We sat on either side of our granddaughter, her rapt attention focused on the screen in the theater. We were watching the newest Cinderella and she was captured by the story she knows so well.
Our children liked The Princess Bride. It held a different kind of charm but its characters were endearing. There was a bit more in questioning in this tale and more humor but they are among our family’s favorite love stories.
A friend of mine has one of those love stories. She was a history teacher in Georgia, USA leading her class on a tour in France. She took a fall and needed a doctor. She and the doctor communicated after she returned to the states and within a couple of years she moved to France and married him.
Hers is the most romantic story of people I know. It’s got the “made for movie” ingredients.
Sadly, after two children and twenty years of marriage it unraveled until it came completely apart.
I know other love stories of a different kind. They are stories of a Savior who loves us when we can’t even love ourselves.
We work and move among men living in a residential rehabilitation program. It’s a free program run by an organization that would cause many to think it’s a homeless shelter. There are no private rooms and six showers to be shared by 100 men. There are rules. They live with curfews and restrictions, a dress code and requirements to see a counselor, attend meetings and participate in work therapy.
It doesn’t sound much like love but it is a place where love is offered and sometimes love is found.
We know this because we see the change. We see it when they start to love themselves, when they recognize grace and when they accept that God loves them no matter what.
It’s a lot to believe for all of us.
This is the real love story. Not a sappy, happy all the time imitation of love but real love that hurts and resists but never gives up.
We are learning together, these men who share little in common with me but inside we are so much the same.
We’ve been hurt by what we thought was love. We’ve discovered love has more fakes than Rolex and we’ve been duped. Duped by parents and boyfriends and spouses and friends.
We’ve bought the movie version and every shade of gray offered and found them empty and ourselves searching for more.
Eventually, we find the only love that matters is the kind described in 1 Corinthians 13 “Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.”
If genuine love can be found in a facility for addicts, alcoholics and those who’ve lost their way in life, if this love that’s born from compassion can be shown in simple acts of kindness and hospitality then maybe we can know love. Maybe we can understand it’s not about feelings but actions. That honest love wants nothing in return only to be accepted and shared.
This is my love story.
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”1 John 4:7-10 Message