Just a week ago, I gave a talk to the few brave Christians that attend MFLU. I felt it was an appropriate story to share with you as a continuation of our Risky Business talks. This one’s not about an Old Testament character, however. This one’s straight from the pages of my life.
I was 13 years old; the new kid on campus. She was the blonde-bombshell that every guy in middle school had a thing for. Her name was Kelly, and I had a thing for her too. So, after months of trying to find a seat beside her in class and attempting to dazzle her with my basketball skills at lunch, I decided the time was right. It was Valentines, afterall. To a teenage boy in the budding of romantic discovery, what better time could there be? Valentines Day was magical, enchanted. Anything could happen on Valentines Day.
I bought her five roses (five was her favorite number). Then I proceeded to spend several minutes constructing a simple note in my best handwriting:
Dear Kelly, I really really like you. Will you be my girlfriend?
The lunch bell had rung. Flowers in hand, note tucked into flowers, I strode down the stairs from the middle school hall to the circle, where I knew she would be. With every step, I resisted the urge to break into a full scale sprint. I had to be dashing, debonaire, suave.
She was sitting between two of her friends, Esther and Janna. They smiled as I made my way towards them. Kelly leaned towards one of them and they exchanged some inaudible teasing and giggled. I had hoped it was about how cute or romantic I was. My heart swelled even more with the thought. I smiled back, confident. It was perfect.
I finally stopped before Kelly, dropped to one knee and brandished the roses like a Musketeer brandishing his saber. “Oohs”, “ahs”, and bubbling girlish laughter erupted from the trio. Kelly blushed as she took the roses and mouthed a “Thank you.” Not knowing what else to do and wanting to preserve the magic, I rose, turned and left. Then I broke into a run and charged back up the stairs and into my next class. I was 30 minutes early, but I didn’t care. I sat there crackling with excitement.
The bell rung again, signaling the end to lunch, and as the students ambled into the room, Kelly filtered in among them. She saw me sitting at the back of the class against the window and made her way towards me. I noticed something in her hand as she approached. She smiled and placed the white, blue-lined note in my hand, then turned and found her seat at the other end of the classroom.
Not sure what to make of it, I unfolded the note. Her bubbly handwriting read,
Thank you for the flowers. They are beautiful. I think you are great and I would really like it if we could just be friends. I hope that’s okay.
P.S. You can have the flowers back if you want them, you know, to give them to your mom or something.
I don’t think I need to describe to you how I felt, but I will anyway. I was crushed. The scaffolding I had dared to dangle my hope upon swayed and crashed back down to earth with me still on it. I had taken a risk in opening up my heart to this girl. She had closed the door gently in my face with cute bubbly letters on it saying, “Fat Chance.”
What does this story have to do with Christmas, you wonder? Plenty. I’m not the only one who’s taken a risk out of love and been rejected. I’m sure you can crack open that high-school yearbook and point to a face or two with a story of your own. This isn’t an entirely human experience, however. It is, in it’s essence, the story of Christmas. Jesus loves you. He always has. But just like Kelly and me, you didn’t even know he existed. He couldn’t bear living without you. So he decided to come to you.
He climbed down the stairs of heaven and into humanity to live in your world. Then he found a mountain and walked up it. There he crucified himself, throwing his arms wide open and putting his love on full display for you. He did this for you and for every person on this planet. But, by and large, the response he gets is “Fat Chance.”
He took an extraordinary risk and made an outrageous gesture of love towards you with no guarantee that you would love him back. Whether you’d say “yes” or “no” didn’t affect his decision to do it. He would have done it either way. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas: the risk Jesus took out of love for you and me.
It doesn’t stop there. Every day he makes himself vulnerable again. He pursues you further and continues to put his heart on display for you. For some people, every day, they ignore him, reject him, insult him again. That doesn’t stop him. He loves you so much, he is willing to risk the pain of rejection again and again with the hopes that one day you’ll say “Yes”.
As believers in Jesus, this is the crux of our life with him. We are commanded to take the risk of loving people without any guarantee of love in return. Even when we are rejected, Jesus told us, “turn the other cheek.” In other words, “risk it and make yourself vulnerable again.” One day, maybe, just one day, your love will break through.
Six years after Kelly’s note, I took another chance. It was my senior year and the Valentine’s Day banquet was coming up. Though I didn’t have that thing for Kelly any more, something in me still wanted to salvage the hopes of my 6th grade heart and try again. I bought her a flower and found her in the library. I hid the flower in a newspaper and laid it down on the table in front of her. No note this time. I just asked her, “Kelly, will you go to the banquet with me?” As much as I had steeled up my courage for this, a flutter of panic still made its way through me as I anticipated her reply. Her mouth dropped open, she blushed, looked at her friends sitting nearby, then looked up at me and smiled. “Yes.”