Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

To Be Loved Like Christ Loves

Before you read the words below, I want to give you a little background. One year ago, I chose to go on an official date with a friend I’d known most of my life. I chose to open my heart, my mind, to the possibility this friendship might turn into something more. I chose to listen to my children and take a chance. In short, I chose to take a step of faith.

The morning after our first official date, I woke up with these words burning on my heart. My leap of faith led to God opening my eyes to the truth of who this man had been to me—the portrait of Christ in so many ways. Suddenly, everything came into focus.

Here we are a year later. A year of allowing walls to be broken down. A year of learning to love as Christ loved. A year of allowing God to work in our hearts and draw us closer to one another. A year of learning to blend our two very different families into one.

As we walk into our future together, we cling to the Father and to one another. We don’t know what God has planned for our future, but we are certain He has brought us together for His purpose.


 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. Ephesians 5:25-30

These last months have been…overwhelming.

I entered this year expecting great things, believing 2016 would be the year of promises fulfilled. But, barely three months in, it seemed as if it was going to be another very difficult year.

When I received the news of my ex-husband’s unexpected death, I became single-minded: It’s all about my kids. Thoughts of God restoring my life by providing someone to love me were tossed aside, knowing that my kids would need my undivided attention to get them through their grief. They became my sole focus.

But sometimes God surprises us. His timing is definitely not our timing. His ways are definitely not our ways.

Less than a week after their dad’s death, two of my children told me it was time. Time for me to find love. Time for God to bring a father-figure into their lives. Time for me to think about myself. How’s that for some amazing kids?

Of course, I was surprised but also baffled. How was that going to happen? Between kids and jobs and ministry and mentoring programs, where would I make the time to meet someone?

But God…

What I didn’t understand is that God had been working…for years. What I didn’t know is that there was someone in my life…already. What I didn’t see is that he was right before my eyes.

He was the one bringing dinner only two nights after my ex-husband’s death…providing for our physical needs.

He was the one with his arm around my shoulder holding me up…when I couldn’t support myself.

He was the one wiping the tears streaming down my face when I was being treated horribly …reminding me of my worth in Christ.

He was the one who wanted to fight for my good name and my honor when horrible accusations were being thrown against me…stepping in to be my defender.

He was the one who reached out to my kids, loving them as his own in their grief…as a father to the fatherless.

He was the one who sacrificed so much to help me honor the memory of a man who hurt me deeply…putting himself aside because it meant so much to me.

He was the one who suffered through years of being relegated to friendship status…because he chose to trust God and His timing.

He was the one who spent the last few years focused on becoming the man God wanted him to become…because he wanted to be prepared when the time came to give himself to someone.

He was the one who stole my kids’ hearts long before he stole mine…simply by his kindness.

He was the one who looked me in the eyes after our first “real” date and said, “I’ve waited for this moment for nearly 30 years”…who pursued me relentlessly through good times and bad.

He was the one who fought for my affections despite my continued rejection…just as my Father does.

He’s the one who has been there all along…even when I couldn’t see him for who he is.

Yes, he has been the portrait of Christ in my life, loving me without anything in return. Caring for me in good times and bad. Stepping in to defend me. Being a friend and a comforter. Pursuing me relentlessly. Fighting for my heart. Suffering through my rejection and my short-sightedness. Seeking to become all God has called him to become.

Loving me and loving my kids.

Even when I told everyone around me he could chase me as long as he wanted, but he would never catch me (oh, how I’d like to eat those words right now)…he kept fighting for me.

And today, seven years after we reconnected through a chance encounter on Facebook. Seven years after he began his pursuit of my heart. Seven years after we both began a long journey filled with heart ache and despair and blessing untold. Seven years…

Perhaps I have finally found the one who truly loves me as Christ loved the church.