“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.” ~1 John 5:2
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” ~1 Peter 4:8
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Right about this time (7:30ish) exactly 17 years ago I was working at a local restaurant. We were busy that night and people were running around everywhere trying to get orders ready and out to the customers. I needed to refill the sweet tea so I ran to the back to get more when I crashed into him. We locked eyes and I lost my breath. The look he gave me at that moment spoke volumes. I looked down and said, “Sorry. I just need to get some tea right quick”. I started to turn away from him and that’s when he caught my arm and said, “Look at me”. So I did. Then he said, “Do we need to talk about this?”. As I looked at the reddish-brown tile floor and tried to still my racing heart I decided that this was my one chance so I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Yes”. Then, I turned to get the tea and walked away.
Two hours later when the place was quiet and clean he asked me to sit down. We were sitting in the front booth across from one another and you could have cut the tension with a knife. I remember sitting there thinking, “What is he going to say?”. For what seemed like thirty minutes, but was actually more like thirty seconds neither one of us said a word. Then, he asked me again to look at him. This time when I looked at his piercing hazel eyes I couldn’t look away. We sat there and just looked at each other. Then, in his deep voice he said “What is happening between us?”. That was the exact moment that I fell head over heels in love with him.
We sat in that booth for six hours and talked like we had never talked before. There was nothing we couldn’t talk about and the time flew by for both of us. We laughed and talked that whole time. I had never had a conversation like that in my life. He was facing the clock that hung on the wall above the ice machine and at 3:45 a.m. he said, “We really need to go. The morning shift will be here soon.” I remember thinking “huh? morning shift? We just sat down! Surely it’s not that late!” But, it was. We had discussed a lot of things during those six hours, but the one thing we both hated was that we knew in a couple of hours we would break two people’s hearts because we knew we had found the person we were meant to find and it was not those other two people.
Realizing that we were jumping off of a huge cliff together was exciting and very scary at the same time. When we left that restaurant that morning, I knew that I would never be the same. One conversation and I had fallen head over heels in love with a man who was eight years older than me. And, I knew that he had fallen head over heels in love with me too.
It was Saturday, January 9th, 1999. My life, my plans, my ideas about my future all changed that night. I went from being in a long term relationship with a really good guy to being head over heels in love with a man that I barely knew. Yet, I felt like I had known him my whole life. People say there is no such thing as love at first sight. I’m here to tell you that oh yes there is! Nothing about our relationship was ‘normal’. From that day forward we were together all of the time. We could not get enough of each other…we worked together and we spent every available minute together away from work.
Three months later he took me to the campground at my home church one night. We were sitting under the Arbor talking (we never ran out of things to talk about!) and he asked me what I thought it would be like to get married down here at the campground. I told him I thought it would be so pretty. The old Arbor was over a hundred years old and had been a very special place for me my whole life. I just knew a wedding would be gorgeous under this old wooden structure! Then, before I knew what was happening he got down on his knee and asked me if I would marry him under it one day. It was so sweet!! I remember grabbing his neck and jumping into his arms… and then I screamed! A car was coming down the little road to the campground and I was terrified! Cars don’t just go down there unless they are up to no good that time of year (unless the people inside are getting engaged!).
We waited for the car to leave and then we jumped into his truck where I finally got to see my ring for the first time! It was the darkest night ever and we had no lights so I had it on my finger for a while before I ever laid eyes on it! When I saw it for the first time I was blown away at how perfect it was for me. The tear shaped diamond was set into a simple gold band. It was beautiful and I loved it immediately. He had picked it out himself and I knew that I would never take it off. To this day the only time I’ve taken it off of my finger was to play in a volleyball tournament and when I was at the end of my pregnancies and it wouldn’t fit my finger anymore. As soon as I could, it went back on my hand and has been there ever since.
On Friday, July 9, 1999 I wore it on my right hand as he placed my wedding band on my left hand. When I slide my diamond onto the finger with my gold band I knew that those rings would be with me for the rest of my life.
Exactly six months to the day of that first real conversation I married the love of my life. It seems so weird that now I am sitting here 17 years later with our two girls tucked into our bed without him. What we discovered that winter night was that God really does make soul mates. We were equally shocked to know that we each had the same feelings for one another. We couldn’t believe that we had so much in common and could just sit and talk for six straight hours and never even realize that that much time had passed. We had several, several nights like that over the years. We could start talking and before we realized it six or sometimes seven hours had passed by and we had no idea where it went.
I am so very thankful that I got to have that kind of love. I understand that most people never know what its like to love someone on this level. I have learned how to listen to people and it doesn’t take but just a few seconds for me to know if they have experienced it or not. The ones who have are few and far between. Our road was not easy and we had our fair share of hard times. We had to learn how to make our love last through all of the hard things that tried to tear us apart over the years. And, trust me there were many times we wanted to give up. God had better plans though. Just like this diamond on my finger, he used the pressures of life to make us into something beautiful in the end.
I will never forget what we had. It changed me that night in the restaurant and I have never been the same again. It would be so easy to get mad at God for taking him so soon. I spent a lot of time last week asking God the hard questions. I wanted to know why we had to go through so many bad times in our marriage. I wanted to know why after all we had faced and overcome together he would take him so soon. I wanted to know why I was being forced to live out the rest of my time here on Earth without the one person I loved more than myself. I just did not understand. Then, in a still, small voice I heard God say, “Because I want you to love me more”.
And, that opened my eyes to what God really wants from all of us. He wants us to love him more…more than anyone or anything in this world. We have to be willing to say that no matter what, we love God more. I will confess that I don’t know if I really did love God more than Greg. That’s shameful to admit, but I truly don’t think I did! God made me see that He loved me enough to give me a love like no other. He gave me a life filled with precious memories and good times. He brought two broken people together and made them into something He could use for His purposes and His kingdom. He forgave us when we made huge mistakes. He rebuilt us when we broke ourselves. And, he loved us through all of the good times and the bad.
There is a poem called “Footprints in the Sand” that reminds me of where I am right now. I have looked back and all I see are one set of footprints in the sand. Jesus carried us through some very difficult days. We could never have done it without him. I look forward to going to heaven one day. I am eager to get there and see all of the people I love there waiting on me. I want to be with Greg throughout eternity. But, God has shown me that I have to be eager to see him FIRST. That is my new mission: To love God first in all things, because He first loved me.
Love never has to end. It is there and it can grow if you let it. Greg and I let our love start to grow on this night 17 years ago. I hope that for anyone who reads this you will decide to let love grow in your life as well. Make a choice to love the people in your life with your whole heart today. Go out of your way to show them how much they mean to you. Love is not a feeling…it’s an action. Decide today that you will put action behind your words and see what God can do! It’s amazing I promise! There is nothing better than knowing that my husband died a happy man. His days here were numbered before he was born. God knew how long he wanted Greg to be here and there is nothing anyone could have done to change when he was going to leave. I constantly have to remind myself that God has a plan and it is for my good. I trust that God will use our story for his honor and glory. Our marriage was not perfect by any means, but we chose to love each other until death do us part. And, we did. There is no greater feeling than knowing we gave it all we had while we had it.
Now, I have to give God all I have from this point forward. He has carried me through hard times before, I know He is carrying me now. I don’t have to like it or understand it, but I do have to love God first above everything else. We all do…and if we trust Him, he will make something beautiful out of our brokenness.
“We love because He first loved us”~ 1 John 4:10
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ~1 John 4:10
“For this is My command, that ye love one another as I have loved you”~ John 15:12