In true February fashion, I want to tell you a love story. What you’re about to read is true and gushes from my heart with incredible ease.
As a 20-something I have been looking for true love in a million places. Naturally, I’ve searched for it in others, digging deep into compliments and rooting my worth in approval of friends, family and significant others. I’ve searched for love in career opportunities, in past times and in my hobbies. I’ve searched for love in someone’s physical touch and relationships and to be honest, I thought I had a solid idea of what it was. But then I went to Haiti.
I remember the exact moment when I felt the undeniable feeling of true love. It was a hot afternoon and the humidity was climbing in Seguin, Haiti. I had just finished trying to make myself eat something inside the clinic at lunch. I lacked appetite and because I have no modesty it was because I was constipated and uncomfortable. My motivation was waning, but I strapped on my backpack and took my bloated self back outside of the clinic. Within seconds I was swarmed with little Haitians asking me a million questions, grabbing at my hands, pulling at my bracelets, tugging at my clothes, and asking to take un photo. I pushed myself through the mini mob and made my way to the courtyard. They followed. I double checked that I had both full water bottles still tucked into the side pockets of my bags. I was relieved they were still there. One for me and one for Joresse. I scanned the courtyard looking for his face. I didn’t see him and knew he had probably ran home after school to change. I waited patiently. And by patiently I mean, I was distracted by the little arms reaching for me to hold them. I chose to pick-up Shelly, Joresse’s sister. She giggled as I spun her around in her dirty dress. Once we stopped spinning, she rested her head on my chest. I hugged her tight and I felt a little hand tap my side waist. I turned around to see Joresse grinning. I hugged him and asked him how school was. He had no idea what I was saying. After a few moments of standing in the hot sun and getting supplies together, Joresse and I set out with our team on our afternoon hike.
For some reason, I was always in the back of the hike. I guess maybe it was me constantly stopping to admire the beauty that is Haiti, but Joresse was a little slow. He was hiking in shoes three sizes too big and my backpack he was carrying was twice his size. That afternoon was no different than our previous hikes. We trailed behind the group a bit and his sweaty hand grasped mine as we walked up the rocky Haitian mountain sides. I had nothing I could really say to Joresse. I couldn’t hold a conversation. I knew certain words in French Creole, but not sentences. As we were hiking the road that day, I started to point to animals and Joresse would tell me what it was in French Creole. I’d point to a cow and he’d say, “un bèf”. I’d try and repeat it which would send him into laughing fits. And then he’d say “Mhmmmm” and I’d say “Mhmmmmm” and we’d go back and forth mimicking each other. It continued that way for a while until we got silent.
We walked in silence for quite some time, until he looked up at me and said, “I love you, Shae” and squeezed my hand a little tighter. I looked at him for a second and felt a lump growing in my chest. “I love you, Joresse”, I replied eyes misty and hugged him. I could feel his strong heart racing as he hugged my waist and we took a quick water break. He grunted as he drank. I sipped mine and handed him my bottle to put it back in my bag. He handed it back to me for me to drink more. I obliged and then he quickly tucked our waters away and we jogged a little to catch up to our group. His sweaty hand was still gripping tightly with mine as we met up with our group.
Maybe it was the heat, but I still had chills as we started to build a raincatcher on the side of a Haitian home. I was quiet, my mind still processing what had just happened.
I remember working and thinking how my entire life I have been searching for this magical love. I thought it would be dressed in that of a handsome man. One who would sweep me off my feet in my beautiful white dress. But instead, Christ swept me off my feet flawed and filthy dirty in a third-world country through a 9-year-old Haitian child. Who would have ever thought? But ironically, isn’t that such a testament to how he takes us in as new Christians? Flawed, dirty, and vulnerable. And then He shows us a love so undeniable, so great, so pure, so true that washes over us and makes us clean. Wow! Chills continued to climb my spine as I felt Him close. I knew in that moment, I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew I saw God in Joresse and I felt like I was able to comprehend a small fraction of Christ’s love for me.
All of this was racing through my mind until my thoughts were interrupted by a teammate asking for my help. I looked up and saw Joresse watching me. I suck at winking, but gave it my best attempt. He laughed and winked back. We both grinned and then I went back to building raincatchers.
That’s the day I found true love, God’s love.