Late one chilly evening in February under a star-studded sky, I was in a car accident that permanently marked me. I remember specifically how the stars filled the sky that night, because after being thrown from the car through the front windshield, I lay motionless on the ground for what seemed like an eternity.  My long blonde hair was caught between the car, now upside down, and the gravel road. Eventually, the other passengers in the car came to my rescue and freed me, and I walked away with nothing more than minor scrapes and bruises. According to investigators, that accident should have been the end of me. Instead, it was the beginning of something that changed me forever.

I was in my freshman year of college thousands of miles away from home when the accident occurred. To compound the situation, I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. I had spent the last 18 years of my life trying to earn my mom and dad’s love by being good enough, smart enough, talented enough. This was not good, smart, or talented. I had failed. My chances of being the perfect daughter were ruined. I did not deserve their love. So when I made the call to my folks to tell them I had totaled the vehicle they gave me, I expected anger, disappointment, grief, and rejection. But something else happened. I received kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and grace.
Love showed up.

Love changed everything. My parents aren’t perfect. But their love led me to seek the one whose love is perfect. The love they demonstrated to me that night began to transform something in me. As I began to open up my heart to love, I stopped trying to earn it; their love, or anyone’s love for that matter, including God’s. Especially God’s. I began to accept that he loves me, as I am, and there’s nothing I can do to earn it. He gives love freely. He is love. In a world where we are conditioned to earn everything, this idea is counter-culture. That’s what makes it so powerful. That kind of love marks you.

Hope whispers, love changes everything.

It has been 31 years this month since the mark of love changed my life. I have learned a lot about love since then, and I am still learning. I have learned that I may never fully understand just how much God loves me, but I am grateful he does. I have learned that God often shows up in our lives through people who love us as we are, imperfections and all. I have learned that you can tell a lot about how much love a person has received in his own life, by how freely he is able to give love to others. I have learned that when you love someone with your whole heart, you sacrifice what you really want, to give him what he really needs. I have learned there is no human love more loyal, than the love of a mother. I have learned that love has many counterfeits, but if you are familiar with the real deal, you can spot a fake. In my profession, people often ask me what love does look like. I have learned that the very best way to identify love is to follow the definition crafted by the creator of love himself:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

Love has a few companions too. Where you find love, you will find hope in close proximity, and faith will be lingering nearby as well. But love is the one thing that changes everything. If my life has to be reduced to one thing, this is it for me. It’s all I need. And at the end of the day, isn’t it what we all really want?

How has love showed up in your life?