Opening my cherry wood musical jewelry box, I searched for the right ring to wear with my new silky blouse and trendy floral skirt. I smiled hearing the melodic tones of “Love Story.” Love is never having to say you’re sorry, but I laughed as I thought of all the times I had to say I was sorry. Love was more like a diamond developed in the pressures of life than a feel-good movie that made me cry.
My eyes searched the two rows of rings and fixed on the one Luis had given me for our thirty-sixth anniversary. Nineteen small diamonds sparkled as I held the gold ring in my slender fingers. Too bad I couldn’t wear it. Two diamonds were missing, leaving a gaping space as noticeable as a missing front tooth. I hadn’t worn the ring in two years, just kept it tucked away in my jewelry box. Being pastors, our focus was on the church and our money was spent on community and church projects. Carefully, I put the ring back in the jewelry box and closed the lid. “Love Story” faded in the background, my mind wandered to my past.
I grew up on a small farm in rural Oklahoma and had strong Christian roots. Even though I was not a part of the drug scene, I witnessed the hippy movement, free love, racial integration, Led Zeppelin, marijuana, and psychotropic drugs. People were searching for love in all the wrong things.
One night I watched a Billy Graham crusade on our small black and white television and heard Reverend Graham say, “Jesus loves you and wants to forgive all your sins. Ask Him in your heart.” With tear-filled eyes, my Mother prayed with me and God’s love entered the room changing my life forever.
At sixteen I read “Run Baby Run,” the story of Nicky Cruz. He was a vicious Puerto Rican knife-fighter and the chief warlord for a brutal Brooklyn gang called the Mau-Mau’s. David Wilkerson, a country preacher from Pennsylvania, came to Nicky with a message of hope and love. Nicky fell on his knees and confessed Christ. His life was changed and Teen Challenge was born with thousands being delivered from the evil power of drug addiction. In 1972 Hollywood made a movie about them. “The Cross and the Switchblade” deeply impacted my life and I knew God was calling me to help hurting people.
My thoughts were interrupted by my husband, who had snuck in the room like a stalking tiger ready to pounce on his prey. He surprised me with a playful hug from behind and laughed as I jumped and screamed. He was a bold man with a commanding presence and a Puerto Rican accent. I never knew what he was going to do next to make me laugh.
“One more week,” he said, “and you’ll be a year older.”
“Don’t remind me.”
His face lit up with a big grin. “Give me a hint. What would you really like for your birthday?”
I opened the jewelry box, grabbed the ring and said, “I’d love to have these missing diamonds replaced.”
Luis didn’t say a word. With a mischievous look in his dark brown eyes, he put the ring in his pocket and walked out of the bedroom comically, reminding me that laughter is like medicine.
Luis was a walking miracle. His love for God and his family were a constant reminder of God’s unconditional love. In 1970 he was trapped in a world of drugs, alcohol, street violence, crime and rebellion. A Teen Challenge minister visited him in a prison cell in Philadelphia and told him the story of Jesus Christ. He accepted Christ and God set him free. Three months later God called him to preach the gospel.
In 1972 He came to my small church in Fairfax, Oklahoma, and shared his testimony. The Holy Spirit had already prepared me. Eleven months later we were married and started our ministry together. It still amazes me how God put us together…a New Yorker and an Okie. God gave me a treasure out of darkness, a diamond and a priceless gem. A master jeweler once told me a diamond is the most indestructible natural formation known to man. The name comes from the Greek word “Adamas” and means unconquerable.
Diamonds are pure carbon and one of the earth’s most common elements, but one of the most expensive. Diamonds are formed and crystallized deep in the earth under the incredible heat of 1200 degrees Celsius and a pressure of five gigapascals. They grow larger and more beautiful under longer periods of exposure to high pressures and temperatures.
The jeweler showed me a normal round-cut diamond with 58 facets. “The fire and brilliance of white light that rebounds out of the top of the diamond and makes it sparkle depends on the correct cut and the correct alignment of each facet,” he said.
I thought about I Corinthians, Chapter thirteen and the many facets of God’s love. It is patient and kind. It is not jealous or proud, not rude or self-seeking. It is the highest level of love. It believes the best of everyone and does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness.
Agape love drove Jesus to lay down his life for the human race to save mankind from sin and self-destruction. Talk about pressure! It is a love that loves so profoundly that it knows no limits or boundaries in how far, wide, high, and deep it will go to show that love. It isn’t looking for what it can get, but for what it can give. This kind of love gave Luis and I purpose and meaning. It made life worth living.
I heard my husband’s car pull up in the driveway. Luis walked into the house like an excited little boy on Christmas morning. He had something hidden behind his back as he greeted me with a kiss.
“Close your eyes and hold out your hand. I have a surprise for you.”
When I did as he asked, Luis slipped the restored ring on my finger.
“Happy birthday, honey,”
I opened my eyes. Instead of nineteen diamonds, twenty-one diamonds sparkled. I threw my arms around my husband and squealed with joy like a child getting a new toy. I knew this was a sacrifice, but I couldn’t resist asking the question.
“How much did it cost?”
Impatiently, I said, “Don’t tease me, how much?”
“What? Come on, don’t tease me.”
“I’m not teasing.”
“The jeweler examined the ring and found the two diamonds weren’t missing after all. They had dropped low in the setting and were hidden from view. They only appeared to be missing.” He continued, “The jeweler pulled the diamonds to the surface, tightened the prongs and cleaned the ring with special jewelry cleaner…all at no charge.”
I couldn’t believe it. It looked like a new ring. Joy flooded my heart as I thought about the favor and the blessings of God, the master jeweler. We are his gems. He searches for hidden diamonds, pulls us to the surface, and cleanses us by the blood of Jesus…all at no charge. Many times God’s love is hidden by trials and pressures of life.
I wondered how many missing diamonds needed to release the love of God and sparkle again.