by Annette Bridges. ©2006.  All rights reserved.

The summer following my junior year in college, I was feeling pretty devastated and dismayed. Here’s why: Although I really wanted a college education, I also believed I would find a husband while I was in school. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, however, and was no longer hopeful that my husband was on campus, waiting for me to show up.

I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to matter to someone, to be special. Fear of never finding lasting love imprisoned my thoughts, crippling right reasoning and paralyzing my judgment.

On the July 4th weekend, I headed to the beach with a friend, where we hoped to meet some cute guys. One thing led to another, and I was seduced by my fears into a weekend of immoral behavior. I didn’t even recognize myself that weekend. It was like I was watching someone else.

Recently I came across this statement by Mary Baker Eddy: “A man’s fear, unconquered, conquers him, in whatever direction.” (Message to the Mother Church for 1901, p. 13) When I think of that summer, more than 25 years ago, I can see that those words were at the root of what happened.

I was humbled like the prodigal son.
I struggled and agonized with guilt and remorse for at least a couple of weeks following that weekend. Later in the month, the Bible Lesson in the Christian Science Quarterly was on the subject of Love and it included Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, which Luke recorded in his Gospel. This parable really spoke to me in a healing way about my situation.

The story describes a young man who obtained his inheritance from his father and then wasted it in “riotous living.” When he became destitute, he came to his senses and decided to return to his father and beg for forgiveness. He was even willing to be a servant in the household instead of a son.

The Bible account goes on, “When he [the son] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

I felt like I was “a great way off,” very far removed from anything divine. I felt unworthy to be a daughter in the household—and by this time I had realized I wasn’t looking for love in the right place. What I was finding was not really love at all. There was no joy, no satisfaction, no contentment.

I felt God’s mercy and love.

This was a very distressing time because I felt so ashamed of what I’d done, and because of my shame, I felt I could only confide in God. My humble cry for God’s mercy was immediately heard by a loving Father-Mother God. One night, as I was studying the Bible Lesson, I recalled the words Jesus heard when John was baptizing him. The message that came to me from God was a paraphrase from Matthew’s account of that event: “This is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well-pleased.” It was one of those “on your knees” kinds of experiences, and this message redeemed my weary and ashamed heart. I felt embraced by divine Love.

God was seeing only good in His daughter—in me. I felt loved. I felt complete. Fear no longer had power to misguide and confuse me. I felt God was healing, forgiving and comforting me.

Much of this help came through inspired ideas in the Bible. For example, these words from the book of Isaiah strengthened me: “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth…For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts in his name; and thy Redeemer…”

I felt so loved by God and knew God would always be there for me, always ready to listen and help and take care of me. That was enough.

I returned to college my senior year with a new goal. I still did want to marry someday. My heart was filled with patient hope and expectancy. But I no longer felt having a boyfriend or being married were the only means of being complete and happy.

Love comes to all of God’s children.

I understood better that God is Love, and love comes from God to all of His dear children. That love is expressed in multiple ways—all of which bring satisfaction and joy.

I was so grateful for being rescued by divine Love from my empty search that my new goal was to express love to everyone around me. To be a good friend. To help others.

My first three years of college hadn’t left much room for making friends with other girls in my dorm, as my attention was focused on having boyfriends. But as a senior, I wanted to be a good friend and big sister to my dorm mates, and be supportive and helpful in any way I could. I also devoted time and effort in various community services.

I still dated boys. But my motive was to be a friend and have fun. No longer was I examining every boy I met to see if he could be my Mr. Right.

The summer following my senior year, I did meet the man I’ve been happily married to for almost 25 years. But I knew through this experience that marriage didn’t have to be the conclusion for my happy tale. Whether married or single, God is always taking care of us and providing the love we need.

God, the source of constant love.