Forty years ago, I arrived at a summer camp where I would serve as chief counselor. A cute blonde greeted me and asked if she could help carry my luggage. I told her no. Later that evening when she told me she was going into ministry, I replied with “That’s because you don’t know what you want to do with your life.” Ouch. She thought I was a snob.
Fortunately, her junior counselor was from my youth group and saw us as a perfect match. She pushed us to go on a date. By the third date, I found myself being who I really am, not what my girlfriend wanted me to be. On that date, I told her about one of my struggles. She said, “OK.” When she told me her challenge, I replied with the same answer.
In that moment, we were two flawed individuals who were unconditionally accepted. We married three years late. This June, we celebrate 37 years of marriage.
So, what does a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker have to do with love? Let me tell you.
One of my father’s dreams was to own a Chrysler New Yorker. Other than the Imperial, it was the height of Chrysler luxury. Growing up, he owned a 1967 Chrysler Newport. That wasn’t a New Yorker. In 1988, he bought his first New Yorker. He had it only a year when someone hit the car, totaling it. He purchased a 1989 New Yorker. It was a higher level of luxury than the previous one. The 1988 had crushed velour interior. The newer one had the Mark Cross leather package. It contained every conceivable option.
One feature was an in-dash cassette player. My dad never read the owner’s manual. Being the luxury car it was, it had features you would only know about if you read the owner’s manual. It said, if you are playing a cassette and want to advance to the next song, just hold the fast-forward button for three seconds. If you want to rewind to the previous song, just hold the rewind button down a few seconds. I tried it and it worked wonderfully. That feature was there, I just didn’t know about it until I read the manual.
I found the same to be true of my wife. I’ll admit she was the first person to unconditionally love me. I had never experienced that before. We would marry and start our life together.
What was there all the time that I didn’t know about on our wedding day was my wife’s pure heart. I remind her over and over that the best part of her is her heart of pure gold. It doesn’t mean she’s perfect. None of us are perfect. It does mean that she comes to me with pure intentions. There is no malice, no manipulation, no deception, no lying, no deceit, no dishonesty, no charming me with her good looks to get something from me. Perhaps it’s the greatest gift she could ever give me.
I’ve been burned too many times. Unfortunately, many who have hurt me are Christ followers. I’ll admit I have trust issues. It’s hard for me to let you into my life. I just don’t want to be hurt again. But with my wife, I can hand her my heart and know she will not only take care of it, she’ll return it in better condition than the way she received it.
Just like that 1989 Chrysler New Yorker, it was there all the time. I almost missed it. I just needed to pause and look at what I really received – an incredible gift.
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.