love trumps faith

Photo by tyler gebhart on Unsplash

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

Curious as it seems, the Bible tells us that love is more important than faith. The first and second greatest of all the commandments. And the cornerstone of the entire religion.

In the 2016 election, 81% of the white evangelical voters cast their ballots for Trump.

Still today, they’re as faithful to him as ever; their support of late at an all-time high. They claim Trump stands for Christian values, but his adulterous indiscretion with a porn star is “Between him and God.” They believe he represents the Christian family but ignore as he rips immigrant families apart. They applaud him for keeping his campaign promises, regardless of how those promises hurt others. They think he follows the Christian faith; they have forgotten about Christian love.

I liked going to church growing up. I liked the performance of it, the fellowship, the tradition. The candles and the stained glass. The robes and rituals. Above all else, I liked the hymns.

Our church had an organ. The choir led the way in song. The congregation followed. I read along in silence, baptized by each word. Poetry set to music, haunting and true.

 

Last week I ended up behind a Jeep Cherokee on my way in to work. It was polluted with bumper stickers that ranged from rainbow-infused “Love Wins” and “Proud Democrat” to messages of equality and hope and peace and kindness.

On the way home from work, I ended up behind a Ford F-150 with a single bumper sticker. It read, “Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again.”

A cross hung from the rearview mirror.

“Here Is Love Vast as the Ocean” was one of my favorite hymns. It captured the might and relentlessness of God’s love. It summed up my belief system better than any Bible verse or parable or Sunday school lesson ever could. It all comes back to love.

At 22, I got those words inked into my rib cage, just beneath my heart.

Yesterday, the supreme court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple. The baker insisted gay marriage went against his religion.

Even more than faith over love, now we’re talking about faith against love. It’s religion I can hardly recognize, much less call my own.

Outside of funerals and weddings, I don’t go to church much anymore. After watching evangelicals use Christianity to stand by Trump, I doubt I ever will.

But I still have a tattoo on my ribcage. And I still have a hymn in my heart.

So here is love, vast as the ocean. May it one day be the greatness of faith.

Thank You for Making Valentine’s Day Meaningless

Todd Shelnutt Sevier,

You should know that every time you hit snooze on your alarm so we can spoon for nine more precious minutes before getting up…Every time you sneak up behind me while I’m doing my makeup and kiss the back of my neck…Every time you send a text during the middle of my workday with a gif of two otters holding hands or a surprise greeting card from Curly Girl Designs…Every time you come home with a cheerful “Hey boo-boo!” and a generous hug…Every time we go out for a spontaneous date night and sit at the bar so we can be close…Every time you hold my hand as we walk back to the car from dinner…Every time you patiently tell me every last detail of your day because I won’t stop asking you to…You teach me how to celebrate love. Not just in grand gestures on holidays, but also in every little moment of every other day of the year.

So I just want to say thank you for making Valentine’s Day meaningless in the best kind of way. And, of course, I love you. Yesterday, today, forever.

<3 <3 <3

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Troo Love

I’m a dog person. I love a leg-slap by a happy tail. I love wiggly butts waiting for me at the door. I love joyful barks and big ol’ toothy grins and the uninhibited affection that only dogs can offer.

I’ve always been a dog person. And that’s exactly why I struggled with Roo, the Chihuahua-ish mix that Todd adopted right before we started dating.

At first glance, you’d probably say Roo was a dog. Although we all agreed, she looked more like the lovechild of Dobby from Harry Potter and Yoda. She had ears that stuck out from the sides of her head, oversized bulging eyes, a pink nose, and a tongue that seemed far too long for her mouth.

Despite her perplexing appearance, Roo was in fact a dog. A very, very peculiar dog.

She never barked. Or learned a single trick. She looked irritated and incredulous when scolded. She hated the cold. And the rain. And the outdoors. She didn’t care much for food. Or chew toys. Or other dogs.

What Roo did care for was sleep. She slept with us in bed—under the covers—every night. And she growled if you happened to nudge her while shifting your position.

While our two pit bulls pounced on our faces at 6:00 a.m., Roo preferred to stay tucked beneath the blankets, snoozing the day away. We’d have to pull the covers off her and coax her out of bed when it was time for us to go to work.

Roo also differed from other dogs in the things she liked: going to the vet, bath time, and wearing cable-knit sweaters. If we could have heard her voice, Todd and I imagined Roo sounded something like an old, crotchety British professor.

She loved to play, but only in 15 second increments—and only on her terms. She loved our other two pups, as long as they were quiet, still, and keeping her warm. She loved being held, but of course, she hated being picked up.

It never failed that as I tried to sit down on the couch, Roo’d hop into my lap before I could even get settled. I’d be trapped awkwardly holding her 22-pound physique asking Todd to pass me my glass of wine so as not to disturb her.

Roo also had a funny way of greeting me when I’d get home each day. She would prance up to me, struggling to squeeze in among our two bigger pups. She’d curl her lips around her teeth in what most people would clearly call a snarl, but I knew it was just her strange, excited hello.

Weekend mornings were Roo’s time to shine. After we’d let the other pups out to play in the yard, Roo would crawl her way to the top of the bed, roll over on her back between Todd and me, and bask in belly rubs. Then she’d give the sweetest little kisses for as long as our faces were within her tongue’s impressive reach.

The people who met Roo either loved her instantly or didn’t get her at all. I hate to admit that for a long time, I was the latter. I was a dog person. And Roo didn’t act like a dog.

But my hesitation didn’t affect how she treated me. When Todd and I moved in together two years ago, she adopted me as her owner with full confidence. Todd hates to admit it, but she loved me the most—and without ever wanting anything in return.

It took me a while to figure out, but Roo’s unconditional love made her more of a dog than tail-chasing or squirrel-hunting ever could.

I’m a dog person. Roo was my dog. And last week, we had to say goodbye.

I’ve never had a pet that’s so completely irreplaceable, and I doubt I ever will. My little Roo-Bug was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

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I choose you,

as my husband and partner,

my companion and friend,

my forever and always.

Because I love you just as you are today

and I’m excited to see who you become.

I promise to always support and snuggle you,

to challenge and cherish you,

And to be honest and adventurous,

so that our love will not grow old, even as we do.

The Love that Built This House

When I wear white,

there will be no church or chapel.

Just the sanctuary we created—

a simple plot of fertile ground

where a sacred love could grow.

At the end of the aisle, we’ll plant our feet.

Hearts beating like two hummingbirds,

captured in cages of bone.

There we’ll test the limits of human joy—

pledging words that no one else has said.

Because we wrote them.

Together.

As we invite others in to join

the unending celebration

that began when we first met,

my heart will be as full as the moon overhead.

Standing beneath oaks that have lasted for centuries

and hoping—always hoping—

for a love that lasts just as long.

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The Beginning of Us

"We loved with a love that was more than love" - Edgar Allan Poe

When I first met you—you with your tight lips, tense jaw and green velvet jacket—I wasn’t sure.

Not about you, I mean.

I wasn’t sure about me. I wasn’t sure what I would do with someone as smart as you. Someone as grown up. All I’d ever known was men who needed baby-sitters for girlfriends.

Then along came you.

Successful and independent with this fine-tuned sense of self. You knew who you were, and you weren’t afraid to share it with anyone. With everyone.

Not even an hour into our in-person meeting and you raised your white linen shirt above that pink rhinestone-studded belt of yours to reveal half a torso covered in tattoos and scars. Your own demons inked across your skin. Your pain made into a painting. You made no excuses or apologies for any of it.

I wanted to press my lips to them. The ribs. The scars. The darkest parts of you. I had no excuses or apologies to offer you either.

You could afford to buy me all the Jack and Coke I’d ever drink that night, but you didn’t mind if I needed to pay for a few rounds on my own. You let me be me.

I asked question after question after question. I fought for a smile. Then pushed for a laugh.

I ended up with your hand wrapped around the nape of my neck as you held me against a wall in your bedroom and kissed me in a way that felt like an entirely foreign experience—like a complete revelation.

I knew then. Even then. I never had a chance.

I lost myself in the feeling of you. The candle-lit darkness of your downtown apartment. The swirling of alcohol in my head. The melodic urging of “The Discussion,” a playlist we curated over text messages before we even met. I lost myself in the falling for you.

Because fuck it if it was too soon. And fuck it if you told me not to.

I wasn’t going to not love you. I wasn’t going to deny myself that kind of pleasure. The once-in-a-lifetime kind.

So love you I did. And incredulously, you loved me too.

Two years later and I still struggle to believe this reality is my own. Some days I’m so happy that I can’t help but expect something horrible will happen to one or both of us at any minute. Because that must be what comes next when you get everything you want. Some days I panic about not being present in every moment with you. That’s how happy you make me. So much that it actually stresses me out. And then you’ll sneak up behind me while I’m getting ready for work and kiss the back of my neck, and I swear to God my knees give out and I fall from the very top of our love all over again.

Last November, when you proposed to me—me with my unwashed hair, sloppy cream sweater, and oblivious laughter—I wasn’t sure.

Not about us, I mean.

I wasn’t sure how I would ever repay you for making me the happiest human that’s ever existed.

I still don’t know how I’m going to do it. But I’m so grateful you’ve given me this lifetime to figure it out.

love conquers, all(ways)

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Seven years ago, if you had asked me whether or not my first love was worth the heartbreak, I would have shaken my head with ferocity and defiance. No, no, no. No, it absolutely was not.

Love was not worth having my confidence ripped out from beneath me like an ugly carpet. Love was not worth migraines born from a deluge of tears. Love was not worth becoming a jealous bitch. Love was not worth being trampled by lies. Or coming back to the man who ruined me again and again like some dumb cow. Love was not worth feeling guileless, gutless, gritless. Love was not worth becoming a shadow of myself.

Before my first love, forever was a place that existed. And he showed me that place was as real as glass slippers, as likely as a fairy tale.

Seven years ago, I would have said love was not worth it.

If you had asked me seven months ago, if my second love was worth the self-destruction, I would have screamed “Noooo!!!” until my voice gave out to just a whimper.

Love was not worth raising a monster. Love was not worth feeling my blood pressure spike as his tides of anger began to swell. Love was not worth becoming a callous bitch. Or drinking five glasses of wine a day just to settle my racing heart, just to calm my nerves. Love was not worth gaining 40 pounds and hating myself and not knowing why.

Before my second love, I was destined for happiness. And he built clouds around my sunshine. He made life itself a storm.

Seven months ago, I would have said love was not worth it.

But love is a transformative beauty with a feeble memory. She lives in the now, incapable of holding a grudge. She forges forward, head held high, somehow destined for triumph despite herself.

Love conquers all because she’s a fucking champion. And she simply doesn’t know how to accept, admit, or allow for defeat.

So here I am. Following that gallant warrior into battle like a goddamned fool.

And if you asked me today if I would do it all over again, I would nod my head with unquestioning resolve.

I would take every crushing blow and scarred memory and stained love story one hundred times over. I would date ten thousand more Davids. I would watch my self-esteem crumble and rebuild, just to crumble again. I would make all the same wrong choices. I would relive every last mistake.

I would do it all. Every flawed moment.

If the ending were the same.

My broken spirit. My bloated belly. I would embrace it.

If I wound up in this place.

Surrounded and surrendered by this love.

Your love.

You.

If you asked me today, I would tell you—hopefully, honestly, helplessly—that yes, love is absolutely worth it.

Image Credit: “Gentle Love” a watercolor painting by RoSaLia’s Art via Etsy.