woman you’ve always wanted to be. Be curious, cheerful, inviting, grateful, patient, and kind. Be irresistibly you.
- If we refused to date men who did not aspire to be strong and godly, committed, honorable, and pure, how would that affect our society? It’s true in all spheres of life—you get what you tolerate.
- We don’t have to give up the core of who we are in order to be loved.
- A man who loves you will value and support the passions of your heart.
Wherever this last decade has taken you—into love, out of love, or hungering to know what true love is—I pray this next decade will take you deeper into the greatest love any of us have ever known. There is no greater love than the Father has lavished and continues to lavish, on us.
Beth Vice is a wife, author, speaker, mom, mother-in-law, grandma, and Jesus seeker. She loves taking care of her husband Kelly and the home they share on the Oregon coast. She teaches their Sunday morning small group and leads critique workshops at Oregon Christian Writers conferences, where she serves as the In-Person Critique Group Coordinator. Beth has six books currently available and is working on the next two—a divorce recovery book for women and a Bible study on Revelation. Beth has a heart for women; she has found new delight in leading retreats at she and Kelly’s vacation rental at Black Butte Ranch, and wherever else God might lead her. She blogs at Epiphany: http://www.bethvice.com/. Beth loves getting outside for hikes and gardening, but prefers snuggling inside with a good book or coffee with a friend, in nasty weather.