You knew me before you knew me. Before that afternoon on the 13th of October when you held me for the first time in your arms, you knew me. You watched me form in mom’s womb for a whole nine months. But even before that, you knew me. You knew me in your sweet and immense love for mom. By loving her, you were loving me.
How amazing God is for granting life from love. What else is there?
At one time, I thought everything else was. I was quite content with my life. Successful. Liked. Admired. Talented. Envied. Independent. I was loved. And I thought this was enough.
“Do you love him?”
“I care more to be loved.”
“That is not the same as loving.”
In the movie, “Little Women,” Jo confesses to Marmee how lonely she is. How she has always been quite content with her family but now is realizing a longing for more. A longing to love.
We all want to be loved. But are we worthy of it? I think the answer is no, for me, at least. Then, that is the true nature of love isn’t it?
I didn’t do anything in the womb for you to love me, dad. I was a budding life. A miracle of the union of you and mom, I wasn’t successful, liked, admired, talented, envied, or independent. But I was loved. You loved me. Mom loved me. You both knew me before you knew me.
Oh, how I have spent so much time and energy running from that identity. Rejecting love I am not worthy of but finds me still. Love that fills my lungs and pumps my heart every day without my doing. Praise God, that my heart doesn’t beat just when I have a good game. Praise Him, that my lungs run on air and not admiration.
Like Jo in “Little Women,” when I was younger, I didn’t think I would marry. I don’t know that I went as far as her, thinking it was the worst fate. I just didn’t think it was in me. As she tells Teddy, I liked my independence far too much to be in a rush to give it up.
But as Jo admits some time afterwards, we were both foolish. Not foolish for questioning marriage but for just caring more to be loved and dismissing loving. She admits she is so sick of women being thought of as only good for loving, a very fair frustration for the time (Civil War era) she was living in.
“You know, I just feel…I just feel like…women, they…they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. And I’m so sick of people saying that, that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it, but I’m so lonely.”
I think many women have probably shared in the same sentiment. I know I have. But the easy way out is to condemn marriage and loving altogether. Or to think our identity as women is at odds with our ambitions and talents. This competitive struggle is maybe something we have felt forced into by society. Maybe we have felt forced to choose one or the other, our minds or our hearts. Whatever the reason may be, sadly, in the process, we have rejected some part of who we are. Loving is not at odds with pursuing ambition and talent. It can be, of course, if pursuing ambition is a sort of rebellion against the “traditional” view of women being only fit for love. In my opinion, this is the modern way of feminism. Embracing feminism means breaking free from the traditional role of the woman. But what, exactly, are we trying to break free from? Our womanhood? Maybe we have become confused about what exactly that traditional role is supposed to be. The story isn’t new nor the struggle one we have just now decided to be up in arms about. The stories read in the Gospel during this Easter season remind us Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first after His resurrection. After Jesus was buried in the tomb, Mary comes “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” [John 20:1] And she stays there when the other disciples go home. Jesus reveals Himself to her and says to her to go tell the others. Some did not believe her. Partly because the news was too shocking? Partly because she was a woman? Mary Magdalene was one of the first people Jesus healed when He started His public ministry. Thus, through Jesus, I am reminded of the beauty, gentleness, dignity, and great duty of the “traditional” role women identify with. Through the doubt, and maybe bias, of some of the male disciples, I am reminded of how sin has marred humanity. It would be easy to condemn male authority and leadership, but there is more to the story.
Maybe we think we have to give love up to prove we are fit for more. This is what I thought when I was young. My desire for success and my talents were leading me away from loving and marriage. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Love encompasses those very desires and talents. Love encompasses every part of me. In the original design, they are complementary. If I was made in a covenant of love, then my mind, personality, talents, and ambitions must fit somewhere within that context, within my identity as a woman. Just like Mary Magdalene. Not based on what the world says. But based on love. What else is there, really.
Not just being loved but loving. This is true life. The more I desire marriage in my heart the more I realize this truth. As I ponder becoming one with another person, it quite literally baffles me, thoroughly blows my mind. Because before any physical man and potential husband comes into my life, Lord willing, I ought to be loving and loving him. Knowing him before I know him.
From the beginning of creation, the Lord God has made covenants with man. “Covenant” seems like an old-fashioned word to us today, I think. It seems dusty. Or foreign, in a way. It is a tragic loss, really. Because the very origin of covenant was Love.
“An agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not to do something specified.”
“Latin… convenire to come together, agree.”
In the original covenant God made with man, Adam and Eve, He gave them a choice to obey His word and live in the garden with Him. God and man were perfectly together. Perfectly agreed as Maker and made. The Creator and His created in perfect union. Because God is love, His covenant was an agreement in love. He would love His creatures, and they had the choice to love Him, as we have the same choice today to love Him. Does freedom need be anything else?
As God’s beloved, as His own, we were made to be in a covenant of love with Him. There is nothing else. This means being loved by God. And loving Him. He knew me before He knew me. Before I was formed in my mother’s womb, He knew me. Before you even started loving mom, dad, and she, loving you, God knew me. How can this be? Why does it matter? It matters because it gives life profound meaning and value. Every life profound meaning and value. It matters because its who I am. I can argue the world makes it so difficult for a woman to embrace all she is. I can spend my whole life running from it and rejecting it, but it doesn’t change the very profound yet simple truth that I was created in love. Life comes from Love.
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.”
[Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means]
As I desire and consider it more deeply, the beauty and sacredness of marriage reveals itself to me. I, we, just often have smoke in our eyes. Just as I often tend to live outside the purpose I was designed for so, too, does the gift of marriage. We have let it.
And from the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man, He made a woman and brought her to him. 23And the man said:
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. [Genesis 2:22-24]
“That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him (to walk with him), under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved (to be loved by him).”[Matthew Henry Bible Commentary]
Is it fair to say we have partially stripped marriage of its design? We want all the perks and pleasures of union with another person and none of the purpose. I do the same with God. I want His blessing and not His justice. Can we blame ourselves though? Aren’t all the examples of pain, abuse, and divorce reason enough to question the goodness of the design altogether? Yes. So let us take a good, hard look at ourselves. Do we take such a sacred union seriously enough? Do we seek to understand the mystery of it? Surely, the perks and pleasures must be just as good, or at least good enough, on their own as the full purpose? Surely, it is another way for the world to enclose women in a box labeled “only fit for love.” I think if this is what we have determined, we have desperately settled. It is easier to vilify marriage because of the examples of failure and heartbreak than come to terms with our own wounds. Maybe we strayed so far to think such a union is unbelievable? That such a lifelong commitment can be good? Unbelievable that a man and his wife can be united in such a way to become one flesh? Have our hearts become so hardened to deem loving and giving oneself in this way undesirable? Too much to ask? Not worth the loss? Too traditional? Frightening?
“Hey, I’m afraid of love, ooh
Happy homes flipped to divorce
Yeah, lonely holidays child, ooh
All I see is tears when it rains down”
[“With You,” GAWVI]
I have been foolish. Thinking I am automatically worthy of marriage. Worthy of this kind of union where loving and being loved brings forth life. This kind of covenant in love. How can I be trusted with it? I shouldn’t be. I know myself well enough to realize I can’t abide. I can’t hang. Loving is hard. Falling in love easy but staying in love? Do I have it in me? The capability to be honest and keep my heart open when it seems so beyond me. Yet, how I long for it. Because I have witnessed and experienced what it does. Because I was made for it, which explains how loving can make a person more themselves than they have ever been. How loving God has made me more myself than I have ever been.
I don’t have to be afraid of being unworthy of Love. Of marriage. I am. And that’s the astounding point. Love and marriage, in some way, find me still. He knew me before He knew me. Before I was awkward and quiet and goofy and foolish. I was made in a covenant with Love. Designed to love and live in a sacred union. Whether that is with a husband or without. I can not only live out my purpose but be wholly delightful and delighted by loving my Maker.
I don’t often love Him as I should, and I imagine this would happen in a marriage with a husband as well. Being human, it is difficult to always put the good of another before our own. But there is always hope to forgive and love well again because Jesus, the perfect covenant of humanity and divinity, has provided a way. It is by knowing and loving Him that I can hope to know and love a husband in marriage. To be united and become one flesh with him.
“In both Mary and Joseph, there were youth, beauty, and promise. God loves cascading cataracts and bellowing waterfalls, but he loves them better, not when they overflow and drown his flowers, but when they are harnessed and bridled to light a city and to slake the thirst of a child. In Joseph and Mary, we do not find one controlled waterfall and one dried-up lake but rather two youths who, before they knew the beauty of one and the strength of the other, willed to surrender these things for Jesus.” [Fulton Sheen]
Let me just say, it is easy to talk about the ideal. I am pridefully at fault for holding myself and others to this standard. But the truth is it just isn’t real for anyone right now. All of us are at different stages of construction on our way to become the perfect finished masterpiece the Architect designed. So let me be extra real on this topic, then. I have not struggled with sexual desire up to this point in my life. It is relatively easy for me to consider waiting to have sex until marriage, Lord willing. I know this is certainly not the case for everybody. We all suffer addictions, which is no excuse, but rather an acknowledgement of the reality. We should strive for the ideal, and when we fail, rather than give up the pursuit as hopeless, acknowledge our frailty and realize there is always renewed hope by asking for help from our God who took on our very flesh to do exactly that and more. To help and transform us into our eternal selves.
Not gonna lie, sexuality scares me. It has been easier for me to vilify it and only see the negative effects. I haven’t allowed the desire in myself, so to speak. The problem with this, of course, is a certain rejection of my womanhood. And further a rejection of the design of marriage itself. In different words, I think this is what Fulton Sheen is talking about with the language of “cascading cataracts and bellowing waterfalls.” Sexual passion is a part of marriage. God created us to experience it and to experience its fullness when “harnessed and bridled” within the context of the covenant of marriage. We get the most of it when it is correctly ordered in our hearts and lives, when it is channeled by its purpose. Surrendered to the Author of life first and then allowed to cascade and bellow, utterly and wholly flourish.
So I surrender it all to the One who knew me before He knew me. All my desires, talents, ambitions, fears, and insecurities. And because Love still finds me in my unworthiness, now you know me before you know me.
This is why I will wait for my Joseph.
“You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[St. Augustine]
I love you dad,
PS- the title is a line from the Season 2 premier of The Chosen. HIGHLY recommend. In fact, please go watch the first season and then the premiere of season 2 before tomorrow night when the next episode comes out. Love y’all <3