My friend, Walt, is trying to come back from the stroke he had a few days ago.
I’ve known Walt almost my whole life, and two words come to mind when I think of him and his wife, Martha―unconditional love.
|Walt and Martha with my son, Aaron, and me nine months pregnant about to deliver my daughter, Bethany. |
They sent this picture to me only two weeks ago.
Walt was my pastor way back in high school. Though I was the church pianist, I was already on my wandering way to making several disastrous decisions that would take me in a very wrong direction.
Walt attempted to counsel me. I can still see him sitting in the chair opposite me, trying to help me see the error in my thinking.
Would I listen?
Headstrong, I refused to take his counsel and ultimately caused a massive train wreck of my life.
After several years, I finally surrendered my life wholly to God, to the only one who could untangle the wreckage and make sense of what remained.
Walt never rejected me. I never heard an “I told you so.” He didn’t stand on the sidelines waiting to criticize or make sure he had the last word.
Instead, as my life came together, he began inviting me to sing and speak at his churches, welcoming me with a loving heart and open arms. When I married Jerry, he invited Jerry to preach at events held at churches where Walt was a pastor.
For a lifetime now, Walt and Martha have epitomized unconditional love for me and given me a picture window into the heart of God. God loves us not for our work, but because we are His. Walt and Martha helped me see authentic love doesn’t make the beloved jump through hoops or meet performance standards. Real love loves, no matter what.
I know someone today, advanced in years, who seems to love based on others' performance, a person whose affection is up and down depending on circumstances and criteria met. I think of all that person has missed of what unconditional love means, and I feel sad for them, sad they couldn’t learn from someone like Walt and Martha.
In books already written and in the acknowledgements of Faith in the Fashion District releasing later this year, you will read Walt and Martha’s names, where I thank them for their spiritual mentoring. Their example laid a foundation for me that has proved sure and steadfast now for many years. They gave me a gift I try to remember and pass on to others. Their love has helped me love better those in my life.
Walt, please know I’m praying for you. I am incredibly blessed to have you in my life. And to quote a man who knew himself what it was like to be loved unconditionally, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).