All I ever wanted for Valentine’s Day was the one thing he could never give me. I wanted to feel completely loved and cherished, but my husband always fell short in that department. He wasn’t the kind of guy who bought flowers or gushed sentiment.
On the good days, I thought he enjoyed my company. I could be cute, sometimes, and funny. I made good deserts and edited his papers.
But other days, I wondered if he even liked me. I could be bristly, irritable, and unlovely. The deeper into love I got, the more broken I found myself to be. I couldn’t hold on to affection or warmth or tenderness—it all seemed to run out through my cracks.
Somewhere along the road, I’d been dropped a few too many times. I had learned what no one ever intended to teach me: I was not worth holding on to. I was replaceable. Forgettable. Only worthwhile as long as I was perfect and pretty, compliant and amusing, holy and willing.
When I couldn’t be all of that, well, people let go.
And I shattered.
Because I knew I was rarely perfect and hardly ever holy. Truth be told, I wasn’t even funny. I only pretended to be so I could keep people far enough away to where they couldn’t hurt me.
If I had to be all those things, who could ever love me? I learned to keep part of myself back—the part that really mattered—so when someone let go, not all of me fell.
Only, I didn’t really know it until a boy tried to love me and couldn’t. He tried to love me when I was loveable, and I wondered if I could keep it up. He tried to love me when I was un-lovely, and I didn’t believe him. He tried to be my constant, only the more constant he was, the less worthy I felt, and the more sure I was that I would mess it up.
Some nights, when sleep wouldn’t come, I would look at him and wonder if his next wife would be better. After I was dead and gone, she would love him more. She would make him happy to come home. She would make up for all these wasted years with a crazy wife who probably needed medication.
Yet all that time, I cried inside because I wanted to be that wife myself, and I couldn’t. I wanted to be the cherished one. I wanted to be the one who made his life sweet and beautiful. I wanted to be his partner, encourager, supporter—but I couldn’t seem to patch myself up long enough to hold the love it would take to be so lovely.
The truth was, love made me more uncomfortable than just about anything else in the world. I couldn’t control it, couldn’t hide from it, couldn’t keep it where it belonged. Love was wild and bold and pursuing. It overlooked brokenness and brought out beauty. I didn’t deserve that, and I knew it.
What’s more, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe anyone could overlook my flaws for long. I didn’t believe my husband could. Or my children. Or even God.
I longed to feel cherished, but I was utterly unable to accept it. A person could wear himself out with the pouring, and I would only feel a drop of it. He could be utterly doting, head-over-heels in love, and hopelessly romantic, and it would not be enough.
But love is relentless. And sometimes, God uses a husband’s love to soften the cracked ground so the Father’s love can soak in.
My husband did not go away.
He did not love me only when I was lovely.
He did not withdraw his love from me when I wasn’t.
So why didn’t I feel it? Why didn’t I feel cherished by a husband who cherished me?
I began to look into my heart, and the cracks began to show: I did not feel loved by my husband because I did not feel loved by God. That is something a good Christian girl was supposed to learn, and young, but I was busy learning other things.
I understood Jesus loved me enough to die for me because if there was one thing knew, it was that I was a sinner. But to understand the depth of the Father’s love, the kind of love that chose to love me in my unloveliness? That was something I simply couldn’t grasp.
And because I could not understand God’s love, I could not accept my husband’s. My husband could never love me enough.
Only God could do that.
Only God did do that.
I had been expecting my husband to meet a need in me that was never his to meet. I did not feel cherished by him because I did not understand that I was treasured by God. The deep longing in me to feel like I was worth something could never be met in the husband who married me unless it was first met in the Christ who purchased me.
That purchase had nothing to do with my worthiness or loveliness or holiness, even though I kept trying to make it so. He chose to set his affection upon me knowing full well that I was broken and wretched, unholy and imperfect. He even knew that most of his love would be wasted on me, and he loved me all the same.
There was no need to hide from that kind of love. He already knew me. He knew I wasn’t really funny, couldn’t stay pretty, and was cranky without coffee. And he decided to love me anyway. God chose to love me.
If God chose to love me, could I ever make him un-love me? Was there anything I could do to make him change his mind?
In spite of my brokenness, he would never go away.
He would not drop me when I failed.
He would not replace me with someone more lovely.
He could not because he chose not.
It was the very thing I had wanted all along, but couldn’t see that I had. I was completely accepted and loved.
When I understood God’s love for me and was secure in the know that I could not change it, no matter what I did, I could finally begin to see and accept that I was also loved by the man who had chosen me. All those years, when the love poured out through my cracks, and he could not make me feel loved enough, I was already chosen and loved beyond my wildest dreams.
I was cherished.