I asked that question to the Lord not long ago as I sprawled across a seasonally abandoned lifeguard post; too tired to cry, too discouraged to pray, and too confused to know how to think through my emotional Titanic. The only thing I could do was stare out at the expanse of the ocean and wonder about the love of God.
I used to dread this holiday as much as Mother’s day when I was barren. It was the heightened attention to what you agonized for and everyone else seemed to have. There were times in the past where I would cry so often during the worship at church, that a tender-hearted woman slipped me a Hallmark card of admiration for how much I loved the Lord. Her misinterpretation of my teary waterfalls should have been corrected, but I was too prideful and ashamed beneath the spiritual camouflage. My crescendo of tears was actually a pathetic concoction of self-pity and loneliness in this seeming punishment by God of singleness. Valentine’s day…how I loathed it. Yet, how thankful I am today that Jesus never gave me what I longed for back then. I was desperate for a counterfeit fulfillment and didn’t know it.
But just as this godly woman misunderstood my tears, we can misunderstand our own or the circumstances which pull them out of us. “In the world” Jesus said, “you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Take heart. Take heart? How do you do that when your “troubles” are better described as hurricane force adversity, life-shattering earthquakes and tsunami strength sorrow?
Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV says “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” While my eyes beheld widths, lengths and depths, beneath the canopy of heaven’s heights, I breathed in the salty sea spray and my eyes let out salty troubles. That was the only “power” I had.
“You have collected all my tears in your bottle…” (Psalm 56:8b). As I lay there creating a puddle for the Lord’s collection, the background of the ocean seemed to engulf it. My heart prayed “Lord, why does my puddle seem bigger and deeper than Your ocean of love for me? How long will “I hear the tumult of the raging seas as Your waves and (Your) surging tides sweep over me?” (Psalm 42:7 NLT). On and on went the questions to my God, the pleadings to my Savior, with groans and crying stutter-sighs for the Holy Spirit to interpret.
After rehearsing at least twenty years of waves and tides, accentuating the heart “breakers” that have crashed over the shores of my life, I slid down the sandy lookout steps and began to make my way back to where I was staying. Louder, yet more gentle than the seagulls call, the Lord whispered to my thoughts to look up. “No Lifeguard On Duty” was spray painted on the side of the lifeguard post. Floods of understanding began to wash over me.
The world and the people that fill it, circumstances and the changes within it, trouble and the pain that comes with it, have seasonal lifeguard posts that I have often climbed for refuge. Empty houses with vacated lifeguards. They may be receptacles for puddles of tears and offer elevated perspectives across the horizons, but they are counterfeits of the true.
As the Word tells me, because of Jesus, I have had in the past as well as now, a lifeguard that “never slumbers nor sleeps.” He has kept me at the center of His gaze like the apple of His eye so when I began to sink in deep waters, His hand has always caught mine and pulled me to safety. When the winds have been too contrary to make any progress in life, He has walked on the waters of my difficulty, come to my help and brought me to His desired destination. When I have been tossed furiously by tidal waves of grief and sorrow and my cries seemed to have been met by an uninterested, apathetic and sleeping Savior, He has always risen at the perfect time and rebuked my enemies, brought peace to my surroundings and led me beside still waters to restore my soul.
When I gave my heart to Jesus, I traded my vacant rescue posts and powerless deliverers for a LIFEguard that is eternally on duty as well as His heavenly vantage point. The power of the ocean’s tides and rhythmic waves can be dangerous to the most skilled, expert swimmer, but a non-swimmer is absolutely safe and secure and indestructible. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Though my circumstances did not change that day, I understood that the Lord united the waters of His love with my tears. When a soldier took his spear and punctured the side of our Savior on the cross, water and blood came gushing out. A picture for us of the ruptured heart of Jesus that gave His heart for ours. That mercy kept me afloat for several days, when eventually, His truth came during my devotions and His love lifted me out of deep waters.
There is no Valentine on earth I will ever need. Not from a husband or child or friend or profession or dream or, or, or… My tears during worship come from God’s valentine sent to the earth in His only Son; Who gave me His valentine when He gave His life on a tree for my sin; Who sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in my heart and give me an ocean of valentines “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)
Happy Valentine’s Day!