A great love is one that overcomes all obstacles.
The greatest love story is not one in which a wonderful man finds a terrific woman, they fall in love, they get married, and they live a blissful life thereafter. It’s a good love story, but not the best.
The best story–the kind I’m calling the greatest love story–involves overcoming obstacles of time or rejection or distance or heartbreak. Such a story tells of devotion in the face of discouragement, determination in the face of opposition, and the triumph of hope over despair.
A couple of days ago, I invited Facebook friends to tell me their best love story. I expect three or four. I received a dozen and more are still coming in.
Now, what I’m actually doing is working on a sermon about “the greatest love” which I will preach in two churches, and a Valentine’s banquet program for a third church. The thought occurred to me that, even though I know some great love stories, there are plenty of others out there that need to be told.
Here are some of the ones that have come in. Most are abbreviated since some were four pages long. I’ll use first names only.
FIRST STORY: “The male nurse weds the patient’s sister”
Matthew and Holly have a website where they chronicle their lives together. He writes from his perspective, then she uses a different font and tells the same event from her viewpoint. I know them well and have dined in their home on several occasions. They are wonderful people.
Matthew is a nurse. After spending time hitchhiking around Africa, he volunteered in Ethiopia as a public health nurse. That’s when he decided to return to the States for training, then to spend the rest of his life helping the people on that continent. In the Seattle area, he worked at Swedish Health Center.
Holly’s brother Seth was critically injured in an automobile accident in California. In time, the family arranged to transport him to a center specializing in head trauma, one that would be close to their home in the Seattle area. At the last minute, they were twice turned down by the two centers which were the obvious choices. Only Swedish was available. Only one nurse specialized in head trauma at that center: Matthew.
As Matthew ministered to Seth, the family grew close to him and he came to treasure them. Matthew saw photos of the patient’s sister Holly and was impressed. “I was struck by the incredibly beautiful woman I saw in several of the photographs.” One evening, he walked into Seth’s room and bingo! there she was. “I was star-struck.”
Holly was impressed by the kind, compassionate man who so devoted himself to the care of his patient.
What followed was a very slow and quite lengthy progression in a relationship between the nurse and the patient’s sister. Both were attracted to the other, but with reservations that something about this was not right. Matthew believed “the feelings I had for Holly were a transgression of the client-patient relationship.”
Holly is a preacher’s daughter. Matthew is Catholic. The discussions they conducted involved personal relationships with Christ, theology, what the Bible says, and a hundred related areas. She found Matthew to know Christ intimately and to love Him as strongly as she did. His work as a nurse was an expression of his devotion to Christ.
The courtship lasted many, many months.
Matthew: “Our courtship has been an amazing journey–intense, frustrating, wonderful. Holly played her cards close to her chest for many months. I thought she must be somewhat interested in me because we would talk for hours during our visits together at the care center, but she did not reveal her feelings to me. I started baking bread for her as my way of telling her ‘I love you’ without words.”
Holly: “We began many exciting, frustrating, blissful, scary, roller-coaster months of courtship, while we learned to work through our many differences, adjust to the (for me) frightening idea of one day possibly spending part of our lives in Matthew’s Africa, and a myriad of other changes and adjustments as we began to know each other in a deeper way, and as my family and I continued to deal with the tragedy surrounding my brother’s circumstances. It was the most intense, soul-searching, exciting time of my life, but Matthew also made it the most romantic. I now knew what it was like to be pursued, to be romanced, and to feel cherished by another, and it was wonderful.”
Yes, Holly and Matthew married, and are doing great. He finished his Masters in Public Health at Tulane and she is teaching piano students in New Orleans. They are waiting to see what God has next on His agenda for them.
SECOND STORY: “From a single mother”
Cheryl writes, In 1979, I was pregnant and unmarried. I gave birth to a precious little boy, in spite of the doctor’s urging me to have an abortion. Friends told me I would never find a man who would love me because of my “scarlet” past.
But I met a man who fell in love with me and my son. We have now been married 27 years.
Even though my past still bothers me, my husband has never mentioned it.
His unconditional love for me reminds me of the kind of love God has for me. It’s hard to imagine that such love and forgiveness is nothing compared to God’s love and forgiveness. I have no doubt God brought just the right person to me to remind me every day when I have doubts that God loves me in all my sin, that if a human man can love me this much, how much more God can.
THIRD STORY: “A pastor finds a wife in a purse.”
James writes, On April 16, 2007, my wife of 24 years gave birth by Caesarean to our son Joseph. We had waited through 18 years of marriage for our first child, and after losing our second one, Joseph would be our last. That day, after all the excitement had cooled down, she sent me home with the words “Joseph and I will be waiting for you in the morning.”
Those were the last words I would hear from her.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, an artery that had been lacerated and “repaired” during the C-section burst. She bled to death.
I was 47 years old and the father of a 5-year-old daughter and a newborn son. The valley was deep and dark.
Some two months after she died, I decided it was time to go into that domain that no man is ever to enter: I would open my wife’s purse.
The first thing I pulled out was a picture of a young woman whom we had been trying to match with a preacher friend of ours. God spoke to my heart: “Call her.”
I shook my head, sure it was my imagination.
Again, the voice came, “Call her.”
I wrestled with this quite a bit. Then I called her mother who was the wife of one of our former deacons and a good friend. After that, the young woman and I spoke on the phone.
Gradually, this developed into a relationship. I felt from the start that if the Lord told me to call her, He meant for us to be together.
Laura was a 32-year-old woman who owned a Ph.D. in chemistry from a major university. She was beautiful and completely committed to Christ. She had never kissed a man, and never used alcohol or drugs.
I fell in love with her. After a year of my asking, she agreed to become my wife. We were married on December 31, 2008. She loves my kids and has made an excellent mother and pastor’s wife. This is our love story.
FOURTH STORY: “25 years later”
Becky writes, Joe, you know John’s and my story is one of the best! We grew up together from the church nursery all through high school, in the same church. We were always good friends, but never dated. I had a rule never to date the boys at church because our group was so close that, when we broke up (that always happened!), our mutual friends would have to choose sides.
In time, I married Tommy and John married Sue. He told me later that he had loved me as long as he could remember and the day I married Tommy, his heart just broke. He was at the wedding.
John and I went through unwanted divorces. He had been married for 20 years, I had been married 23 years. He was still in New Orleans, I was in Texas. When a mutual friend told both of us about each other, we reconnected.
He came to see me the weekend before I moved to Knoxville and we married 13 months later.
FIFTH STORY: “My mom knew what she wanted”
Pat writes, The best love story is Jesus taking our place on the cross. The next best is my parents’ story.
My mom was from Wooster and my dad was living in Mansfield, Ohio. Somehow mom found a job in the Mansfield area and moved into a house next door to my dad’s family. Soon, he fell for the 5’2″ blonde blue-eyed beauty next door.
They had been dating for a while when Dad went into the Army Air Corps. After basic training, he was assigned to California. On a phone call home, he told mom that if she would come to California, he would marry her.
Knowing my mom the way I do, it’s hard to believe, but she quit her job, bought a train ticket, and headed to California.
This month, they will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary.
(more stories will follow in a day or two)