Thirty six years ago, a woman held her brand new baby boy in her arms and named him Wesley. She, like most new parents, thought he was just perfect, and probably the best little boy ever born. She wondered what the future might look like for this child, and what paths he might walk down. She prayed many things, but above all, she prayed that her son would love Jesus. She wanted her boy to make a difference.
There is a boy somewhere, a boy who lived in a part of town that wasn’t safe to go out and play, in a family that wasn’t always safe either. He had never been to summer camp, but that summer he got to go and it was just like he saw on the movies. Wes was there, and it was the first time a man had looked at this boy and wanted to know more about him. It was the first time he experienced safe touch. It was a small glimpse into what having a big brother must be like. The boy went home with memories of what a s’more tastes like, of the scent of bug spray and mesquite, of finally seeing the stars…and the feeling of someone caring. He didn’t quite understand all of the things he heard about Jesus, but he understood that this Wes was kind, so he thought Jesus was probably kind too.
A girl came home to an empty house, to make her own dinner and take care of herself. It’s lonely at her house, and although she’s learned to be independent and act as the adult in the house, she wonders sometimes what it might be like to have involved, even overbearing, parents. She thinks back to a few months ago with a mixture of irritation and begrudging appreciation at Wes encouraging her to wear more modest clothing. She wonders why he even cares. It’s not the first time he’s butted in, with boyfriends, future plans. He seems to think she could do great things. He seems to think God has big plans for her. She doubts it, but it’s nice to hear. She watches him, and wonders if it’s possible she could actually have a healthy marriage someday. She doesn’t even know that he and his wife talked about asking her to live with them, because they love her so much. She doesn’t know he’s cried over her. She chooses to go her own way often, but there is a place in her heart that reminds her of the words Wes told her about how much Jesus loves her.
He sits, devastated and alone, filled with shame. He thinks he will never be accepted again. His life is in complete shambles, his marriage is over, and he’s made too many bad decisions to count. He thinks that if anyone knew the things he had done, the places he had gone, the lines he had crossed, they’d never want to be around him. He’s heard that nothing is beyond the redemptive power of Christ, but this, surely this was. Surely no one would ever love him again. He calls an old friend, thinking that he’s already lost everything, so if Wes rejects him too, he probably deserves it. He pours out all the shame and is shocked by what comes back- pain and sorrow, and love and forgiveness, and words of hope and a future. He hears “I am no better than you” and it floors him- how can this be true? He starts the long journey home with sore tired feet, and stumbles often. With each step and each fall, Wes is there to encourage him and remind him of what is true. He starts to understand the difference between knowing and doing, between head and heart.
A few hours away in another state, a little girl is born. Her life is pretty different from his. She grows up thinking she might get married, but not for a really long time, at least until Luke Perry notices her. She never thought about the possibility of meeting her husband in college. She never thought about wanting to get married four months after meeting him. And after they marry, the road turns rough and she begins to wonder if it will ever get better. The walls seem too high. But Wes surprises her with his humility and gentleness. He reminds her that forever means forever. He leads her to a place of following Christ in a way she didn’t know could happen. She never could have guessed their marriage would have healed. She never would have imagined she could love him in this way. She would never have imagined she would understand how Christ loves her because of the way he loves her.
My precious husband, happy birthday is a common thing to say, but for me I say it’s happy because of the ways you have been used to bring people to Christ. I know sometimes it may feel like the pain is great in this world and it’s easy to wonder if you make any difference. But for every example that I know of where your love has changed someone, there are countless more that I don’t know about. Without your obedience, love and courage, there could have been three babies without homes and one more divorce in the world. You are flawed, but there’s beauty in the flaws because they leave room for God’s redemption and grace, and that is the most beautiful thing ever.
Happy Birthday my love. Thank you for all the joy you bring me and the encouragement you give me to follow Jesus. I’m proud of you and so proud to be yours.
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