Today is your birthday. You are 32 and I realize that I have spent over half of my life loving you. I can’t remember the exact moment I fell in love, but I remember whispering to a friend at such a young age, “I will marry him.”
The road hasn’t been easy. Not by any means. You comforted me through the greatest loss I faced at 16. You patiently waited while I searched for something or someone to fill up that hole in my heart. Had I only paid attention from the start, I would have realized that your unselfish love always pointed me to the only one who could fill that void.
We were too young. Of course we were. And yet I knew, I knew, I KNEW… God had sent you into my life. He sent me into yours. I had lost the man I loved all of my childhood, and God sent you to me early…. a precious gift. I would never trade even one of those early years. Married at 19 simply means we have had more years to love each other.
I haven’t forgotten. The day you forgave… instantly… my transgressions with a gracious embrace that turned me toward the light and freedom of love. That is who you are. One who forgives.
The rocky road we walked, recognizing that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
We had weaknesses, let’s not forget.
And then we had the kind of new beginning that only a resurrected Savior can offer. You loved me through those times and I will never forget. You chose me over and over again, demonstrating the kind of love that has no boundaries, made possible only by your continual choice to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.
I witnessed as you and I propelled, as the minister prophesied…. propelled into a ministry that was more terrifying and rewarding than I ever could have imagined. We walked those dusty streets in the tropical sun, and were reborn again. Reborn into a purpose beyond anything we could ask or think. I watched you transform into an empty, willing vessel. And I was proud.
Despite your youth, you proclaimed the gospel, stood for justice and mercy, held your ground, and poured yourself into people and purpose. Your compassion and love for humanity poured from you, in prayers, lifestyle and conversation.
I will never forget what it felt like to be united for a common purpose in a strange land that somehow felt like home…. away from everything and everyone familiar, we walked hand-in-hand through the new terrain. Our marriage and our love were reborn and we have never been the same.
Some people have us all wrong, thinking I am strong because I communicate more. Or thinking I am the forgiving one because I put on a smile in the midst of heartbreak and anger.
But you…. you exude strength. You are filled with the strength that comes only from having an unquestionable purpose. You work and pray and work and pray to see the Kingdom come. You forgive freely, praying earnestly for your enemies. You are so filled with the love of God that it spills out into all aspects of your life.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
When I interject my name in the place of “love” in this passage from Corinthians, I feel like a liar. When I interject your name, Jimmie, I feel like I am accurately describing so many aspects of your personality. You have loved me patiently, in spite of my irritability and stubbornness. You are kind to all. On and on it goes. You endure all things. Your love never ends.
You are the human face of God’s love in my life. You love me enough to call me out on my nonsense. You love me enough to make space for my gifts and callings. You love me enough to forgive, time and time again, no matter how great or small the offense. You love me enough to pull me up when I’m sinking. You love me enough to point me to Jesus…. every time.
I have never gushed about you in public like this. I know you prefer to fly under the radar. I know you never want people to see you, only Jesus. But today you are 32 and I celebrate you. I honor you. And I can only hope to love you the way you love all.