I am the chief of sinners. My resume? Thief. Drug Addict. Alcoholic. Liar. Cheater. Gossip. Massive Debtor. Sexually Promiscuous. Etc...
Until someone took the time to learn my name. Love me in the middle of all that. To be a real, live, tangible example of Jesus. That is what, “the greatest of these,” is about. Real love is patient, kind and long suffering.
A complete stranger told me this week that they never want to be in a relationship again. But not because they don't want or desire love. It's because their heart has darkened from bitterness and disappointment.
By the time I was 30 I started to think I also might never get married. I was too screwed up. Certainly not deserving. And far too complicated a person to live with. I had nothing to show for but years of bad decisions and an inability to hold down a job.
In 2006 I returned to University and later met a boy. He was, gasp, eleven years younger than me. Far too young to be of any serious interest. That was not why I had returned to school. And I was not interested in being a notch on some young kids belt. I needed a man.
But this blonde hair, blue eyed, rosy cheeked jokester began to pursue me. There was something in the way he looked at me. As if he saw something no one else could. It made me uncomfortable. But curious. What did he know that I didn’t?
When he was around, I forgot about how miserable my life was, even if just for a few minutes. In those brief moments, he saw “the real me.” He recognized, before I did, that my issues did not make me who I was. I was buried somewhere beneath the pain.
For months I waited for him to figure out he was making an epic mistake. There were other girls who were younger, better looking, and far less screwed up. I remember after getting engaged I once tried to give the ring back. He refused.
He said, “I want to create an environment where you can become the woman of God, he created you to be.” Age, my friends, is just a number.
Most people think of my husband as the funny guy, the prankster. But he is my equally yoked. I needed all his laughter and light after so many years of pain and darkness. He helps me not to take life so seriously. He leads. Carries. Encourages and inspires. Holds me accountable and keeps me chasing after the heart of Jesus before everything else.
Real love married me when I was still broken, using drugs and drinking. It said, “I take you unconditionally as you are.” It did not enable my brokenness. It loved me out of it. It gave me a safe place where I could be who I was, without judgment or expectation. It made me want sobriety and health. It made me feel worthy. It gave me a back bone and a capacity to love others beyond what I thought I was capable.
Real love does not ask us to change first and then it will apply itself. It applies itself first, and in time, God willing, we begin to change.