The attractive blonde applied the finishing touches to her makeup as she prepared to meet the man of her dreams. She’d been living many women’s ultimate fantasy – going on extravagant dates with a dashing, successful bachelor for the past several weeks. She was also living their greatest romantic nightmare – sharing him with twenty-four other women. And that is how season one of ABC’s “The Bachelor” show hit the airwaves in 2002 as the “reality television” craze gained unstoppable momentum.
During one of my evening treadmill workouts, I just happened to channel surf into the middle of the season and was blown away at the premise: One handsome bachelor is presented with twenty-five gorgeous bachelorettes with the purpose of choosing just one – to hopefully become the love of his life. I screamed at the television, “This is NOT reality!”…and continued to watch in fascination.
That evening’s show concluded with a “rose ceremony”. There were ten women left and nine roses for the bachelor to give away. Alex was charged with the painful duty of eliminating one lovely damsel. It brought back personal memories of being rejected by the first love of my life and all the painful emotions of not being the “chosen one”.
ABC had done a great job stirring my curiosity – as I found myself on my treadmill at exactly “show time” week after week. And week after week, another woman was rejected and sent home “rose less”. Until finally – there were two bachelorettes. It was both sad and pathetic. Who would submit themselves to such a public display of rejection? I marveled at what motivates women to put themselves through such emotional torture.
The last two women, Trista and Amanda thought they were falling in love with Alex. I don’t know about you, but I’d have a really hard time falling in love with a man who’d been dating not one, but dozens of other women…right under my very nose! I realized watching this unrealistic portrayal, how desperate women can be to find love. We will do almost anything to be cherished. These two women were no different than so many others. They wanted to find true love.
The final rose ceremony was drawn out dramatically as Alex spent personal moments alone with each woman, telling her how special she was before giving her his final verdict. It was Trista that was sent home crying in the limo that first year – mascara streaking down her tear stained cheeks.
As I watched the show conclude, a profound reality stirred in my heart. It erased all the nonsense I’d been watching as women sulked away rejected and defeated. I realized that we all risk potential rejection from the people we love (or think we love). They may leave us…reject us…betray us…or even die and leave us alone. It doesn’t matter who the person is, when we love…we risk.
Yet, there is One who will never leave or forsake you. The God of the universe sees you, knows you, and loves you. He has a beautiful red rose just for you and He says, “I choose you”. He never needs to reject one in favor of another. He has more love to lavish on you individually than any human can ever give you. And day after day He does just that in both your failures and triumphs.
He continues to hold out His rose of love and say,
“I love you…and I eternally choose you”.
Knowing deep in my soul that God loves me with an everlasting love, sustains me. I can see Him in my mind, holding out a fragrant rose, His arms open wide as I run to His loving embrace. It is in His heavenly arms of perfect love, that I find the strength and courage to love others despite the risks. When we can finally embrace the power and fullness of God’s specific love toward us – we become full to overflowing and can extend that love without reservation or fear.
I didn’t realize how much I truly accepted and believed God’s love for me was all sustaining until I was tested in a most difficult way.
Like the bachelorettes, as a young woman, I had a burning desire to be chosen by a man. I fell in love with my high-school boyfriend and after three years of dating, lost my virginity to him because I was sure he was the man I would spend my life with. I think he loved me, but for whatever reason, I was not enough and he was unfaithful to me. With my idealistic dream of love shattered, I unknowingly sought to validate my value through other men.
At twenty-one, I was so desperate to be loved, that I said yes to a marriage proposal from a man nine years my senior without even being sure I loved him. Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce eleven years later. I became increasingly disillusioned, wondering if true love really existed.
At thirty-two, God brought a remarkable man across my path in an unexpected way. I was visiting friends in Europe and was invited to a rugby match in a quaint little town in Germany called Bad Tolz. When I first set eyes on Lew, it was like a scene out of a sappy love story. He had just finished a tough match and as he walked off the field all muddy and sweaty, he pulled his stripped rugby jersey over his head exposing a well-defined torso. I stopped breathing for a moment and thought, “Wow…nice work, God”.
Later, at the rugby party, I learned that he was West Point graduate and an American army officer…and a gentleman. We saw each other several times over the next two weeks and then I headed back to my life in Seattle as a single mom and registered nurse. It was not the perfect scenario to create a lasting relationship. But somehow our long-distance romance developed into a powerful friendship and love. We were married a year later and I felt I had finally found my soul mate.
Ten years later (1994), Lew and I were often mistaken for newlyweds because of how openly we expressed our love and adoration for each other. It seemed like the initial spark of new love fanned itself into an eternal flame of lasting passion. I never thought I could love anyone as much as I loved Lew. A few years later, our love was still strong, but not as intense and all consuming as it once had been. We didn’t talk about it much, but sometimes Lew would tease me that we were finally moving into our “mature love phase” of life. He was now a successful business executive with all the pressures that brings, to include frequent travel. I was involved in a variety of speaking and writing projects. Some weeks, it seemed like we were ships passing in the night.
My type “A” personality and high energy propelled me into an overfull schedule and increasing pressure to meet endless deadlines. Lew sometimes felt neglected as I flitted between projects. He kidded me that I no longer needed him. I would push back lovingly and tell him that he was stuck with me for life. I loved him deeply, but if I’d been brutally honest – I would have realized that I was not investing in our relationship any longer. It felt strong and secure, so I neglected him emotionally.
My neglect finally became painfully obvious when my continued busyness got in the way of my promise to take him to the airport before a two-week business trip. I fell behind on a video project and with the house full of people working feverishly to wrap things up, I asked Lew if he’d mind taking a taxi to the airport. He agreed and I conveniently ignored his quiet countenance and hang dog expression as he gave me a quick peck on the cheek before he walked out the door.
The next few days were the usual whirlwind of activity. As always, Lew called at least once a day. But, our usual banter and “I love you” was replaced with his very curt, words saying, “Things are not right with us, Danna”. Despite my assurances that all was fine and my promise to “slow down” – a promise I’d made many times before – Lew’s words and tone remained melancholy.
It was finally clear to me that I needed to take immediate action. I began to pray that the Lord would give me insight and wisdom to give my marriage the attention it needed. God was faithful and made me painfully aware of my sin of selfishness – especially related to my lack of quality time for Lew. He showed me that I had been putting my work above my relationship and that I was not giving my husband the kind of love he needed. So, in my usual choleric fashion, I took action to fix my marriage. I rubbed my knees raw in prayer asking God to continue to reveal my inadequacies and show me how to turn my selfish ways into selfless love. I promised to be the wife Lew deserved. When he returned from his fourteen day trip, I was ready to knock his socks off – figuratively and literally!
Things did not go as planned. For the first time in our marriage, Lew did not respond positively to my loving advances. He was depressed and withdrawn…and I was scared. Unfortunately, within a week he had to take another out of town trip and I was left alone with my fears. My busyness of recent months had been replaced with a tunnel vision focus on my marriage. I prayed constantly for God to restore the connection with Lew that I had been taking for granted.
As I waited the final three days for Lew to return from his trip, I found it difficult to concentrate enough to write or do anything productive. Instead, I filled my days with menial tasks that took little thought and allowed me to pray without ceasing for my marriage. One such day, I made my usual short walk to our community mail box. As I approached, I noticed our mailman was driving away and was glad for my perfect timing. As I got closer, I realized that he must have had a “man-o-pause” moment, because he had left the outgoing mail, bundled in a rubber band, on top of our mailboxes. I wasn’t in the mood to chase him down or take the mail to the busy post office, so I decided to put it back in the outgoing slot so he could pick it up the next day.
Since the slot was small, I had to unbundle the letters and put them in one or two at a time. In the process, I noticed a lavender envelope with Lew’s very familiar, precision printing. It was addressed to a woman. My husband is the “king” of all thank you note writers. Whenever we are invited to dinner at someone’s home, I swear that he sends a note of thanks before we even get there! So, I assumed that this was just that – a thank you note to a female business associate. Nevertheless, the lavender envelope stuck to my hand and never made it into the box. Somehow, it traveled with me back into my house and as I sat on the stairs just inside my entry, that darn lavender envelope somehow got ripped open!
For a moment, I could not breathe. It felt like I had a tennis ball stuck in my throat as I read the words on the outside of the card, “I thought of you today and…” A flood of emotions washed over me as the ugly truth hit me. Lew was having an affair.
Amazingly, I had not even considered that he would ever be unfaithful to me. And in those moments of dreaded realization, I had many unexpected thoughts and emotions. But predictably, my most intense emotion was the excruciating pain I experienced as my heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces.
That life-changing event happened many years ago. Lew and I have now been married 31 years. We survived. But, the days, weeks following my discovery were crucial. Important words would be expressed – important decisions made.
For my part, I realized that my complete faith in God’s love for me, made it possible for me to forgive Lew. In that moment of betrayal – when Lew chose another woman over me and left me “rose less” – God said, “I choose you, Danna”. God extended His perfect and unfading rose – the Rose of Sharon – the blood of Christ to cover not only my sin, but Lew’s. When Lew finally responded to my “911” page (it was surely an emergency in my mind) I had no idea what I was going to say. I’m sure I sounded like a babbling idiot as words like…lavender envelope…I read the card…how could you…blubbered out between my sobs.
Within moments, Lew understood that I had uncovered his secret. Oh how God works to expose our sin and heal our relationships when we pray – even to distract a normally responsible mailman on his regular route. “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet or hail will stop the mail”. How wise the man who penned those words was to not include, “nor the hand of God”!
When the rug of life is pulled out from under you and you land on the hard rock of reality – you will survive if that rock is Christ. No matter how much you love God and know He loves you, it hurts to be rejected or betrayed. But, God does not leave us alone in our pain. He loves us through it. He knows what it is to love so much it breaks our heart. We’ve broken His so many times. Nevertheless, He gave His only Son to die for us despite our rejection of His perfect love.
On that difficult day, as I realized Lew had rejected me for another, God reached out, rose in hand, and reminded me once again, “I choose you”. Over time, I understood that my faith and rock solid belief that God loved me, saved me from the natural insecurity and helplessness that so easily follows rejection.
I am seven years older than my husband and the woman he met was ten years younger than I am. Yet never once did I think, “I’m just too old for him”. Never once did I think, “I must not be as pretty as her”. Never once did I think, “I’m not good enough for Lew”. God’s love poured over me in assurance of who I am – loved and adored – because I am His child. I saw Lew’s actions not as rejection, but as sin. And I realized that I too was capable of such an act given a certain set of circumstances. We all are.
So, when Lew asked me to forgive him, my natural self – the woman scorned – could have yelled, “Never!” But, the child of God – rose in hand – said, “Yes, I do forgive you.” In that moment when I had to choose God’s way or mine – I imagined Jesus hanging from the cross, his hands and feet nailed and throbbing in pain. I remembered all the sins He had forgiven me and even imagined those to come for which He’d already shed His blood. Not once did Jesus say, “I can’t die for that sin, Danna.”
Never once did He withhold His love or withdraw His face or reject me for my bad behavior. If He so willingly died for every sin I have or ever will commit – and not only for mine – but for the entire world, who am I to withhold forgiveness from someone else?
When I think about the red color of the rose that I imagine God holding out to me, it represents the blood of Christ which washes over me and makes me new. The delicate petals represent my life – so miraculous and wonderful – and yet so fragile. This short life on this fallen planet – is quickly fading. Yet, when we secure ourselves in the overpowering love of Christ – our rose never fades – but is transformed fully into something of eternal beauty. The “rose” of God’s love is that it never wilts. However, He never meant for us to hold it selfishly only for ourselves. God’s love is empowered and expanded when we generously share it with others.
Imagine God, filling your entire house with red roses. He extravagantly expresses His love for you and fills you to overflowing so that you can express His love to a hurting world. Sometimes the love He passes through you will be forgiveness. Sometimes it will be compassion. Whatever the need – His love passed through you can touch a needy soul. Sadly, many Christians have no idea how much God adores them. As a result, instead of overflowing love…they overflow their own fears, doubts and insecurity to the people around them.
When I forgave Lew for his unfaithfulness, I still had a broken heart. At first, he would question my forgiveness because I cried every time we made love. “I thought you forgave me”, he would say each time I expressed my pain or mistrust. My answer was, “I did forgive you. But, I still don’t trust you. I forgave you, but I still have pain. If I just had open heart surgery, my heart would be repaired, but still very painful and weak. I do not hold your betrayal against you. I embrace our marriage and I will do everything in my power to be a good wife. But, my heart is still not healed”. During that first year, it was the fragrant love of Christ that soothed my healing heart and gave me the courage to stay.