I remember the tears I cried that night. They were the bitterest, most plentiful tears I’ve ever cried. It’s also the only time in my life when my body was literally wracked with sorrow and wrenching from the pain producing the tears. And the only words that accompanied my tears were directed to my first husband, “Why don’t you want me? Do you even want to be with me?”
I’d finally asked the question that had been haunting me for the past three years since we were first married. This question, and my desperate desire to be desired, had driven me to the depths of an eating disorder, while torturing me day after day as I feared the answer must be “no,” given his indifferent behavior.
With the question finally before him, he answered that yes, he wanted me, but that he was having a hard time figuring things out. I still don’t know what that meant. I just remember being hurt and confused and feeling so terribly unwanted, unloved and alone. Then I watched him drift into seemingly peaceful sleep while I laid awake, feeling alone in the room, drying my own bitter tears.
That was a turning point for me. I realized then that what I wanted most, to be wanted by my husband, was a desire that may never be fulfilled. And even if it was, it would never satisfy me the way I wanted it to. I was like Leah in the Genesis story, rejected over and over again by her husband Jacob who loved and obsessively desired someone else more.
I may not have known who my first husband’s “other lovers” were (not necessarily people, but dreams of stardom and success that included a life without me), but I knew I wanted to beat them out for his affection.
- Leah thought if she gave Jacob enough sons, surely he would want her. But even after giving him four sons, he still rejected her.
- I thought if I lost enough weight and became attractive and trendy and socially acceptable enough that I would win my husband’s affection.
But even after dropping 8 sizes, sporting jeans and heels and being the best social New Yorker I could be, I was left wanting for his affection. Leah finally realized that the Lord had seen and heard her heart’s cry to be wanted and loved and that He’d faithfully answered by never leaving her but rather making her fruitful in her land of suffering. With the idol of her desperate desire for Jacob’s affection now removed from her heart, Leah was able to praise the Lord. I too began to realize God’s nearness and faithfulness to me in my own suffering, and the idolatry in my own heart keeping me from giving Him the praise He deserved.
It was at this junction that God become more real to me than ever. I heard Him say to me, “I want you. I’ve always wanted you. I will always want you. Don’t be afraid, my love. I will never leave you.”
And my heart’s response was finally to praise Him for what He had promised me. I was determined to praise Him no matter what suffering I was enduring or would endure. I didn’t know if my first marriage would last—I couldn’t make my husband love me or stay with me (he ultimately left and the marriage ended). But I trusted God to fulfill His purposes for me, no matter what my first husband chose to do.
What tears have you cried, Christian? Do you know that God is on your side? Praise Him for what He has promised; remember what He has done. He has rescued us from death to walk in His presence, in the light of His life-giving Son. God knows the reason for and number of each of our tears—He collects all of them in His own bottle. He keeps count of all our sorrows. He sees us, He hears us, and He faithfully answers our cries. He alone satisfies the longing inside each of us to be wanted. Praise God for what he has promised.
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me? . . .
You [God] keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book. My enemies will retreat when I call to You for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what He has promised; Yes, I praise the Lord for what He has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? . . .
I will offer a sacrifice of thanks for Your help.
For You have rescued me from death; You have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in Your presence, O God, in Your life-giving light.
(Psalm 56: 3-4; 8-13)
- Photo above by Sojourn communications intern Chelsey Scott