Perfect Love: A Reflection on 2020

“Who am I, to be loved by You?” — NEEDTOBREATHE

One year ago today, I exchanged pleasantries with an old acquaintance and the game was forever changed. I had no idea that reaching out with a kind and encouraging word would have the power to impact the trajectory of my entire life.

I met Andy when I was a freshman in college and he was a senior. I was the violin-toting-straight A-getting-spend-every-night-in-the-study-hall-class-president-nerd-bird and he was the gorgeous-soccer-stud-women-falling-over-him-party-animal-cool-kid. Difficult as it may be to believe, our paths crossed often; we attended a small liberal arts college and our friend groups intersected. We grew up less than an hour apart in two twin cities of Virginia.

If I am completely honest with myself, I couldn’t stand the guy. Sure, he was a hottie, but he stood for everything I stood against and he strutted around campus as if he owned it.

Fast forward twenty-five years or so and I received a Facebook request from him. People do quite a bit of growing and changing over the years and I admit I was curious to stalk his social media page and find clues as to whether or not he was still the entitled, pompous boy I once knew.

He was decidedly not.

Instead of being greeted by the images I expected to see, his page was flooded with pictures of service and outreach and with inspiring biblical verses. I was confused and astonished but quickly moved on.

Then, on December 21, 2019, he posted a status update announcing his departure from Texas, where he had been serving at the Dream Center SETX, and his plans to move back home to Virginia. He thanked the men and women who had helped him along his journey to sobriety and faith and mentioned that he had a forthcoming book detailing his journey.

As I would have done for anyone else, I penned a quick note of congratulations and encouragement and wished him well with his move, his book, and his continued sobriety. It was not the sort of message demanding a response, yet I heard back from him within the hour.

Before I knew it, I had offered up my editing services and was reading the manuscript for his book, Divine Trust, for the first time. As voracious a reader as I am, it is rare that I read a book from cover to cover in a single sitting. (As it turns out, most things where Andrew is concerned are the exception). I will not go into too much detail, as the book is being released in fewer than two weeks, but suffice it to say that the content I found in its pages changed my life in ways I cannot yet articulate well.

As a Brene Brown superfan, I find vulnerability, truth, and transparency extremely attractive. I also happen to find Andrew extremely attractive, and not just for the reasons one might assume. (Yes, he is still super handsome).

Having lost my first husband to a brain aneurysm and my second husband to addiction, the tome I found myself reading had me spellbound. It also had me yearning for a different sort of love… one that was deep, abiding, perfect, profound, infinite, eternal, unrelenting, unceasing, and steadfast. Much to my surprise and delight, I found it.

Plot twist: it was not with Andrew that I found this love.

Please don’t misunderstand me; Andrew loves me well and I have never enjoyed this level of affection, respect, trust, and friendship in a relationship with anyone. And yet, as a point of fact, it was Andrew who introduced me to the great love of my life.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. I sat in a pew at Peakland Baptist Church every Sabbath from the time I was knee high to a totem pole. I sang hymns, participated in youth group, and listened to sermons. I would have called myself religious, as I was doing all the things that religious people do. I was certainly always quite spiritual.

But I did not know God. My faith was woefully superficial and lacked depth of any kind. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I had no idea that one could have a reciprocal relationship with the living God until I read Andrew’s personal account in his book. In the spirit of full disclosure, one of my first thoughts upon concluding my first read-through was, “Man, if that dude can have a relationship with the LORD, surely I can, too!” (Andrew, please forgive me. I didn’t truly know you yet).

Andrew and I began spending more and more time together, working on the book, exchanging ideas, discussing who God is and what He does. I had not had the pleasure of being exposed to someone with the level of spiritual fitness and discernment Andrew displayed. He didn’t simply talk the talk. He walked the walk.

I should make it clear that I have been accused more than once of being entirely too cerebral for my own good. I have always found comfort in intellectual pursuits. Andrew refers to me as being “Latin” to his “Greek.” The former is academic, the latter, spiritual. (For the record, I’m working on finding a happy balance).

My openness to the things I was hearing and reading left something to be desired at first. Who among us has not, at one point or another, been skeptical about faith? And because the kind of faith I was witnessing was so different from that to which I was accustomed, I was doubly dubious.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot, no holds barred. So many of my closest friends and family members are devout Christians, so I knew there might just be something to it. I took my dear and trusted friend, Garth, up on his challenge: to keep myheart, spirit, eyes, and ears open for ways in which Our Creator has his hand in my life.

At first, nothing happened. It was silent. It was still. I almost gave up looking for the “God winks.”

And then, slowly but surely, it happened. Once I started paying attention, the number of “coincidences” became too great to discount. I was running the numbers in my head, figuring the statistics. Without boring anyone with the mathematical details, it simply HAD to be God.

Before I knew it, the anxiety with which I have lived for decades had subsided quite a bit. Despite the monumental stressors we all experienced in 2020, I enjoyed a new-found sense of peace. A feeling of intense gratitude began following me everywhere I went and I learned to recognize those precious moments when the Holy Spirit was paying me a personal visit.

For the record, I know that this will be brushed aside by a select few. Some folks will refer to me as a “bible beater” while others will claim that I have had far too many sips of the “kool aid.” I’m OK with that, especially since (LORD forgive me) I would have been thinking the very same thing a year ago.

And yet, here I stand, just one year from the day my Creator saw fit to knock a little more loudly on my door. I am forever indebted to Him and to the servant leader He sent to find me. I am grateful to my core that the very year during which a pandemic robbed us of everything from lives to livelihoods to toilet paper, I found salvation.

Merry Christmas and God Bless, friends. Good tidings to you all.

PS: Maybe think about taking me up on a challenge for 2021: Get still. Get small. Get quiet. Pay attention. Submerse yourself in His Word. He will reveal Himself to you, and everything will change.

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