Oko mi: Babe, what are you reading to le to be?
(He asks this while trying to snatch my phone)
Me: Abeg, abeg, please don’t disturb me. It’s on your phone, too. Humans of NY. Instagram, Facebook, pick your choice.
(I respond sternly)
Oko mi: Why so serious?
Me: This story is juicy. The tea is so hot. Biko, let me enjoy it. It’s on your phone, too.
He hurriedly opens his Instagram app, and we both sit next to each other in silence, reading through the eleven-part post on Bobby and Cheryl Love, only interrupting the silence with dramatic sounds of surprise and suspense.
There have been different extreme reactions to the story of Bobby and Cheryl Love. Some describe their marriage as an example of true love, loyalty, and forgiveness, while others described it as “black women deserve love that doesn’t require suffering first”.
I think that Bobby and Cheryl’s story is a series of unfortunate events that lead us to ask two important questions.
Question 1. Is it really true love if you lie to the person you claim to love?
Well, it was a bit more complicated. Bobby telling Cheryl the truth about his past would have put Cheryl in a difficult situation that left her with two options – she would have been legally bound to report Bobby to the police or would have forced Bobby to turn himself in (which by the way would have been the right thing to do, but hey…).
So, Bobby made the hard decision to carry the burden alone, but even that came with it’s own baggage. When you are carrying baggage, the people around you suffer, and this comes across differently for different people. For Bobby, he was shut off, and Cheryl couldn’t quite figure out why. Some marriages come with a cross to carry, and Cheryl’s cross was this burden of suffering from a seemingly distant husband.
Question 2. Was it all fair?
- Was it fair that Bobby lied to Cheryl for 40 years, and she found out about Walter Miller, his previous life, from the FBI showing up at her door?
- Was it fair that Cheryl’s marriage was sub-par because Bobby had secrets, fears, and heavy burdens that wouldn’t let him fully open up?
- Was it fair that one night, the prison captain unfortunately heard a voice that sounded like Bobby’s, and decided to treat Bobby unjustly and ultimately set him up for potential death had he not escaped prison?
- Was it fair that the idea of trust was broken for Bobby’s wife, kids, and his church community?
- Was it fair that Bobby escaped from a 25 to 30 year prison sentence, yet only spent less than a year when he was caught? What about those who didn’t escape prison to get the chance to prove that they too had truly changed?
So what’s my take on all this?
I think, truly, that God had a much bigger purpose beyond just Bobby Love in this crazy, drama-packed story. God’s thoughts are so deep, and often when we think it’s all about us, He has an even bigger plan beyond what we can wrap our heads around. With how far the story has gone, it has impacted many people in different ways, but lets outline a few –
Cheryl Love. Think about how much she has grown through this all, and how much God has worked in her to bring her to a place where she can forgive and love regardless. Also, think about the entire appeal process and all that Cheryl learned from writing letters, to gathering testimonials, and testifying herself. Do you really think it’s going to end there? Can you imagine how many people in a similar situation are reaching out to her right now to leverage her experience? Finally, think about the faya pre-marriage counselling sessions she’ll be leading in her church right now. This was way beyond just Cheryl and Bobby.
The Loves’ kids. We don’t know the details of their stories, but oh have they had to learn so much through this process. They must have learned to trust carefully, to forgive, to love regardless, and to have a tough skin through the public shame on their family.
The rest of the world. For people who want to give up, the story of the Loves assures them that it’s not too late to start over. For people who are struggling with forgiveness, the story teaches the true meaning of forgiveness and the “territory” that comes with it. For people who want to walk out of their marriage over issues that are not even as deep as the Loves, the story puts things in perspective and teaches them to hold on tight to their marriages. For young folks who are involved in the wrong things, there’s a lot to learn from Bobby’s story on how things can go downhill real fast. Finally, I think the story teaches us that truth wins and brings freedom in the end.
Bobby Love never in a million years could have thought up these series of events – that he would be arrested twice, would escape prison twice, would find true love, would end up back in prison a third time, would be let out without completing his sentence (shout out to Cheryl!), and would run into Brandon Stanton who would share his story with the entire world. God however, knew the end from the beginning and can see all the pieces and impact that we still can’t see with our limited vision.
So no, it doesn’t all make sense, but I do think that there is true love and purpose in it all.
The next morning after reading about Bobby and Cheryl Love, the cops came knocking on my door. My initial thoughts? “Oko mi, what secret have you kept from me for the past 10 years?”
Did you read the HONY story on Bobby and Cheryl Love? What were your initial thoughts?