This is a story I had written at the beginning of summer. It is about two dear friends, both flawed, and desperately searching for a taste of love not of this world. It’s a story of God changing lives, one love-fed spoonful at a time.
Encouragement. It comes in many forms. Some find it in between the pages of fairytales. Mysteries. Movies with happy endings. Food shared with a friend. A smile and a hug. Music. Laughter. Jobs where hard work pays off in a chance for bigger amounts of money. Quotes of wisdom from one of the “greats”. The greatest encouragement, I’ve come to see, doesn’t come from anything of this world, but from a prayer that ends with true love’s real name: Jesus.
When I was little, I used to lay my head down to sleep and pray for everyone I knew. It sounded something like this: I pray for (insert all names of family and friends as well as anything I had heard that made me sad). In the beginning, I used to love giving my words to something bigger than I. I never had any concept of whom the being that I was praying to actually was, or the power He had. I knew that He died and maybe a little bit about why. As I grew up though, I began to have this nagging thought: Do You even hear me?
I couldn’t understand how anyone could die for me. What made me so worthy? Couldn’t He see I was crippled? Why should He have any desire to listen to my feeble need? Through some of the challenging moments of my life, my first break-up, my parents’ divorce, and going off to college, I continued to wrestle with these doubts about my purpose. It wasn’t until I was sitting with a Mexican omelet in front of me while Veggietales played in the background, that I began to see how much He truly loved me.
It was during one of our Friday discipleships. We were sitting in the Student Union, and I was showing Gwen a new song I had found. After she finished belting out a final, “It is well with my soul,” silence fell over us for a moment, and then she looked me in the eyes with the sincerity of an honest friend, and simply asked if I wanted to come over her house for dinner. I always had trouble accepting whether people that came into my life were genuine, or for some unknown reason were taking pity. Most of the friendships from my past somehow turned one-sided, or ended unexpectedly, and I couldn’t handle watching this crumble when so much in my life had come to a screeching halt. Despite the conflict between my head and heart, I pushed away the hesitancy, and agreed on a day that upcoming week.
When the day finally arrived, we drove with the sun streaming through the windows, carrying on a conversation about how I’ve always wanted to live in the country, or at least where there were lots of fields, so I could have a pony. Once we finally reached her house, I remember being greeted by the meow of an orange kitty, to which Gwen said, “Oh hush,” half annoyed, as I continuously meowed back.
As she sat me down and set up my walker so I could get around, I knew in spite of the tidal wave nerves and general awkwardness, Jesus had begun to touch my heart. Just like most of our previous times together, Gwen pulled out her laptop so I could share yet another song artist that had brought joy to my ears recently. Between sips of cranberry juice and Pepsi, it was decided we would have Mexican omelets and Veggietales would play loudly, and obnoxiously.
Normally, I am ashamed to show this side of myself to anyone. From the second I turned on “The Water Buffalo Song,” I couldn’t help, but begin to laugh. Gwen began to dance around like a child on Christmas morning as she threw the rest of the ingredients into the pan. After they were finally finished, Gwen plated the omelets and took everything to the table.
We sat down and just as I was about to dig into the Mexican goodness, I heard the request I had been dreading: Would you like to pray?
I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer frozen in the headlights. My thought-process the entire two minutes or so she waited was something like: Jesus, do you remember the last time she asked me to pray? Sitting there with clasped hands, waiting patiently as I tried to push the immediate lump in my throat away? The sadness in her eyes when I couldn’t even say anything other than, “I can’t.”? No, I can’t fail You again. I don’t even know what to say.
I had seen Gwen pray during precious times when we had discipleship. The format always seemed to be centered on thankfulness. I generally sat there with my eyes closed, marveling at the words pouring out of her mouth. It intimidated me. She could sit there and speak so openly about what was in her heart. I, on the hand, always felt at a loss for words because to me, she just has this depth when she speaks, heartfelt honesty, and I always felt my prayers to Jesus would be inadequate, even if it was how I truly felt.
Maybe it was the fact that Veggietales had been playing in the background, or the hours I had already been there, I instantly felt at home and thankfulness had invaded my heart. So with a shaky, “okay,” I thanked Jesus for the delicious omelet placed before me, and a dear friend who showed me how true friendship is found in patience, love, and a little sacrifice.
On that Thursday night so many months ago, I started seeing love differently. Love goes deeper than any word we hide behind our silence. Love remains persistent through trials when we expect it let go of our hand. It hears your need, suffers alongside you, and fills you with uncontainable joy. Love forgives. Love stays faithful in distance, nearest when fear stills our heart. Love is truth you had been blind to before. Love is the constant encouragement and belief that you are worth more than any past mistake
Love is thankfulness for Jesus Christ.