Keith Wishum: A persistent love
It was a persistent love. Bess Wallace had known him since they first met at school when she was five. But she wasn’t particularly impressed with the gangly boy with the glasses. After graduation, she left with no regrets.
The young man felt differently about Bess. “I thought she was the most beautiful and the sweetest person on earth,” he said, and he determined to win her heart. For a year, he showered her with attention and a flood of letters. Then he proposed.
Still he refused to give up. For eight more years, he continued writing and visiting, proclaiming his love to Bess. Because she was affluent and he was not, he launched into a variety of business ventures trying to earn his fortune and impress her. Through two years of combat in World War I, he continued his letters to her, carrying her picture in his pocket.
Over the years, Bess slowly came to love her persistent suitor and eventually promised to marry him upon his safe return from war. In June 1919, she became the bride of Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States.
Truman practiced a persistent love. Not many men continue to love even when rejected. Not many endure career failures in hopes of impressing a woman. Few would devote nine years of attention and effort in hopes of being loved in return.
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), God is portrayed as a father who, rejected and insulted by his son, stands waiting day after day for the son to return home so he can be welcomed and given back all his previous privileges. That’s persistent love.
In the prophecy of Hosea, God is the husband whose wife repeatedly cheats on him, giving birth to children fathered by others. Even when she leaves him and becomes enslaved to another, he buys her freedom and gently leads her home. That’s persistent love.
Jesus describes himself as wanting to embrace people “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23: 37), but the people were not willing. Yet, he loved them, and us, enough to die for us anyway in hope that we might someday change our minds. Day after day, he sends out his message proclaiming his unending love and his hope to win you over.
That’s persistent love. That’s God’s love for us. And the love he asks us to show to others.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.