I’d always wanted to be married. Don’t most people?
I didn’t want it in an over-the-top way, I didn’t think, just the normal way that I imagined most people did who grew up watching everyone around them get married and have kids. And that in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing. From the beginning, God’s been all for marriage. We’re built to want a spouse. And marriage can be such a beautiful picture of the gospel, of Christ’s love for his church. But I remember the day I knew that there was something very, very wrong. It didn’t hit me like a lightning bolt, or a shockwave, or really anything at all. It felt pretty normal. And that . . . that right there was the problem.
I Don’t Feel Anything
Up until that point, I’d had what I thought were some pretty normal ideas for what life was supposed to be about, plus a few extra desires I’d felt God was putting in my heart. I wanted to get married and have kids. I also wanted to go overseas and take the gospel to people who’d never heard it before. Good things. But a couple of years after college, after a relationship ended that I’d hoped would end in marriage, I found myself face to face with a very different reality than I’d expected. I was wrestling with a heart full of desires that had never come true. Sure, I could’ve still gone overseas. That one was a little easier to control than the marriage one. But at that point, it wouldn’t have fixed anything — it was just another dream I had for my life, one that meant more than a single-hearted, passionate pursuit of a God who loved me.
So I found myself sitting in church on a Sunday morning, listening to my pastor talk about the urgency of taking hope to the thousands slipping into a Christ-less eternity every day. And I realized something. I don’t feel anything. Not that feelings are everything . . . they’re not. They’re definitely not the compass by which we live. And they often can’t be trusted as a gauge. But in that moment, they were a barometer for my heart, an outward sign of something much bigger going on inside. And I knew something was very wrong.
Eating at the Wrong Table
I’d spent day after day sobbing over the pain of losing that relationship and the dreams of the future that went along with it. I’d spent many a night lying awake, confused about why life looked the way it did, why God had let things take a turn down this road. I’d spent more than a few days disappointed. Angry. Frustrated. And that whole well of emotions was just over the fact that I’d spent a few years here on earth without the spouse, without the kids, without the “typical” life. And sitting there hearing about people spending eternity apart from God? Nothing. It was a picture of the way my heart had been operating for months.
John Piper says the reason we often don’t feel a strong desire for God is because we’ve nibbled at the table of the world for so long that we’re just full enough that we can ignore the depth of our need. I think that’s very, very true. But in that moment, sitting there in church, I realized I hadn’t just traded God’s table for the world’s fare. I’d also traded His hunger for theirs. And I’d allowed myself to be given over fully to a raw, unsatiated hunger for what the here and now said I should want. It ached. It made me disappointed, then angry, then maybe even in a little bit bitter. And before long, I didn’t even feel hunger for God anymore, much less have a heart that broke for the things that break His in the same way it broke for the things I didn’t have.
The Scales Had Melted
But from that same seat, week after week, I saw in David Platt not only a passion for the lost that I knew I should have — I saw most of all an undivided passion for God Himself. It looked so different from what I felt about God. And week after week, he said that passion came from reading God’s Word, seeing who God really is and letting that transform him. So that day, the day I admitted that something was wrong, I decided it was time to take my hard shell of a heart and give it over to that in hopes that God would break it on the altar of His truth and make something new.
It didn’t happen that first day. “God,” I whispered. “I don’t feel anything. I don’t want this more than anything, but I want to want it that much. I want to want You that much. Please teach my heart to have different desires. Please teach me how to want only You.” And over time, He melted my heart of stone to hunger for Him again. It was gradual. It started with surrender, it continued with surrender, and it all changed one day when I realized the scales had melted from my eyes and my heart and I knew He was worth it all.
I’m still not married. I lived overseas for a little while, but when it happened, it was for a different reason. I was chasing after the One who’s worth my hunger, the One my heart was created to want. And that felt completely different.
Grace Thornton is the author of the book I Don’t Wait Anymore, from which this story comes.