I awakened this morning with a memory from a long time ago floating around in my head. It was Winter of 2006. My cousin, Chad and his fiancee were getting married and had asked me to do a reading at their wedding. I had only just the month before lost the man that I was totally in love with, when I found out that he had been dating someone else our entire relationship and was now living with her. Crushed as I was inside-I still wanted to be part of Chad’s beautiful wedding and to be there for him and his soon to be wife. My sister and I hitched a ride down to Georgia with our aunt and uncle where we stayed beachfront on Jekyll Island.
I remember feeling a storm of emotions as I stood on the coast and watched the waves crashing against the shore. I felt as small as a grain of sand and as dumb as a pebble that just floated along whichever direction the current swept it–never thinking for myself–always ignorant that someone else’s motives may have been deceptive. For me, those waves symbolized words…promises to protect my heart…the assurance of love…and I had been swept to and fro happily in those currents until the day came when I was tossed up onto the sand and abandoned. I was cast away onto the scorching sands of midday and left there-alone in my brokenness as the coldness of night approached. And that was my fate as I stood there, broken hearted staring out onto the moonlit ocean.
The wedding rehearsal came and I took my first few steps into the cathedral. I remember my heart pounding in my chest as some part of me awaited the striking of a brilliant blue lightning bolt that would tear through the top of the church and surely strike me dead. It had been so long since I had been inside a church and I was sure that my sins were so great that God would take no hesitation to snuff me out as soon as He saw me drag myself across the threshold of His house. The priest came down and shook my hand and introduced himself to me beneath the white carpeted stairway. My hand trembled as he took it in his own and I wondered if he could feel my fears as they coursed outwardly from my soul and flooded violently into my body. If he did, it wasn’t apparent from his disposition and soon that moment passed and I settled in to watch the procession from a bench in the front of the church.
Soon, it was my time to ascend the staircase and receive my instructions for the reading that I was going to be giving. As I read over the words that I was to read aloud the next day–it took all of the strength in my body to stand and every ounce of resolve within me to hold back the flood of hot tears that threatened to escape at any moment. I had to read what God says about Love. Love is patient, love is kind….the words all blurred into a painful epiphony as I realized that all of the things that God says that love is….I had never known for myself. As I looked across the room at Chad and Ashley, I realized that the energy of the words I was contemplating in my mind were evident in the way that they looked at each other. I wondered if I would ever know that kind of love for myself.
In those moments that passed I regretted having allowed words and empty promises to sweep me away into a lie so many times in my life. I regretted having given myself over to the untruths and deceptions of those who used those lies in order to lure me into their lives. I regretted that I hadn’t allowed God’s definition of love to transcend into my definition of the same.
The next day as I slid into my four inch heels and started out to the car, I realized that I would have to at some point begin to resolve within myself all of the regrets and somehow find peace with my past if I ever wanted to be free from the sadness that now accompanied me everywhere. As I climbed the stairs up onto the stage I promised myself to leave behind all of my self-hatred and the regrets. I began to read the words from the bible that had tore into me like a hot knife the night before and for a split second I wondered if the storm of emotion would return, but it didn’t. As I looked out upon the hundred or more guests in the cathedral I confessed God’s definition of Love and from an unburdened heart I blessed Chad & Ashley’s union that day as I received a blessing of my own.
Many things have come to pass in my life since that day that have caused my heart to break, but never once have I mistaken what love is. I have loved people who have given me pain for gold. I have loved those who have stolen parts of myself that I have held sacred and I have given kindness out of a heart that has been abandoned, cursed, shattered and eventually iced over. For a time, I couldn’t receive love-but never has there been a time that I couldn’t give love and for that I am thankful. Because in my life, I have learned how to live out God’s definition of Love regardless of how those I have loved have defined it. And that has made all the difference.