Proclaim Trust’s first office was in a place called Champness Hall. This is where I first met Tina. She worked for the school’s work organisation, and her team was based in same office building. Tina is strong, spiritual and from the South.
It was Christmas 2002. We’d been working in same building for three years. Tina told me she was staying in the North for the holidays. ‘Do you want to go out for a meal?’ ‘Okay.’ For me, this was a just a friend thing. I wasn’t looking for a relationship. It was daytime when I picked her up at her flat and took her to Frankie and Benny’s. We chatted about faith and our work. I didn’t think anything of it.
After Christmas, I popped into her office. We chatted for a while, then I asked, ‘Do you fancy going out for another meal?’ ‘Yes, okay’, she said. This time, I took her for Chinese at tea time. We chatted about faith and work.
A few weeks after this, I saw her in the corridor. We chatted some more and then I said, ‘Do you want to go out for another meal?’ She said, ‘Yes, okay.’ This time, I thought I’d really push the boat out, so I took her for Indian. At night. We were chatting at the table. Tina then got up to the bathroom. I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘Core, look at those curves, look at her shape.’ She came back from bathroom and then I caught a smell of her perfume. ‘Awe man, that smells lovely, so feminine.’ I had been single 10 years!
That night I dropped her off and went home. I walked into my flat, and I said to God, ‘Forgive me, I shouldn’t be thinking like this, take my thought’s captive!’ Then suddenly, I had a feeling that this was right, like God had said, ‘This is of me.’ For days, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
‘Okay, if this is God, I’m going to send her an email.’ I sat in my little flat that night. I picked up my laptop and put it on my knee. One thought did cross the back of my mind as I was writing it: ‘Will she accept someone with a history like mine?’ Then another over shadowed that one, ‘How can she resist!’ It took me an hour to write the email. ‘Dear Tina, do you think God is in this relationship? Love, Barry.’ Then I hit send. A few minutes later, there was a message in my inbox from Tina. ‘I like to think that God is in all our relationships.’
I sent another email. This one took me five seconds to write. ‘I know that God is in all of our relationships, but do you think there might be something more to this one?’ Send! A minute later another message in my inbox from Tina: ‘Maybe.’ I knew this meant that she was thinking along the same lines as me and that she didn’t have a problem with my past.
So I asked her out on a proper date. This was the start of our relationship. In 2004, we got married, which means she really did accept me for who I was. On the 7th of February 2011, we celebrated seven years of marriage. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Did you go to Frankie and Benny’s. At night?’ No, we stayed in and had takeaway!
When I think about dating Tina, there’s a lesson to be learnt: You ought to Accept You’re Accepted.
See, God looks at you in a similar way. It doesn’t matter what your history is, He accepts you just as you are. Your friends may reject you, but God will always accept you! Your family may even reject you, but God will always accept you! People in society may look at you and reject you, but God will always accept you!
Jesus said, ‘Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.’
See, the message of Christianity is one of acceptance. You just need to accept it. No matter what your history is, God accepts you just as you are—Accept You’re Accepted.