We didn’t have the money to see the doctor. But I was sick. What had started out as a cold was growing worse. Now I was having chills, a fever and my throat was burning.
I was eleven, which meant my little sister was only six. So I got the assignment to go to the Chinese restaurant, where my father worked as a a waiter and ask him for some money, so I could see the doctor.
It had already been a few years since my parents divorced– and I hadn’t seen him for a long time. I wondered how he would react seeing me at the entryway of the restaurant, showing up unannounced.
As I made my way toward the glass doors, I wondered what I would say to him.
So this is where my father works, I thought, as I stood there on the emerald green carpet, dusty from fortune cookie dust and foot traffic, waiting for my father to come.
“What are you doing here?” my father asked anxiously when he saw me. He was working and I could tell this wasn’t the right time to ask him anything.
“I’m sick. I need some money to see the doctors,” I croaked, my throat dry as a rock.
“Tell your mom to never ask me for money ever again,” my father replied, as he stuck one hand in his back pocket, to pull out his wallet. As I watched him peel bills from his billfold, I felt in the pit of my stomach something I didn’t have a name for. Shame.
As I turned around to push the door open and leave, the little-girl-me made a vow.
I will never, ever ask anyone for money ever again.
I will never depend on anyone.
I haven’t thought of this painful memory in a very, very long time.
Since then, I’ve found Jesus — and Jesus has always taken care of me.
And I have never been alone again.
It’s what drew me to Jesus — the cross. His suffering.
Because He Loves Us
When I heard that there was Someone who was willing to suffer for me — because He loved me — my hungry soul, thirsty for love, heard His voice. I recognized God’s whispers of love and peace.
“Are you real, Jesus?” I prayed one night, as I heard the Gospel story preached at a church retreat — of how Jesus came as a prince, disguised as a carpenter.
I was an early reader, gobbling every book I could get my hands on. Books were my safest confidantes, my most faithful friends.
But, this story I heard being told by a preacher one night, under a cross was very peculiar. This story of Jesus and the cross shocked me. I was expecting the protagonist to start launching into a soliloquy of some sort — or some Gregory-Peck-esq, To-Kill-a-Mockingbird defense of the truth. Justice.
Instead, this Jesus didn’t do or say anything to defend himself or fight back. Instead of justice, Jesus yielded his last breath — to die and pour out his love.
I was completely, utterly speechless. My heart was beating in confusion and shock. What kind of story is this?
Then, a soul-altering, life-changing moment transformed me: I learned that Jesus, the Son of God, rose to come alive on the third day — because He loved me.
I felt Jesus whisper ever so tenderly —
I love you, Bonnie.
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t give up for you.
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t suffer, so you will never, ever — never, ever — have to be alone anymore.
I will take care of you. Will you be mine?
With tears streaming down my face, my chest choking in release, I prayed —
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Jesus, I want your love.
I want to love the way you do.
I want to follow you forever.
In that intimate moment of reckoning, Jesus touched me and restored me.
Jesus healed my shame — by taking my shame as His own.
I become His beloved.
Your First Love: Take Some Time
As we approach Holy Week this weekend, take some time to remember how you first fell in love with Jesus.
Take some time to remember — how you once wondered if there was Someone to love you and call you His very own.
Then, recall that beautiful moment when Jesus became your First Love: when you felt Jesus whisper to you His words of intimate love and peace.
What a beautiful way to walk with Jesus into Holy Week — when Jesus set His face like flint to walk into Jerusalem, knowing what was awaiting him. Jesus could bear every whip that lashed onto His back — because He carried the dream of something far more beautiful and precious to carry Him through the pain: YOU.
Jesus loves you irrevocably, unconditionally.
One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Surely our grief he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried . . . and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
Jesus wraps His healing love around you.
Jesus will never let you down.
A New Vow
During Lent, as I considered the many ways Jesus is inviting me to experience His joy, peace, and love — Jesus has been bringing me back to the cross, that beautiful first night I heard the Gospel.
Jesus is releasing me from that memory of the little girl who felt she had to always depend on herself.
Jesus is reminding me of the new vow He made to each of us — to you and me:
I will never, ever leave or forsake you.
I am your real Heavenly Father.
I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
You are mine. You are beloved.
Let us renew our vows of love to Jesus in return.
I will never, ever part from you.
I am your beloved.
Thank you for loving me.
I love you forever.
Falling in love isn’t a one-time event. Critical voices often want to pull us away. We need the continual, intimate renewal of God’s whispers of love and peace. Again and again.
Remember you are cherished. You are God’s beloved. As is.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you…
Do not fear, for I am with you. (Isaiah 43:1-5)
Pull up a chair. I’d love to hear. How did you first fall in love with Jesus? What is Jesus whispering to you today?
By Bonnie Gray, author of the new 40-day devotional Whispers of Rest. She invites you to experience God’s loving whispers to refresh and guide you at FaithBarista.Leave a Comment
As usual your words pierce my soul and even though our stories are so different the shame is the same. I love that you have written these words for holy week and to remind us of the celebration that is Christ’s love for us! . I haven’t written on my blog since Christmas. Keep waiting for inspiration. I bet you can relate. I pray great blessings for you Bonnie.
Bonnie Gray says
thanks, Lisamarie! It’s Christ’s love for us … time and again! The beautiful story of love that is coming alive in you… and me. May your words flow onto your blog, as get refreshed and share from your heart.
Paulete Adams says
Thank you so much for re-telling your story Bonnie. It is moments of our deepest pain that Jesus finds us and meets us to bring healing and restoration. May you go from strength to strength as you continue to serve the true Lover of your soul . God Bless you.
I first fell in love with Jesus as a little girl. Walking/skipping home from school I would sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands…”. I would smile and think how big He is, and how kind of Him to carry us in His hands; I felt safe and loved.
Wendy A says
You only ever point to Jesus and His Love. This is Truth. Thank you for echoing the Truth of my own Heart – “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. (Gal6:14)
Bonnie Gray says
i love how you describe truth “echoing” in your heart, Wendy! how poetically God whispers to you!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I so felt the pain of that little girl…the little you. How amazing it must have been to realize Jesus’ great love that would go to any lengths to make you His own. I remember, as a 13 year old girl, lying on a wide open field after a campfire time at a Christian camp. I looked up in the pitch black darkness to a sky filled with thousands of stars and I marveled how the Creator of all this could care about me so much that He was willing to come and die for me – to take my shame upon Him to the cross. Even more so, I realized there was finally someone who could fill that hold in my heart that nothing or no one could ever fill. Jesus…He wanted to fill that hole, to have a relationship with me, to love me and call me His beloved. I still marvel at the moment that Truth sunk in. How good it is to remember back to when we first became His, declared our sins and unrighteousness, and invited Him to come in and be the King of our lives. Absolutely beautiful, Bonnie. Thank you for encouraging me to go back to the night and in so doing remember that same love is with me this morning….
Bonnie Gray says
dear Bev, your story – this scene – of that first moment falling in love with Jesus as a 13 year old girl – this is a gift to our community here. thank you for sharing! and yes, as we return to that first moment, we realize Jesus is here loving us with this same love. He is this same love, filled with affection for us, and we are the same to Him. beautiful night you and Jesus shared!
These words warm my heart and soul this morning. Looking forward to reading your new book. I first fell in love with Jesus as a very young person. I have been disappointed many times by people–Christians, too. It’s taken a long time to realize I need to focus on Him and not others regardless of where I find them. People come to church for many reasons. I go to learn more about Him. It is disconcerting when you run into hurtful people in church. However, that gives me another to pray for because they most likely are hurting and it spills over in their behavior. Even through the trials in life, God leads me beside the still waters of his presence in my life. I am forever thankful I know He is there.
Bonnie Gray says
dear Dee, I’m so happy you’ll be enjoying the 40 day devotional Whispers of Rest with me to hear God’s whispers of love and peace — I can’t wait to hear what God whispers to you! I’ll have an online Whispers of Rest book club and private FB Group set up so we can encourage each other. The way of following Jesus has led you through many of these moments of disappointment and hurt from people who should have loved and cherished you – the way Christ has – yet, I hear and see a beautiful, living faith – that is evidence of God’s fresh love, flowing in and through you. We all have these experiences of hurt – because as you say, Jesus is faithful – He leads us to still waters. And we in turn, can offer that love and kindness to others in the church body – so they don’t have to hurt alone – and because of your presence, find that there are kind, gentle and gracious followers of Christ! You are a gift and blessing!
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
How beautiful to be reminded of the depth of love Jesus had for us on the cross and has for us every single day in the midst of all our needs. You have written beautifully about His indescribable, immeasurable love, thank you!
Oh how He loves us!
Bonnie Gray says
It’s so beautiful when we return back to what really matters — God loves us. Unconditionally. Irrevocably! Thank you for spending this time together this morning, Kathy!
Marymargaret Flook says
This really touched me this morning. Last night and honestly for the past year, or probably way longer, I just have forgotten that Jesus loves me, and that He died on the cross because He loves me. He went through so much pain physically and emotionally, because He wanted that relationship with me. This just makes me feel accepted and loved, and I’m finally starting to accept that. I wonder why people aren’t so overwhelmed by this amazing story, it’s too good to be true, but it is true. Lately God is really shown me how much I have missed out on His love and the Gospel. I get so wrapped up in making disciples, and being a good example, that I forget the most important thing, the Gospel. I know most people who read this are all ready an adult, I am just a 14 year old girl, but I really enjoy these devotions. Please pray that I accept this gift of love and not have disbelief or doubt. Thank you.
Marymargaret, You are wise beyond your years! Glad you are reading these devotions! I try to get my girls to read them but they often reject my suggestion or just do not understand the message. I will continue, just as you, remember the most important thing is reading God’s Word, the Gospel…our world is so busy these days but we must stay focused and read the BIBLE. Thank you for more inspiration today!
Bonnie Gray says
Hi Marymargaret! I am SSOO happy you’re hear this morning, soaking in God’s whispers of love for you! Accepting God loves us — really, really believing and experiencing that love — is a journey, that we continually grow into.I wrote about this in my new devotional Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul. I think you’ll love it! I share 40 of the most powerful, words of affirmation of love from God to us in Scripture, 40 different simple ways to pray to feel close to God, and 40 different soul care practices to spark joy. I’ll be hosting an online Book Club and setting up a private Facebook Group so we can encourage each other to really embrace who God created us to be: His beloved. I hope you can join us! I went on this same journey a few years ago to fall in love again — to hear God’s intimate voice of love once again — to be renewed and refreshed in my relationship with God.
Marymargaret Flook says
Thank you so much!! That was encouraging! Maybe I’ll check the devotional out! Since you write devotionals, I mind as well share with you, that I am currently writing my own. It is aimed at teens to get serious about a relationship with God, since I am a teen myself. Thank you for everything!!
I experienced that same shame many times when I had to open the door and lie that my mother wasn’t home. She had no money for the bill collectors and always sent me to open the door as I was the oldest child. This memory has just brought tears to my eyes! But I remember in Grade 6 when a minister came to speak about Easter and I heard that Jesus loved me enough to die for me and I could give my life to him. His love for me was so needed and I have served him for the last 58 years since that day. I still need that amazing love every day and am so grateful for my precious Saviour. Thank you for sharing your heart, Bonnie!
Melissa May says
I can’t remember much from when I first asked Jesus to be in my heart, but what I realize this morning anew is that it wasn’t about me loving God. It was all about the Father loving me. And while I’ve often made my walk with Him about me following, it’s always been about Him pursuing my heart. He reminded me of that this morning.
You for sharing. Love and hugs!
I so enjoy reading all the messages on (in)courage. There are many that speak to me specifically, as tho God is reaching me thru the messages. Normally I begin to read and then go back to the beginning to find out who
the author is. This time I decided not to do that because I would find out her name at the end of the message. While I was reading, up came the line: “I love you Bonnie”. I literally froze and turned away from the screen and cried. My name is Bonnie ~ and love is a difficult concept for me to grasp. This message was beyond my imagining….God is great and reaches us in ways that we cannot escape. Thank you ~
As I envisioned you as a little girl I was deeply touched. I’m sorry for what you were put through but I’m happy for you for what you’ve gained. Sometimes the connection of His love isn’t truly felt until it proceeds pain, even if you know it’s true. It’s a remarkable feeling when you’ve connected the two.
Thank-you for your touching words as always,
Have a blessed day all,
I love all of the writers at incourage, but when I saw this post was from you, I couldn’t wait to read it. I read Finding Spiritual Whitespace and realized we have similar childhoods and heart wounds. I love your tender heart towards Jesus; thank you for sharing Him with so many others in such an honest way. Blessings!
I too made similar vows as a small girl…not to need anyone, not to upset anyone, to not ask for or dream of anything too big or expensive, and especially not to say I missed my daddy…
I am thankful for Jesus’ love that covers all our woundedness…and so very thankful that He calls us His Beloved…
Stay connected to that Love every minute, sweet sister.
Rebecca L Jones says
I was eleven in a chapel crying my eyes out over His sacrifice for me. I have many times since, especially when I feel like I’m a disappointment or say something I should not . I know there is at least on offense I try hard to release. But I am always His beloved, it’s a comfort.
Susan G. says
So beautiful Bonnie.
Congratulations on your newest book!
Can’t wait to read it!
Nancy Ruegg says
The story of your soul-transformation touched MY soul, Bonnie. In the midst of such hurt and turmoil in your life, what a glorious moment when you first experienced the love of Jesus. Praise God for his healing, restorative touch! My story began at age four when I first heard the crucifixion story. Even though I was very young, I understood enough to realize that if Jesus (whom I knew from Sunday School, Children’s Church, VBS, etc.) was willing to suffer pain and die, to take the punishment for the naughty things I did in order to offer me eternal life with him in heaven when I died, how could I say no? I received Jesus into my life that day. For over sixty years now he has been my gracious Shepherd, leading, providing, protecting, and more. I cannot imagine life without him!
Thank you Dolly. Your words always offer hope and encouragement and point to the Father. My dad was present in our home, but in many ways emotionally absent. I had so many Father wounds growing up that I went looking for love in all the wrong places. I’m so thankful for God’s redeeming love and the way He continually pursues my heart.
Gemma Rodriguez Sicat says
Hi Bonnie, your story gripped my heart <3 Our dad left us when I was 2, 11 kids and my mother was barely in her 40's. The first years of my life was characterized by poverty and sadness 🙁 But during my grade school days, my Christian neighbors would hold Vacation Bible School and I learned about Jesus! I've trusted and yearned more of Jesus through the years. But during my high school years (i was working student) I "lost touch" (a totally stanger lady shared the Gospel to me and my 2 best friends during this time)… until I met this Christian professor during my third year in college who invited us to Bible study, then church…and the rest is history. I have surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus on September 4, 1983 and I've never regretted a single day of walking with Him. Praise God for His love and grace through the years! I'd look for your book here in Manila, Philippines. I'm sure it's here somewhere in the Christian bookstores. God bless you more!!
Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder. It really touched my heart today as I was feeling a bit lonely (moved to a new city recently, by myself), especially thinking about Holy Week & Easter and how I’d be spending it alone–what a great reminder that Christ is what matters and that he loves me unconditionally, no matter where I’m at… that’s worth celebrating!
Beth Williams says
Thank you for sharing such a heart rendering story of lost love & then acceptance. Isn’t that just like Jesus to come into our messy, hurt lives and bring compassion and love. I’ve always been a Christian. Right after HS I didn’t go to church or think much about it. I got re baptized in 2007. I had been sprinkled baptized and always thought that was good enough. After hearing numerous times that Jesus wants us to be dunked-I surrendered. Now I get very contemplative about Holy Week & Easter. It has more meaning to me-especially since my dad just died & mom’s been dead over 7 years. It gets one to thinking where we spend eternity.
Today I am really struggling in my job. It just seems no matter how hard we try, our efforts are futile and no one is ever happy with us (I am referring to my department and the hospital I work for). Right now there are so many people needing care, and so few resources to do it with. It is hard to see Jesus in all of this.
When I go home at night , I am weary and feel like I have failed somehow. Some days are better than others, but today is not going to be one of those better days. Really needing to hear His voice and His will.
Shauna, I work in the medical field too, at a group practice. I know how it feels to be unappreciated and overworked. But the Bible says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.” (Colossians 3:13). Also his mercies are new every morning (lamentations 3:22-23). Go into that job every day and BE Jesus to others. Don’the let the temporary suffering of working in a broken healthcare system steal your joy or your ability to minister to the sick. He placed you there for a reason, so shine your light!