My name is Joanne and this is my story. We all have a story. I thought my story was just for me but over the years as I’ve shared it with others, I’ve discovered it’s not just for me. God has used it to speak to others and my prayer is that it will speak to you.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Christian – I’ve known and followed Jesus to the best of my understanding ever since I can remember. But I still needed saving. I had a problem and for a long time I didn’t know I had a problem. I was a terrible flirt and was desperate for a boyfriend since forever. I didn’t know it but this desperation was tainting a lot of other relationships and areas of my life. It all came to a head when I was 19.
I went to university with two goals in mind. The first was to get a degree, and I was fairly confident that would happen with the normal amount effort. The second was to get myself a husband. Sounds very Rose Dawson, I know, but it’s not something I ever said aloud. It’s just what was on my mind.
I got started strait away. I was a Christian and wanted to meet another Christian so week one, I found the Christian Union at the Freshers’ Fair and got the details of the first social. And as soon as I turned up, I scanned the room looking for the best looking male in the place. When I found him, I spent half the night flirting my head off and made sure he left with my phone number. Within a week we were on our first date, except it wasn't really a date because the poor guy didn’t really know what had hit him. This girl had suddenly turned up in his life and he somehow found himself saying yes to something which she seemed to think was a date. So he turned up with about six friends. The message couldn't have been clearer – this isn’t a date. I’m just a nice guy and we are hanging out with a group of friends. And I don’t want to embarrass you.
I chalked it up to experience and moved on to find my next victim. I mean date. Not unsurprisingly, I got a bit of a reputation in the Christian Union. Some guys thought I was easy, which I wasn't. I wasn't looking for a one night stand. I was looking for the real thing. Some guys, the good ones, were terrified of me. Looking back, I can see I was desperate. I was desperate to find someone to love me, to accept me just as I am. To pay attention to me, to sweep me off my feet, to hold my hand on the Saturday night while we watched a movie. I wanted a relationship and I wanted it badly.
Looking in the mirror
But all this effort wasn't working and it wasn’t making me happy. I remember looking in the mirror telling God I don't believe those songs I sing in church. They say ‘You're all I need’ but deep down somewhere, I really believed I need a man. After all, didn’t Adam need Eve?
God didn't give me the perfect man right then and I’m glad. I think if he did, I would have destroyed the relationship before ever had a chance. Because actually what was going on was something far deeper. I had a deep need that wasn't being fulfilled. I was a Christian. And I thought that I had since I grown-up in church, since I knew my Bible, since I knew all the songs we sang off by heart, that I had the ‘God-box’ ticked in my life. Therefore, if I was still unhappy, there must be something else out there.
And God began to show me -very lovingly - a few home truths. Over next few years, God took me through a process, a real process of transformation. He took that desperate, flirty, needy little girl into the young woman of God that he knew I could be. And I guess he began to show me what it was I was really looking for.
He taught me about marriage- what marriage is, and what marriage isn’t. What it isn’t is the answer to all a lonely girl’s problems. What it is, is something amazing, incredible, God given, God-invented and also double-sided.
God designed us to live in relationship with each other for our mutual benefit which sometimes means it makes us happy and sometimes means it challenges us to become better people. That’s the ‘hard work’ part people talk about.
I go into a lot more details about that in the book, Looking for Love, chapters 3-5.
That was one aspect of what God taught me – stuff to do with my thought life. He challenged my wrong perceptions and showed me his perspective.
The other part of me that God changed, was my heart. God showed me my own heart first of all. He showed me that what I was really looking for wasn’t a man, but was something deeper. The word that I heard my heart beating was ‘Accepted.’ I just wanted to be accepted. Loved, cherished, cared for but most of all accepted.
All that time I had been trying to solve this problem with what I thought was the right solution. But I was not trusting God. I wasn't really trusting him with my love life – I wasn’t trusting God with my heart. I had my own ideas, my own agendas, my own goal – even a date of when I needed to be engaged by in order to be happy or successful.
God showed me that I was seeing marriage not as a relationship but as a goal or a conquest, something to be achieved - a status symbol, even. God asked me to stop chasing that goal and to trust him. God made me a promise. He promised me that if I trusted him, he would meet my needs. If I stopped trying to manipulate situations and circumstances, stop trying to force the perfect relationship into being with poor hapless individuals who didn't even see it coming out. Stop trying so hard and start to trust him. God promised me that if I trusted him, He would meet my needs.
I believe God led me to write down what my core needs actually were and I listed things like value and commitment, protection. I wanted passion and adoration. As I confessed these needs to God, He reminded me of His promises in the Bible.
Promises like -
Deuteronomy 33:27: ‘The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms’
Hebrews 13:5-6: ‘“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”’
Jesus’ last words as he ascended to heaven – “Lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
When I said that I wanted to be loved passionately, God showed me the cross. That's how much I love you - overwhelmingly. The most outstanding, above and beyond more than anyone else could ever love me kind of Love. Because God is the source of all love on earth.
And when we're looking for love, really, we're looking for God. We're looking for more knowledge of God, more of God’s working in our lives, for deeper experience of God, a more tangible presence of God in our lives.
I didn't realize that at first because I figured that I had got the God-box ticked. But just like a best friend, Jesus met me exactly where I was in that place of need, and confusion and desperation. And like Mr Knightly in Jane Austen’s Emma, or Ashton Kutcher’s character in the movie Valentine’s Day, Jesus became the best friend who walked with me through all my struggles and turned out to be the one I was looking for all along.
The Wrong One
There were two relationships that defined that time – one I call ‘The Wrong One’. I liked him and he liked me and I was sure I could change him into something he wasn’t. He was everything I thought I wanted but God knew he wasn’t what I needed. This relationship ended in heart break – heart shatter! I collected up the pieces of my broken heart and humbly took them back to God and offered him my broken heart. God I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I’m sorry I broke your rules. Will you accept my broken heart? God not only accepted it but he healed it. Not quickly, but completely. After a while I could still remember the sorrow and remember certain thoughts and feelings I had had but there was no longer any pain. Not even any memory of pain. God healed that broken heart of mine.
The Almost-Right One
Then there was ‘The Almost Right One’ which again, was me trying to give God a ‘helping hand’ to fulfill his promises – which only ever turns out badly. This one led to a break up but not to heart break. This time I was trusting God and God asked me to let this one go. To lay it down, give it God. Which made me realize I was still trying to force a relationship. I still wasn’t trusting God. My act of sacrifice was to say ‘ok God, I’m willing to let this relationship go – I don’t understand it but I do trust you.’ The relationship also ended but this time, my heart didn’t break. I was as much in love as the last time but this time there was only sadness, not bitterness. There was sorrow but not pain. It was as if God was holding onto my heart so it didn’t fall and shatter. Because while I had opened my heart to the boy, it wasn’t in his hands. My heart belonged to God. And this has never changed since.
I had finally got to the place where I stopped trying to fight God, stopped trying to do it myself and finally, finally, finally, truly submitted my heart to Jesus, only then did everything change for me.
The success story of my book, Looking for Love, is not that I got married. It is not that I found a husband which I did eventually. The success story was before I met my husband when I was truly content and happy in my life and my relationship with God. And that was all I needed. I still wanted to meet somebody and hoped I would meet somebody. I still had a healthy desire for companionship, and wanting a family and children. But these things weren't gnawing away at my soul anymore. They weren't tainting every friendship and every relationship I ever had or getting in the way of life. They weren't stunting my decisions anymore. I was no longer making decisions based on whether or not that gave me the best chance of finding a husband. Those months were best years of my life.
And that towards the end of that year, I met I met someone who had to ask me out about 25 times before I realized he was even asking me out. He was someone who previously I would have spotted within five seconds of entering a room and would have made a beeline for him and made sure he got my number. But this time I didn't. I wasn't looking. I didn't desperately make him pay attention to me. And I wasn’t even desperately trying not to do those things either. My focus wasn't on husband and it wasn't on marriage anymore. And that was such a long way for this girl who had rocked up to university on her first day with nothing but marriage on her mind. Such a long way.
God showed me how to trust him with my love life. And that was terrifying. Because what if I never married? What if I never met someone? What if I trusted God with my love life? And he said, actually, I want you to be single forever. Or even for the next 10 years, which is more than I thought I could handle. It’s a scary thing, trusting God with your love life. Except that it’s not when you really get to know Him.
Who is in the driving seat?
I think it's easy to think “I've got that box ticked. I believe in God.”
But then when it actually comes to the way that you make decisions and live your life, sometimes God is the last person to have an opinion on the matter. And actually, he's the best matchmaker in the world. He knows my heart and He knows the heart of everybody else. He knows what would make me happy and what I actually need, not what I think I need. Trusting the master matchmaker with my heart was the best decision I ever made. And it wasn't easy. I've made made mistakes and slip-ups along the way. Definitely. He didn't ask me to trust him all at once, but just little by little, step by step. In every new or potential relationship God taught me how to trust him in that relationship until I got to the point where I wasn't even willing to go on a date without God anymore. I took Jesus dating with me and if Jesus said No, then I wasn't going. I wasn't going to waste my time on my own efforts anymore. If it wasn't God, I wasn't interested. I had relied on myself too many times and knew the heartache that followed.
More of God
And my relationship with God deepens with each new thing I learn about Him. In my early married years, I began to learn more about Jesus the lover from Bible books like Song of Solomon. And more recently, as I wrote Looking for Love, I discovered more about God the Father than I thought there was to know! Chapter 14 (Our Father, in Heaven) would never have existed if I hadn’t written this book. It astounds me that my relationship with God is so dynamic – I never stop learning or discovering more about the awesome, Creator God.
Get Real with God
So my challenge to you today is not do you trust God but how much do you trust God? Is God simply an acquaintance who you check in with every now and then to update on your life?
Is God a friend you go to for advice but ultimately, you’re in charge of your own life?
Is God a distant theory and believing in Him simply a box you tick at Census time?
Or have you at some point given Jesus the driving seat of your life but then taken it back when it comes to love and relationships?
Would you be willing to make space in your life to get to know God that much better?
Because trust is based on relationship. And there are many facets to God – there’s God the Father, God the provider and protector, Jesus the Lord and King, Jesus the best friend, Jesus the servant leader, Jesus the lover.
What does your relationship look like right now and are you willing to take a one step closer to trusting God?
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