Written by Claire Hellar, Art by Phoebe Shen
God as a Father has always resonated with me. When God first moved in my heart, I was a teenager and my aunt started singing the hymn “I am His and He is Mine” in the kitchen. As I sang it with her I just started thinking how amazing it would be to have a Father you were actually that close withâ€”someone who would always take care of you and to whom you could tell everything. That was the beginning of my relationship with God, and over the course of the next year God moved in me to commit my life to Him, and since then I’ve always approached Him as a Father.
It’s taken me a long time to understand how He can also be other things thoughâ€”specifically Christ as a Bridegroom, someone who loves me in the way that a man loves his wife. There’s something specific and intense about that that I had never understood because honestly, I’d never had more than a crush on someone, so I just couldn’t even picture that kind of love. That aspect of God’s love for me was just vague and gray in my mind.
And then I fell for someoneâ€”fell hard. For the first time in my life, I’ve felt all those feelings they tell you about in movies and which I hadn’t believed really existedâ€”real, mad, magical, sparks-flying, can’t-think-of-anyone-but-him emotions. Let’s call him Will.
Will both makes me more completely myself and makes me lose my identity in him. He appreciates so many small things about me that other people don’t notice. He brings out all the little quirks and creative parts of me that I don’t really let other people see and which don’t usually come out. In a way that I can’t explain, I feel more like a womanâ€”in only good waysâ€”when I’m talking to him, and for the first time I see what it might feel like to be treasured and pursued.
He shares almost all my interests, so when I’m talking to him, everything that makes meâ€”meâ€”leaps into focus and becomes more vivid. I come more fully alive. But at the same time, when I’m not talking to him, I feel like a huge part of me is missing, as if he’s ripped it out and taken it off with him to parts unknown. When I’m not connected to him, I no longer always feel like a whole person.
The thing is, this is a pictureâ€”incomplete, but still a pictureâ€”of how it is, or how it should be, with God. This is the reality, and both of the ways in which I feel toward Will are ways that God meant for me (and us) to feel about Him. God loves every single small part of me and not only does He love those things about me, He loved them enough to create them in me and make me who I am. He saw me before the world began, chose me to be His child, saved me by His grace, lives in me through the Holy Spirit, and sees me as a daughter, a friend, and a bride. Most importantly, Christ Himself has promised to take me as a brideâ€”that’s how deeply He loves me as a part of the Church. The Song of Solomon is just a picture of Christ’s deep love for His people. God’s love must obviously be ten thousand times more personal, intimate, and passionate than anything Will could ever give me. Christ knows me completely and loves me completely.
But the ache I feel, the loss, when I am not in contact with or around Will, is also reflective of the way our relationship with God should beâ€”it’s the downside, or rather the natural counterpart, to being in, not just a deep, fulfilling relationship, but the relationship we’re meant to be in. The one with Christ. In John 15, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers.” I’m a branch, meant to be attached to God at all times. If I am notâ€”if I stray from Him, if I avoid or don’t seek out His Word and His presence, it hurts and ultimately has negative effects on me.
We’re also called to be in a completely intimate, personal relationship with Godâ€””How precious are your thoughts toward me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sandâ€”when I awake, I am still with you” (Ps. 139:17-18). This is how I long to feel and what I am striving forâ€”to be so intimately connected to God that it actually aches when I’m not. So that if I don’t read my Bible or pray for days, weeks, or months on end, I miss Jesus. Miss the warmth of His presence, the sense of His love, the guidance He gives for life, and in the end, miss Him, for who He is. When I miss a human being’s presence, it reflects the truth that I love that person and feel like I need them. But I don’t actually need them in any literal way. If and when I feel that way about God thoughâ€”and I shouldâ€”that’s my emotions reflecting what’s actually the truthâ€”that my life loses its meaning and purpose without God.
I am completeâ€”or as complete as I can ever be in this fallen worldâ€”only in Him. I’m serving my purpose and fulfilling my identity of being a child of God and a follower of God, only when I’m attached to Him. When I’m with Him, when I’m pursuing that relationship with Him, God promises all the same emotions that I feel with Will, only more soâ€”love, an inner joy that lights up my days, peace of mind and heart.
These emotions don’t come from any external circumstances like getting straight A’s or being popular or winning a volleyball or basketball game. They come from knowing and being in a relationship with someoneâ€”in this case, God. And in the past two years I have started to taste what that feels like. Long before I ever started connecting with Will, I started, through the Holy Spirit working in me, to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). All of His promises of hope, joy, peace etc. actually are real and actually do work, you just have to reach a point where the Spirit has worked in you enough, and you’ve been willing enough to be open to God, that He can start to make that happen for you. When I’m stressed out about work, or really sad over a friend, or struggling with my parents, Bible verses that fit perfectly come up in my mind, and speak to me as powerfully, and sometimes more powerfully, than any friend or loved one could do. And I become calm, and happier.
I’m not saying pursue God so that you feel betterâ€”I’m saying that God is so worth it, that any good emotion you that you feel now or in the future is just a shadow of the good emotions God promises even now, here on this earth, to you, as well as in heaven later. Dating and romance are some of the best things we as humans know, or they can beâ€”that’s why most of us spend our lives chasing them, not realizing that the amazingness and the magic of it came straight from God. He created it, and it reflects both who He is and what He promises to us if we obey Him and seek Him. A lasting love. A full love. A love that endures. He will love you every day with the same steady, compassionate, passionate, targeted love that a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or even parent, can only give you on the very best of days. And He will love you completely.
So fall in love. And know God’s love.