Deeper Love for Jesus
by John C. Westervelt
For nineteen years an intriguing story of lives once lived waited patiently on the bookshelf in my den wrapped in an unruffled, rose-colored dust jacket. I was awakened to its presence by what seemed like answered prayer.
My most difficult weeks of the year are the last week of July and the first two weeks of August, between the ending of summer preschool programs and the beginning of the fall preschool classes. I need to be doing something worthwhile, and this need is met as I volunteer in the Asbury weekday preschool. My prayer for these interim weeks had been that God would help me be a good steward of His gift of time.
On a Friday in late July, I turned the thermostat five degrees lower before saying to Barbara, “While you are cleaning, I’ll be in the library at Asbury.” With my newspaper and a peanut butter and honey sandwich in my canvas satchel, I drove into the sun toward the steeple two miles ahead.
Naomi, the Friday volunteer librarian, was quietly busy at her desk. I pulled up a chair at the round table and spread out my newspaper. By mid-morning, I had finished the paper. I stood and turned to see “FICTION” at the top of the stack of books next to me. I thought, “An intriguing novel could fill these slow days.”
My eyes were drawn to bold white letters on a rose book jacket that read, “I Came to Love You Late.” The title struck a cord, so I pulled it off the shelf. I began to read Joyce Landorf’s novel about Martha. I walked beside Martha around Bethany and the nearby countryside as she opened her spacious home to Jesus and His friends.
At eleven o’clock I filled a styrofoam cup with water and retrieved my sandwich. I ate an early lunch without missing a word on the pages passing before my eyes. At noon, I walked to the desk and told Naomi, “I’d like to check out this book, even though I have a feeling I may have a copy at home.”
By one o’clock Barbara had my house sparkling clean. She gathered her things, and we walked together to her car. I remembered to tell her how much I appreciated her doing for me what I can no longer do for myself.
When I returned to the house, the first thing I did was look up, down, and across the shelves of the bookcase. At eye level I spotted “I Came to Love You Late.” Of the 350 books on my shelves, ninety percent were bought by my wife Nelda. As a book reviewer, she bought many books and would have enjoyed this one.
I peeled and quartered an apple, pulled a paper towel off the roll by the sink, sat down at the kitchen table, and opened what was to be my new-found treasure. Serving as a bookmark was a small Hallmark Charmer card. Below a bonneted little girl and a cat at the candy counter were the words “A Valentine I went and got...”
Opening the card, I read on the inside page, “...because I like you a lot!” I suppose I thought the card said it all, because in engineering letters I had added only three words, “With Love, John.” Nelda died nineteen year ago in August. I was pleased that I remembered that Valentine day so long ago.
Martha’s encounter with Jesus and his friends was so intriguing that I kept reading until I finished the book by late Saturday afternoon.
After reading her story, Martha became one of my favorite biblical characters. For three years, Martha busily served Jesus and His disciples. After watching Jesus raise her brother Lazarus from the dead, Martha asked, “How could I have been so close to You, yet almost missed You?” Martha finally recognized Jesus for who He truly is.
Nelda always read with a pencil in one hand. Martha’s quote was marked with an asterisk, and there were pencil marks in the margins alongside the paragraphs before and after the quote. Nelda may have felt what Martha felt. If so, then there were three of us feeling a deeper love for Jesus.
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