The Golden Invitation

       The summer before Bill and I were married, I went home to Battle Creek, Michigan, to work at Kellogg’s to earn enough money to return to Anderson University that fall. On weekends Bill would drive up to see me. When I got out of work at midnight on Friday, he would be waiting for me in the Kellogg’s parking lot. I’d come out in my ugly green uniform, a few cornflakes still stuck in my hair, and climb into his red convertible.

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       One night when I came out, he handed me an engagement ring. It wasn’t much of a ring, because he didn’t much like diamonds. But I wanted a ring so my friends in Michigan could see that we were engaged.

       When we got married in December, he gave me the matching wedding band, but he never liked those rings. He would always say something like, “Those are the dumbest-looking rings! Now, what I really like is a plain gold band. A plain band looks so . . . married.”

       One evening, after we’d been married two or three years, we were at Kmart. Bill went to the recording department, as he always did, while I shopped for what we needed. That night I saw they were selling plain gold bands at the jewelry counter for $13.95-- a “blue-light special.” (That was a long time ago!) I had some grocery money left, so I bought a plain gold band, took off my other rings, and put the band on my finger. I didn’t say anything about it until we got to the car.

       Bill pulled out his new recording and said, “How do you like this?”

       “Fine,” I answered. “How do you like this?” I held up my hand with the plain gold ring on my finger.

       “I like that!” he said. “It just looks so married.”

       So, for seventeen years I wore the plain gold band I bought myself at Kmart for $13.95. (I don’t even know if that’s legal!)

       In 1982, our group took a trip to the Holy Land just after Thanksgiving. The next February, one night when our family sat down for supper, instead of praying the blessing on our food, Bill said, “I want everybody to be quiet. I have a presentation to make.” He took out a small blue box and handed it to me. I opened it and found inside a most unusual gold ring with Hebrew writing engraved around it.

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       “I had that made for you in Jerusalem,” Bill said. “It is eighteen-karat gold and says, ‘Arise, my love, and come away,’ from the Song of Solomon.”

       I couldn’t believe it! He had thought of this all on his own. He even paid for it! Of course, I don’t read Hebrew. It could say, “Go away, my love,” for all I know. Or it could say, “Kmart.”

       But I believe him and I love my ring. I put it right on and have worn it ever since. Now, he didn’t say I had to wear it. I could have said, “I can’t believe you really want me to have this ring” or “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull. I paid $13.95 for this ring on my finger, and you’re not going to get me to take it off. No siree!”

       But that would have been crazy, don’t you think? Especially when I had an eighteen-karat-gold, hand-engraved invitation to be loved by this wonderful man who knows me pretty well. He knows all my failures and my shortcomings. He knows what I can and cannot do. He knows all my bulges and figure flaws . . . and he loves me anyway.

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       And Jesus says to us, “I come that you might know life abundant.” He wrote His love in His own blood on a cross. Then we say, “What will I have to give up?” We hang on to our little Kmart lives; we’re so suspicious, so fearful of letting go, while He holds out His arms and invites us to share in His “unsearchable riches.”

       If only we could all believe that it isn’t about our being worthy. It’s about our being loved. If we could dare to believe that we are loved, it wouldn’t matter what degrading thing anyone else had ever said to chip away at our self-esteem or to tear down our sense of worth. If we are loved, if we are valued by the God of the universe Himself, no one else’s opinion matters. Being loved by Him who knows us best--this is the opinion that matters most.  Accepting this Lover gives us the security to risk loving too, even loving ourselves.

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