Young Love

It’s a Sunday morning in a small town church, and the preacher stands before the congregation, his Bible open to today’s chosen Scripture.  From where I am sitting in my church pew, I glance across the aisle at the couple on the second row, sitting side by side and sharing a hymnbook.

Church dates are the cutest.  It looks like it’s their first.

She modestly smooths her dress over her knee, and he tentatively reaches out and puts his hand on top of hers.  For a moment he looks apprehensive, as though he’s afraid that his gesture will be rejected.  But although she is too shy to reciprocate at first, she turns toward him and her eyes light up with that spark of young love.

Ever so gently his thumb strokes the back of her hand, and the words of the sermon fade out as I become absorbed in their little romance, staring shamelessly.

Because it looks like their first church date, and for her, perhaps it is.

But her dress is outdated and her hair is white.  And by now, as her ragged breath comes in gasps and she grips his hand, looking frightened and ill at ease in her wheelchair, their Sunday morning excursions number in the thousands.

Fifty-two Sundays a year, for at least sixty years, they have walked together through the doors of the church.  But now he walks behind her as he wheels her toward their pew.  When the communion tray is passed around, he breaks the bread for her, and the ushers respectfully stand and wait as he feeds her the body of Christ in a sacred moment.

She becomes anxious, compulsively plucking at her dress and loudly whispering words that don’t make sense.  But he turns his creased and careworn face toward her, with love and longing and a depth in his eyes that I, at 21, cannot understand.  And he steadily reaches over and takes her wrinkled hand in his, comforting her as he gently continues to rub her hand with his thumb.  Her breathing slows and her panic subsides, and she looks down at their entwined fingers as though she is surprised to see them there.  Perhaps as though it is the first time.

At church, we talk a lot about Jesus and we talk a lot about love, and now I’m not sure that any of us, even the preacher, really knows what we’re talking about.

But I think Jim does.  Oh, I think Jim does.


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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fantastic history, witnessed well with an understanding beyond your years. Thanks for the rendition, it has touched my soul.

    • Agreed…

  2. Sweet, sweet story of love! I was touched, and somehow it was easy for me to relate. : ) Thanks for sharing, Lauren; I think you have a special gift for writing!

  3. This is beautiful, Lauren. They are in my parents’ small group, and I was blessed to observe their love 2 furloughs ago. I didn’t have to read the name at the end. I knew exactly who you were talking about. I commented to my parents that it was one of the most beautiful acts of love I had ever seen demonstrated between husband and wife. You wrote this so beautifully. Thank you.

  4. Reminds me of a song JP liked when he was a little boy. The song was called That’s Paradise but he called it Jimmy and Mary. Real love reveals itself in unexpected and sometimes subtle ways, but you see it, Lauren. Thanks for sharing the love and beauty you take the time to see.

  5. This no doubt the story that will be told about Jim when he enters the Court of the King. As each of us lives what someone will write about, we need to use this story as a template for how our story should be written. If we only understand that God comes first, then the one we promised to love till death do us part and then everyone else we will have succeeded. Honor comes to a few but a true Christian life is lived by even fewer. I have had the honor to see that in my brother Jim Neely. Lauren, your story is just as much an inspiration now as when it was written. It is my prayer to God, that some 21 year old can someday write my legacy with just a few of your words. Thank You

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