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.