by Jenelle Garden

About 17 years ago a simple second chance was given to me that changed the trajectory of my whole life.

My husband, Isidro, and I have been happily married for many years. We have two beautiful daughters and are surrounded by family and friends, and an awesome church that we love. But it hasn’t always been such a drama-free existence or relationship for Isidro and myself.

We met in high school, and as many of you with teenagers might know, those “coming of age” years of adolescence are often packed with a lot of needless drama, hormones, and instability. Isidro and I were a bit of an odd couple, even at sixteen and seventeen years old. We came from different family backgrounds, cultures, socioeconomic statuses, languages, and traditions. We met through mutual friends at school one day, during our lunch period, and we enjoyed a playful friendship that quickly developed into young love. We had an almost-instant connection, one that was hard to describe. It was unconventional, because on the surface we had very little in common, but somewhere in our Spirits we knew that we were meant to be together.

Though neither of us were perfect, we both had a relationship with God, since before we’d met. Though we didn’t discuss religion or our relationship with Christ much at that age, and though neither of us had families that regularly attended church, we both knew that there was a higher power that we answered to.  I think we even recognized on some level, that it was God who had brought us together.  

But, as life often does, especially in the late teens, life has a way of providing all of the right distractions to divert us from God’s path for our lives.

Speaking for myself, I was very scarred by some of the experiences in my childhood.  Though both of my parents loved me tremendously and tried to protect me, I had a deeply rooted feeling of abandonment from my father having left my mother and I at a young age, and I also had a lot of resentment over the hostility my mother had often openly expressed toward my dad and his wife. There was plenty of love in my family, but also plenty of drama.  I guess that’s why I didn’t identify LOVE as being something safe and stable. It seemed to me, to be just as fleeting as so many other emotions (and people) I’d seen come and go in my youth.

But Isidro was different. Somehow, he offered me a mature-beyond-its-years kind of trust and stability that I had never seen before. I have to believe it was God-inspired in him, as he too had come from a tumultuous family background.  Though in many ways he was a typical teenage young man, not always very studious or eager to comply with authority, toward me he was almost a saint. He treated me like a princess and loved me almost unconditionally. 

Unsure of how to receive this kind of drama-free love from anyone, I subconsciously mistrusted Isidro’s intentions, and without meaning to, I did all the things that God’s word warns us against.  Where God’s word in Corinthians describes love as patient and kind, I was quick to mistrust and sometimes very unkind with my thoughts and words. Where God’s word instructs love to keep no record of wrongs, I was quick to feel victimized and question Isidro’s motives, at every turn. I’d pick arguments and create drama, waiting for him to prove to me that he was what I expected him to be: untrustworthy, unkind, unloving. He never proved to be any of those things. The more I pushed him, the more he responded with love. The more drama I created, the calmer he remained. I soon saw that he was secure in himself and that my behaviors couldn’t change who he was or how he behaved toward me.  So… while many less hard-headed young women might have learned from that and changed their own behavior, I decided to make a different kind of change.  I decided I should end the relationship.  At the time I reasoned with myself that his lack of emotionality during our little childish spats was simply a lack of feeling toward me. I reasoned that the fact that we sometimes sat without talking for minutes at a time, was based on the fact that we had nothing to talk about (instead of enjoying the peace of just being together). I decided that our backgrounds and families and cultures were too different and that there would always be too much to overcome between us (instead of enjoying our differences and learning from them).  So, I broke it off between us, ignoring everything in my spirit that screamed at me, “You’re making a huge mistake.”

Sometimes it’s so easy to ignore that inner voice and let our intellect outsmart our common sense, isn’t it? I still recall that when I told Isidro that we should just be friends, his reaction was exactly the opposite of what I expected.  There was no drama. He was not angry, nor was he eager to get away from the crazy, damaged girl and her drama. On the contrary, he seemed quietly sad, and yet unmoved in his love for me.

Our break up lasted just a couple of months. That seems like an eternity when you’re a teenager, though looking back now, I think it barely even counts as a break up.  What’s more, we remained friends throughout those months (often even holding hands and sneaking the occasional extra hug or kiss on the cheek).  We weren’t very good at playing the part of a broken up couple.  And yet, for me, just knowing that our future together was in question, made me feel so restless to my core. Soon, it became clear to me that all my many excuses for not being with Isidro were little more than what the bible describes as “foolish wisdom.” As much as I’d reasoned with myself that I’d made the right decision, my spirit said something different. When I saw Isidro, I longed to ask his forgiveness and for a second chance at being the partner I knew he deserved.  

To make a long story short, I eventually did get to do just that, and when I did, Isidro was there with an undeserved grace and kindness, welcoming me back with open arms. We’ve been pretty inseparable ever since.

Sometimes, I reflect back upon the fact that if Isidro hadn’t exhibited all the virtues of love that the bible describes in Corinthians, and if he had kept a record of my many wrongs, we might never have come back together and grown into the couple that we are today. I thank God for the second chance to love and be loved by that young man, who is now my amazing husband.

I want to offer encouragement to anyone reading this, who might find themselves in the midst of a turbulent time in their relationship. If God has called you to be with that other person, and you are safe in doing so, be patient. Be calm. Be kind.  Be steadfast and strong in the Lord.  As Paul encourages us in Colossians: “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive…” Remember that each of us, even those who are in the position of giving forgiveness, have been given a second chance too: “So (we) must forgive others, since the Lord forgave us. (Colossians 3:12-15).” God bless you! 

Have you had a second chance at love? Share your comments below! 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship. 

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