to my beloved– the story behind the name

elizabeth gentry

The eyes— I’m always reminded of the eyes.  Oddly enough, so many of the eyes in my life have been piercing blue and brimming with hope and promise.  Yet the pools of aqua that were once filled with joyous expectation always eventually turned gray with rejection and disappointment.


For years, men came into my life with the intent to win over my heart, yet none succeeded. My heart was locked away in chastity to solitude: it was impenetrable.  Blue-eyed thrill seekers would see that; they would see the challenge in my wild and untamable spirit and long to settle my soul.  Many tried.  All failed.


By my early twenties, I had known for some time that I didn’t want to get married.  I had known that I didn’t want to have children.  I was prepared to live a life alone— prepared and expectant.


Pain and loss from my past haunted my present.  Marriage seemed optional but failure in marriage seemed inevitable.  All around me, all I saw were toxic relationships and broken unions.  Marriage was equivalent to heartbreak.  I didn’t want to risk the pain for the gamble of promise.


The fear of loss pushed me to stomach my desire to have children as well.  Many times, my hands would fall to my womb, holding the space where a child would never be.  The barrenness associated with my bleak medical condition dissuaded me from attaching to any hope that God would one day give me the ability to bear children.  I didn’t think that I would ever have them, so it was easier to convince myself that I would never want them than it was to deal with the pain of loss. I was hopeless: without hope: and unwilling to fight to attain it.


Yet still, the barrenness of my womb was far superseded by the barrenness of my heart.  


I never allowed anyone in.  To have loved and to have lost seemed unbearably frightening.  I was paralyzed with crippling fear.  I was convinced that if I ever experienced loss again that I would not survive.


In only two decades, I had lived entire lifetimes of pain.  Throttled by abuse and rape and unlove, I was a slave to pain of my past.  Love meant abuse and marriage meant failure.  Hope was deceiving and belief would lead you to death and despair.  Even with Christ in my life, there was still so much darkness that overtook my weary and burdened heart.


Darkness consumed me, until one day, it didn’t.


 Much like Moses, the story of my interaction with glory began on a mountaintop, alone with the Lord.


Six years ago, my heart was distraught.  I was all but living with a man who I had not committed myself to, and I was in a relationship with another.  I was saved and I was working at a church, yet still I was delved into all manners of secret sin.


The burden of living a life that I knew was deliberately unrighteous and sinful led me to insanity.  Depression enveloped me until I could no longer distinguish where it ended and I began.  I had lost myself to sin and I had lost hope of escaping it.


I begged God to free me from it, yet, in so many measures of insanity, I did nothing to change it.


Please, I would yell towards the sky, “please get me out of this.


My heart cried for God, my flesh cried for satisfaction, and the world won in my life.


I was spent— emotionally… physically.  I knew that I needed a Savior, but I had lost all touch with how to find one. In a desperate attempt to garner the Lord’s attention, I decided to follow The Holy of the Lord and meet God on a mountain.


My heart led me to one mountain nestled in the silent foothills of Tennessee.  I chose it for its notable beauty and I began my journey with expectation. I hiked through the pass, winding in and out of ravines and cliffs, stumbling and sliding on the wet ground as the air got thinner and thinner, until I finally found the spot.


My heart was troubled and my spirit was disturbed, until I found that one rock on the edge of the bluff.


Where rain and gloom had painted trails of tears over my body throughout the course of the hike, the breakthrough in the clouds and the sunbeam shining on that one rock evaporated my hurt.  The rain ceased.  In that one spot, the rain ceased to fall and my spirit ceased to bow to depression.


I stood on the edge of that cliff and I could finally breathe.  For the first time in years, I could actually breathe.  That place was a place of serenity: it was void of guilt and shame and responsibilities.  It was a place of quiet hope and sweet healing.


It was in that place that I gave my heart to the Lord.


In a sense outside of salvation, I gave my heart to the Lord.  I had given my soul to the Lord years before, but that day, I gave my heart to Him.  I gave it to Him, bruised and broken.  I gave it to Him with all my woes: with all my burdens and fears and responsibilities.  I cried out, hands outstretched in the physical as if to symbolize the spiritual act that I was surrendering myself to.  Please take it.  Please help.  I’m ready.”


I went to meet the Lord, and the Lord met me.


For the first time, my cries for help were partnered with a desire to be helped— with whatever it required of me.  Immediately I was overwhelmed with the word of the Lord.  Give me a year.” He said.  Give me a year— give it to me and no one else.  Leave everyone.  Leave your life.  Leave the men.  Leave the lifestyle.  Dedicate to me a year, and in that year, I will give to you.”


Where fear had been absent on that rock above the clouds, suddenly it returned and greeted my vulnerable spirit.  I can’t… I can’t.”  My heart was shattering.  The battle was still ongoing, and even the presence of the Lord could not relieve me from the war that claimed my life.  I can’t give it up.”


One year,” the Lord cooed.  One year.


Disparity rose to my throat.  I knew— in my spirit, I knew— what He was asking of me.  I looked into what I believed to be the foreseeable future— a future filled with loneliness and solitude.  And, even though my lack of commitment and aversion to marriage looked much like that already, I still had the availability to retreat to the arms of a man whenever I needed to escape reality.


He was asking me to give that up.  The Lord was asking me to give up the part of my life that kept me from confronting all the fears and ineptitudes and barrenness in my life.  He was asking me to leave the lifestyle of sex and drinking and partying and anything that kept me from knowing the truth of who He was.  He was asking me let go and He was believing in me to trust Him.


I looked at the fear that was seated on the throne of my heart.  I looked at the Jesus that was sitting with His legs crossed on the rock.  I looked back to anxiety that was coaxing me into its arms of hopelessness and despondency once again.  I looked back to the Savior seated across from me, asking to take His seat on the throne that fear now claimed.


His eyes were blue… fiercely blue.  I remember sitting on that bluff and seeing so clearly the picture of Jesus in front of me, as if I could reach out and touch the tenderness of His thigh or the callousness of His feet.  I saw Him— I saw His eyes— and I knew that I wanted Him.  I knew that those clear eyes would never betray me.  I knew that it was what I had prayed for.


Give Me a year,” He said quietly, convincingly, again.  One year.


I will give you a week.”


To be so broken and to be so close to my end, I countered Him with incredible boldness.  I will give you one week.”


With the same clarity in which I saw the person of Jesus,  I heard a soft chuckle from the Father.  Not even six months?” Father God now asked me.  Give Me six months.


The ease in His voice and the humor which He approached me with gave me a comfortability to respond.  I will fast for a week.  I will give up food and sex and drinking and everything that distracts me from you.  For one week, I will give myself wholly over to you.  And at the end, if I see a change, I will give you six months.”


With a smile riding in on His words, He laughed and responded, “That’s fine.  You can agree to six months.  But you’ll give Me a year.


With the Lord humored in thinking that I would be wrong, and with me humored in thinking that He would be, I left my mountaintop and went home.



The next five days were incredible.  In a great exodus, I abandoned my life as it was, becoming a recluse dedicated to the Lord.  Every morning I would wake up and dedicate the day to the Lord.  I would go to the church in the wee hours of the morning to pray and worship before work and life and responsibilities had a chance to overtake my passion.  I ate nothing, yet I was so so full.


At the end of my fast, I returned to the same mountain, ready to finish what the Lord had started.  I was refreshed: revitalized: renewed.  I was filled with a holy zeal and vigor for commitment to the Lord.  I was finally ready to give up what distanced me from Him.


On that mountain, laughing in knowing that the Lord had, in fact, proven me wrong, I dedicated myself to one year.  I dedicated myself to one year alone, single, and completely unattached to the world but altogether married to Him.


It was that day that He led me to the revelation of what it meant to return to Him.  He called out Jeremiah 2:2 as my legs laid outstretched perilously close to the edge.  I was fully unafraid— unafraid of that cliff and unafraid of the next year.  Nothing scared me.  I opened my Bible.




 “ […] ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, 

    how as a bride you loved me

and followed me through the wilderness,

    through a land not sown.’”


Jeremiah 2:2



Staring at that verse, I felt the Lord speak again.  “Devote yourself to Me.  In one year’s time, you will love yourself.


The Lord paused, and I waited expectantly for Him to say more.  Yet as the pause grew longer and longer, I grew more confused and impatient.  I thought this journey was about loving You more?  When I love You more, I am able to give up sin that binds me.  I need to love You more.


The same kind and lighthearted voice that told me that this moment would come to pass laughed again.  You cannot truly love Me unless you love yourself too.  My goal is to see you love yourself, and in so many ways, you will learn by falling more in love with Me.  I want you to spend this year devoted to Me by loving yourself.  You keep measuring yourself up against the passion and fervor that you once had, and while I love it, I want you to know that you’re not limited to it.  In a year’s time, what you once had will seem menial in light of what is coming.”


He paused again as my mind fought to process what it meant.  He read the verse from Jeremiah again to me, reciting it as if it were poetry to my worried heart.  I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride” He paused as if the climax of His desire rested on that one word.  You are beautiful.  My heart longs for you like a man longs for a wife.  I want you to see yourself the way that I see you— beautiful, kind, charming, full of purpose… I want to share My heart for your heart.”


Tears began to well up in my eyes as the Lord kept going.  Drawing me out from my insecurities as I sat in the sunshine on that rock, He lavished me in words that spoke to my identity.  He called me a lot of things that day, but the best and most beautiful word that He called me that day was wife.


Where I had once been crippled by that title, I was now liberated.  Fear’s seat of authority was revoked from my heart that sunny day.  Where I was once called child of darkness, where I had once been clothed in depravity and depression, I was restored to my namesake: Elizabeth: the oath and the fullness of God.


I became a wife that day.  I became righteous and noble in character. I undressed myself of shame and clothed myself in strength and dignity.  I became fierce.  I became bold.  I became assured of my position in heaven.


That day, I understood what it meant to be reconciled to heaven.  To be restored is not just to shed sin and be independent from guilt— it is to love your self and love your God fully.  It is freedom to be whoever you were made to be and freedom to be unashamed of it.


When I became a wife to Christ, I understood what true devotion was.  Jeremiah 2:2, in all its profound poetry, became an anthem of expectation.  I knew that there would be wanderings and wonderings.  I knew that there would be wilderness and barrenness and times of need.  I knew that I would be like mother Israel, lacking much yet sill somehow never in deficit.  I knew all of those things.  I expected them to come.  But I also knew that the Lord would see me.  I knew that He would honor me for my devotion.  I knew that the Lord would avenge the wrongdoings committed against me and vindicate His bride.  I knew that I was safe.  I knew that I was untouchable.  I knew that I was protected.


I moved towards union with Him and Him alone.  For a year, I was His, and only His.  


He raised me first to be His wife before I belonged to anyone else— raising me without the implications that come from commitment to the church or the expectations that arise from a worldly husband. He taught me first how to be loved, so that He could then teach me then how to love. 


It was in that He brought me to the revelation that we are ALL called to be the bride of Christ.  We are all called to know our worth and our value and our importance.  We are all called first to be loved by Him, and then to love Him. 


For everything that is born of love will be fathered by love.


It is one of my sincerest beliefs that our first priority in life is to be a wife to Christ.  Before we are married to a church or married to a man or married to a lifestyle or mission or ministry, I believe that we are called to be married to Christ.  It is in being known as a wife to Christ that we are known to our true value.  Equipped with an understanding of the wildly deep and intrinsically evident value we have, we are able to love God more fully.  And when our love for the Lord is in excess, it exceeding and abundantly flows unto those around us.


So as for now, I remain unmarried, yet I am very much betrothed.  My identity in Him will always be as a wife.  The name, “The Unmarried Wife” was born out of recognition of where I started— where we all started— as the beloved of the Lord before we were ever the beloved of anything else.


Sisters, I encourage you to approach the throne room with the intention to find love.  I implore you to come to God, not with your ineptitudes and insecurities in your ability to love Him, but rather, come knowing that you are in need of love and knowing that He is the only one that can fulfill that.


I understand your heart to want to know and love Him more.  I honor it.  God honors it.  He recognizes your devotion.  Even still, His goal is your restoration to Him, not His restoration to you.


Loving God will come.  Let Him love you first.  It is His deepest desire.


So married or unmarried, saved or unsaved, mostly full or very empty— come.  Come be a wife.  Come be taken care of and come be loved lavishly.  Come be at peace while you are protected and provided for.  Come be a wife to your very first love.  He is waiting on you.