Come Ye Sinners

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” sang Tammy Wynette, “giving all your love to just one man.”

I remember as a little girl thinking hard on that line and wondering if it was true, wondering if an overflow of passion really was a problem of womanhood and a threat to fidelity. You may think little girls don’t think things like that, but I have two nieces old enough now to ask questions, and they sure do. 

I’ll be thirty this month, so I guess I’ve been a woman long enough to know something about it and this problem of Tammy’s… well, it does not reflect the human condition. I’ve never yet met a woman too full of love, or a woman who could afford to be giving it out to two men, for heaven’s sake. Instead, we all of us feel a bit stretched, as Bilbo said, like butter scraped over too much bread. 

Maybe Tammy needed children, or friends or a dog. Maybe she needed a garden. 

I know I need more love. When someone needs me to stay up late and someone needs me at night and someone needs me in the early morning, I need more love and I need more strength. I think it’s true for most of us who are married, that you don’t need to “stand by your man”, as much as you need your man to stand by you. 

What is endlessly comforting to me as a Christian is that the first step in God’s provision is emptiness. What qualifies you for Christ? Need, lack, want. These are things I have, so this is good news. A lack of love and strength is exactly what I can bring to Christ. 

A few years ago I very much wanted to be married and I was part of a very small church.. Faith can be tricky, because although you know God can do anything he likes, drop a good man in your pew, for instance, sometimes it’s also faith to look around and say, “God show me what to do”.

What I had to do was be humble and honest and brave, which all too often meant just showing up with empty hands. I had to stop pretending I was content. I had to stop pretending I wasn’t sad. And the hardest thing, I had to go. I visited churches all over the area, sometimes crying in the car before I went in, looking a mess. I went, not so much to meet a husband, as to meet other Christians, because I knew I needed other Christians and I knew I needed help. I had just enough faith to believe the help I needed wasn’t in a singles Facebook group or Tinder, but in church, which let’s be real, is full of weird and awkward and old people, not to mention the sick and heartbroken. This was the place for me. I tried my best to be honest when I talked to friends and acquaintances, and ask them to pray for me. 

A funny verse that I often thought of during this time was Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 53:2. It says God sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He’s looking for someone not stupid – one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. Like God I was looking for a man, and God knows I was a man-ready woman. But was I God-ready? No, I wasn’t. But being so is not a permanent state in this life. It comes with perennial need, as we slowly learn that it is Jesus who is ready.

This isn’t a cause and effect story, because God didn’t actually use any of these churches or Christians to get me married, but I did get married not long after this, and I could feel the effects of this softening and tilling up of my heart, when he brought a good man from a world so different than my own. When I visited the seeker-friendly mega church with him and the catholic church with his family, they didn’t feel so strange. I was used to the uncomfortable feeling of being in a crowd of people worshiping God in the way they thought best, of being full of my own need and all too aware of myself to reach for Him in such a place. I knew by then that most people are too concerned with themselves to even notice you, which is a comfort, but the ones who do care, truly do, which is a comfort too. 

Sometimes I’ll say to my husband “I’ve been to that church” and “I visited there” as we drive through town, and we will laugh about our retirement plan to hit every church lunch and dinner in the area to save on groceries, but it’s a true and a serious thing that we may go to the church if we are hungry, and so can you.

This was a long and rambling story to say, if you are like me and looking at all the things you need to do this morning, and all the people who need your love— your man and all the rest of them— and feeling so tired and empty, you are not alone and this is a good place for us to be. As my old friend said, “Needs are my best riches, for I have these supplied in Christ.”

This Christ has a garden in your heart. When you come to him empty, he looks over you with love. He purposes a harvest. He is filled with satisfaction and He is filled with joy.

2 thoughts on “Come Ye Sinners

  1. Your writing always brings me such joy. Thank you for this one. Especially that quote from the dear old friend. ♥️ It has been awhile since I thought of him.

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