True Love 101

Mar 24, 2013

Both smiling…

But what does love look like? It was the unmistakable voice of God, the press of the words gentle but firm. What does it look like? It seemed enough that I had forgiven the six men responsible for my son’s murder. I said it and meant it, and it was even printed in the newspaper. I’ve spoken to groups of people on the topic, declaring that the evidence of true forgiveness, divine forgiveness, is an abiding love, a holy love that only God can impart. I had said it, and I meant it. But now…OK Lord, I get it. You want me to show it. Those words were a catalyst for a leap into a whole new dimension of my walk with Jesus.

Even though I grew up in the Love generation, my philosophy was more like, Take, especially when no one was looking. Make sure no one thinks you actually need them. My on-again, off- again relationship with an alcoholic father imparted a total distrust of men, at least in any arena of expectation or commitment. That seemed okay to me. I was quickly bored with relationships and eager to move on. I left a wasteland of disappointment in my tracks.

When I met Jesus I was jumping into my second marriage, and this one would be more of a disaster than the first. But God was trying very patiently to show me a few things about love, His love. I was a slow learner, in the SPED class of Christians. After all, that He could love me seemed outrageous. Then it dawned on me one day…He knows me even better than I know me. And still, He loves me, and wants me to know Him, to draw closer to Him. Amazing.

By this time Marriage #2 was crumbling. Alone with two adolescents and a toddler, I felt like the Dunce of God’s classroom. Yet He showed me that He was willing to spend extra after school time with me, tutoring me in True Love 101, telling me of the Greatest Love on earth, His son Jesus. This is what love looked like.

I never wanted to remarry. But knowing it was not up to me when a life is fully surrendered to Christ, I put one thing up on my list for a future husband, if it had to happen again. I wanted someone that loved Jesus with all his heart and soul; Jesus first in our lives. And I told God he would have to bring him to me. I didn’t want to go out there and look.

One day the phone rang and a strange man who introduced himself as C.B. Farnsworth told me he had heard about me from a friend. I told him I had kids. He said he liked kids. Pause. Did I like ice cream? No. Pause. Coffee? OK, you got me. He came over that summer evening with two Dunkin Donuts coffees and we sat at my picnic table and talked for 3 hours, mostly about Jesus.

I had so much fun I even drank his coffee with sugar in it which to this day is so gross to me I have to spit it out. Lest you think I am so spiritual, there were some sparks flying around that night. When four-year old Jake came out on the porch and saw the two of us sitting across from each other at the table, a big grin spread easily across his round little face. CB told me later that he knew that night I was the one. I just knew I wanted to know him more. Fourteen months later we married. What does love look like? A week before the wedding, Jake asked CB if he could call him dad. And so it has been ever since.

My husband and I had “Jesus is Lord” engraved inside our wedding bands. That simple declaration has been the rock our marriage has stood upon, surviving the loss of a child, moving to another state, pastoring a church together, a cancer diagnosis and then the usual turbulence that comes with four kids, an uncertain economy, and an empty nest. We are not alike, except for the fact that left to our own, we never would’ve learned how to love anyone. Independent, self-sufficient and stubborn, we were not made to mesh, but God has orchestrated a life for us that has forced us to consider this question over and over. What the heck DOES love look like? Standing at the altar, repeating the vows, we said it but we were one hundred percent clueless as to how to actually apply that to our lives, our marriage.

To be honest, which is hard, I am still so selfish and the self-preservation mode is on automatic most of the time. I want to be sure I can deflect anything that could hurt or really just make me feel uneasy and off guard. The older we get the easier it is to just stay in the same groove. I have to work at loving, putting feet and hands and heart to it all. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes scary. But the same Love that died for me, whose love was boundless, continues to pursue me. The words that challenged me last fall keep stretching my heart.

My husband is an incredible skier. He’s fun to watch, making what would terrify most people look effortless. He loves it. I don’t get it. I’ll ski but after I broke my leg at age ten, I skied again only for my kids. They’re gone now so when he announced a ski trip with some folks from church was coming up, I said I would be happy to never ski again for the rest of my life. Besides, I had a thousand things I had to do. Then, the day before the trip, that same question pressed me again. What does love look like, Robin? Darn! So I told him I wanted to go. He looked doubtfully at me. I stink at skiing.

“I just want to be with you,” was all I said, “even if it’s just on the ride up and back.”

I saw him smile.

He skied the whole day with me. It was one of those wondrous days when you know it could be so ordinary except you can feel God’s pleasure the whole time, and you know He is making it special, fanning the same sparks that flew around us 17 years ago.

Riding up on the chairlift together we took in the view, the sun over the mountains, the peacefulness of just being together. “I’m glad you came,” he simply said. I moved closer to him. This is what love looks like. I may be God’s slow learner, but I’m starting to get it and I like it more and more. Someday I might be good at it…loving that is, not skiing.