There I sat, an eight year old surrounded by girls with boyfriends. Boyfriends! Good grief, we weren’t even wearing bras yet! During math they passed notes to little men, sealing the deals with “Do you love me? Check yes or no.” And the little men wrote back.
I, Ava Hoomes, had no man. Don’t cry for me, ‘cause I didn’t care. Well, not until phase two began: Suddenly, a love-inspired graffiti campaign took root: CB+DW=love. MP+SG=love 4ever. Chalkboards, lunchboxes, and bathroom stalls were plastered with romance. Everyone’s name was there. Everyone’s but mine.
The solution to this crippling social crisis came easily: Jesus Christ would be my boyfriend. I know how irreverent this sounds, but for a third grader, it made perfect sense: He had first and last initials. Jesus loved me, this I knew. He’d written me a book of sweet nothings. And He’d be mine forever. (On second thought, make that 4ever.)
Oh, the thrill of being a couple! “AH+JC” was drawn on hands, written on homework. “JC 4ever” covered my bright blue Trapperkeeper (A super cool notebook, for all you readers under thirty). We had a good thing going, Jesus Christ and me. Who needed a stinkin’ boy when I’d found the King of Kings?
Soon, though, we hit a snag, a kid named John Curtis (Note the initials of doom). Good ole Johnny C., my first cousin, classmate, and soon-to-be source of persecution. Instigator Johnny, who suddenly preferred the nickname “JC.” (How whack was that?) So before you could say “kissing cousins,” my boyfriend jig was up.
Fast forward thirty years, when Ava Hoomes Sturgeon visits a Houston church. The pastor prays, “Father God, you are love. Jesus Christ, you have proved it. Help us return the favor, to write your name on our hearts, our hands, to link with you forever. Help us love you well.”
This hits me like a third grade pop quiz: Do I love Him well? How can I be sure? As minutes pass and thoughts spin, I realize I’ve been doodling. A lot. The church program now sports a huge heart with Ava+JC=love4ever written inside. And the plus sign, the link between a girl and her Savior, looks just like a cross.
Maybe loving Him well is as easy as childlike faith: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Maybe it’s the simple belief that nothing else–no stinkin’ boy, no earthly pressures–can separate me from the One who loves me. From the One I love.
Maybe loving Him well means growing up, maturing my faith. No longer the mystery man, He’s out in the open, front and center on my lips and in my actions. No mistaking whom I love or serve or admire: The name is Jesus Christ, and I’m happy to introduce Him. To live for Him. To honor Him.
I smile at the doodle, knowing that eight year old Ava would love this. She’d so appreciate the plus sign/cross thing, highlighting it with red crayon. Then I wonder how grown up Ava will highlight this same cross. And the Savior who gloriously conquered it. Father God, show her how to love Him well.
“[Jesus said], As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
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