If you are in a place right now where you feel all alone in your search for real love, I want to reassure you that you are not alone. God hasn't forgotten about you. He loves you with an eternal love, and he will never abandon you. No matter where you've been, what you've done, or what's been done to you, God has a love-filled, redemptive plan for you.
Love is what motivated my Great Uncle Joe to get out of his bed at midnight almost thirty years ago.
He leaned over to his wife and told her he had to go do something. He felt strongly that God had given him an important assignment, and it couldn't wait until morning. It seemed like a crazy mission, but he knew in his gut that it had to be done right away.
She was too tired to argue or ask many questions, so he kissed her on the forehead, put on a jacket over his pajamas, and walked out to his truck. He drove to the outskirts of their little Indiana farm town and pulled into the parking lot of a place he'd driven past a thousand times but had never gone inside. The sign read, "Welcome to the Red Fox Bar."
The Red Fox was infamous for the brawlers, strippers, and scoundrels who frequented the place.
The man who owned and tended the bar was a legendary wild man named Jughead. His real name was Leon, but everyone called him Jughead or Jug for short. No one seemed sure where or how the nickname had originated, but it seemed to fit him well.
Jug looked up from the bar and saw my Uncle Joe walking in wearing his pj's and house slippers. Uncle Joe was a preacher and never had much use for alcohol, so the bartender had to do a double take to be sure of what he was seeing. He finally shook his head and laughed out loud. "Well, I Never! What are you doing here, preacher man? What can I pour you to drink?"
"Hey, Jug," Uncle Joe replied with a yawn. "I'm not here for a drink."
"Well, you do realize it's a bar, don't you? If you're not her for a drink, then what on earth are you here for?"
Uncle Joe walked up to the bar and said, "This has never happened to me before, but I believe God woke me up tonight and gave me a very specific assignment. He wanted me to drive down here and give you a message."
Jug exploded with laughter and smacked the bar with amused delight. "Oh, God has a message for me, does he? I'll bet he does! You Christians are always telling me about God's message for me. What is it this time? Are you here to tell me that I'm going to hell for running a bar, or that my wife's going to hell because she used to be a stripper? Does God want me to know that I'm worthless? I heard that message my entire childhood from my dad, so I certainly don't need to hear it again. So tell me, preacher, what is God's message for me?"
Uncle Joe put his hands down on the bar and looked Jug in the eyes. And with a piercing conviction and compassion in his voice, he said, "Jug, God wanted me to tell you that he loves you and he has an extraordinary plan for your life."
Jug immediately looked down at the bar and began wiping it off with a towel as if Uncle Joe were invisible. Joe turned to walk back outside, thinking his assignment was complete, and he could go back to bed. But before he got to the exit, he heard Jug's voice.
Uncle Joe turned around, and Jug was standing behind the bar with tears streaming down his face. With a quiver in his voice, he asked, "Is that true? Does God really love me? Nobody has ever told me that before."
Uncle Joe walked back to the bar and sat down. The two men talked and laughed and cried until the early hours of the morning.
Jug prayed the first prayer of his life in that bar..
...and he asked God to forgive him of his sins and committed to living the rest of his life following Jesus, embracing God's limitless love, and sharing that love with others. Right there at the bar that night, love changed Jug's life forever.
Jug put a "For Sale" sign out in front of the Red Fox and refused to sell the building to anyone who would continue using it as a bar. He walked away from his old life and wholeheartedly embraced a new one. His personal transformation caused such a stir in the small town that a revival broke out, beginning with his wife (the retired stripper) and many of the patrons of the bar. Jug eventually became a preacher, and today he continues to live out his promise of living a life of love and grace and helping others do the same.
Once people realize that they're truly, fully, unconditionally loved, it changes everything.
Maybe you've forgotten, or maybe you've never been told, but God loves you, and he has an extraordinary plan for your life. He wants you to live a life of love.