This Crazy Thing Called Love

 This past year  or so God has taught me a lot about love. It’s a pretty large topic, and central to our existence as humans. I learned a lot about this subject, but like any human being I have been forgetting what this incredible force looks like in day-to-day life. People always talk about “how God loves us.” What the heck does that even mean, anyways?

One of my good friends (Mackenzie Hester!) and I wrote letters to each other all of last year. She lives in North Carolina, and it was a fun way for us to keep in touch. This woman, I swear. She is so encouraging. I always looked forward to getting her letters.

At one point in the year, I sent her the above letter. The reason it’s on a computer file is because she liked it so much. She photo-copied it and gave it out to a handful of the women who attended the Women’s Retreat at East Carolina University. I was pretty shocked that she liked it so much…It’s really only a testament to how powerful the message of True Love is. As women, we search for this unconditional love through men. As men, y’all seek for it in your own ways, probably in addition to seeking out relationships with women. (I’m not gonna pretend I know for sure what all those ways are…) I do know that it’s only natural, because God created us with this need for love! It’s supposed to drive us to Him, but we don’t understand that and seek it in sex, alcohol, drugs… even just little things like escaping into our favorite TV show or novel, so that we feel like we are the characters who seem to be so loved. But each time, these things fail us. Even the best boyfriend/girlfriend can’t meet our expectations 24/7. So what does this mean for us?

I put the .jpg of my letter above so you could see that it’s actually rather goofy-lookin’… just a real, hand-written verbal processing of what God was teaching me. It’s not polished or great writing, but God used it in the lives of women I didn’t even know. So I had the idea to share it here (I’m just gonna retype it). Hopefully it will re-encourage me, and present a fresh point of view along the way.

November 2011

“Dear Mackenzie,

As I am writing this you simply must know that I LOVE YOU! 🙂

Speaking of love, God has been teaching me a bit about love this Thanksgiving break (imagine… as if he didn’t teach me enough on project!) We are never finished learning, not that I thought I’d arrived but I just feel blessed to be shown more and amazed at how much there is TO learn.

First of all, of course there are the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God gives us a clear picture of what this “LOVE” is.

You know, ❤ , L.O.V.E., “All you need…”  This incredibly evasive and undefined thing in our culture. Well, it’s clearly DEFINED in the scriptures.

But not as an emotion — as an act of will. I just googled “love” and the first line of the Wikipedia link defining love says: “love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment…” You can stop right there — love is not even an emotion!  Can an emotion be patient and kind and stop being selfish and not get easily angered and trust and protect, ect, ect…? NO. Emotions are uncontrollable, they run rampant inside of us. Love is a matter of sacrifice and self-denial.

Of course, I haven’t arrived at these realizations on my own. My friend Lauren told me about an Elisabeth Elliot article, and when I read it, it rocked my world. I totaly recommend taking some time to read it, even though it’s a bit lengthy. Anyways, she talks about how so many single women are almost to the point of marrying just ANYONE so they can be married, when in actuality marriage is freakin’ HARD! You’re promising another sinner that you’ll give up your freedom in a million different ways and continually self-sacrifice and love them when they have hurt you and are not even talking to you and so many other things… and we crave this? It made me realize that:

1. What I want is not really marriage but the good things in marriage. In actuality there is a whole can of wormy hardship that comes with unity with another imperfect person. I just want unconditional and intimate love, which 2. I ALREADY HAVE. I’m waiting and waiting for my prince to come, but gosh dangit, he’s been here for quite a while! Needless to say, THAT realization blew me away.

But it also depressed me just a teensy bit. Because, well, I’m still trying to figure out how to feel and be fulfilled by this perfect, invisible love. And if the hope of being completed by any sort of earthly love (which is only a gift from God, a blessing and an add-on), if the hope from that is completely obliterated then I’m left with only glimpses of fulfillment and no hope of knowing concretely when it will get better through God teaching me the fullness of being complete in His love.

So that was an interesting thing to learn and it also made me very wary about marriage. I mean, at least any time soon. Am I ready for that kind of sacrifice? HECK NO. Read the article, you’ll see what I mean.

But anyway, as a spin-off of this, it’s helping me to see how I can start to love others. I don’t need to be married or in a relationship to start practicing this “love” thing! By the way, the word love is starting to take on a whole new meaning for me. It used to be this magical, rainbows-and-ponies, healing, flowery, easy kind of word and now I’m beginning to see it as something painful, powerful, supernatural, and difficult. After reading that article I was almost like, “don’t sign me up! I don’t want it anymore!” But of course I really do.

This love thing is all we really ever want. And there aren’t any people in the world who can give it to us in full capacity. That’s why the love of God is an amazing thing. We’ve never experienced anything like it. We can’t match it, and we don’t deserve it.”

It’s there that the photocopy ends, even though my letter continued on. It probably just talked about my life at the time, ect.

What a good reminder, though… wow. It’s always kind of cool to go back and read what you wrote a year, or a half of a year, before. God is always teaching us different things, and while what I wrote in the letter is so truthful and eye-opening, that was a whole year ago. I’ll be honest: I’ve SUCKED lately at keeping this concept of overwhelming, fulfilling love via Jesus Christ in my heart.

But when I really begin to think about it, it’s a CRAZY love. Insane. Knocks me off my feet.

Imagine if Jesus was just the lover of one, instead of many. For instance, what if it was just you.

Pretend with me for a second here. What if you were the only human on earth who was separated from God. He said “if you disobey me, the penalty is death,” and you disobeyed. Oops. You’re sorry, but that doesn’t fix it. If being with God is heaven, and being separated from Him is hell, then you’re stuck in hell on earth. He is SO holy, and so the fact that you’re stained by this disobedience means He can’t be reunited with you. Not unless you’re clean. He’s more sad about this than you are. He created you, and even though you messed up… He wants to change it. Wipe it away. But He is a JUST God, He has integrity and he doesn’t go back on his word. When he said there had to be death, he meant it.

BUT here comes the good part: instead of leaving you helpless in separation from your creator, he sent his Son down to earth. Jesus. This dude, He lives perfectly. Then one day, your sins, mistakes, bloopers — they’re put on His shoulders. God, his father, turns away from His own son. Jesus is put to death as a living sacrifice for YOUR mistakes. God said there had to be a death, so there was. It just wasn’t yours. 

When Jesus died, those sins that were on his shoulders died with him. And let’s not forget that he rose again 3 days later, defeating death once and for all. You’re in shock because suddenly, you’re reunited with God, who created you. It’s all fixed. You are whole again! He pulled off this huge, painful, complicated feat, just so that He could be in relationship with YOU. So you could know Him, the one who created you. When you know the one who created you and your environment, everything begins to make sense.  You’re not an outcast anymore. You belong to something.

Needless to say, this isn’t just pretending. We were just pretending about it being only you. You’re not alone though. Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But we can’t even focus on that, because God loved us enough to fix it!

SO having said all that, this is what I return to when I am having trouble feeling fulfilled by Jesus’ love.

Typically, the conversation goes something like this:

“But Lord, this love, it’s not tangible.”

“Jordan, beloved, what is more tangible than a real person coming to earth with his only mission being to die for your sake?”

And after pausing for a second I think, “Touché, Jesus, touché.”

Then the result is the desire to love Him back, which is better than I had ever hoped for in the beginning.

Ready or Not!

Before I build too much anticipation, let me just tell you the answer is NOT.

 

I move into my real-life new apartment in Muncie in 3 days.

 

What?!

That kind of snuck up on me. If you read my status on Facebook, you know that a bad case of itchy, miserable hives have propelled me through the last week. I honestly couldn’t focus on anything else. This morning when I woke up feeling mostly normal and bit anxious (both because of the medicine I’m on…) I was almost surprised to find myself smack dab in the middle of Friday, August 10th.

 

Because of the anxiety (ha), I immediately set to planning my move and Welcome Week. (Fun little plug, check out my Apartment board on Pinterest. Just a place to put a few ideas, but I’m basing mine and Lauren’s bedroom off of colors I saw a lot in San Diego, and trying to make it really relaxing and Shabby Chic with a California twist! 🙂 Pictures of the finished product soon.)

 

Anyways… turns out I am almost completely double-booked for all of Welcome Week. Triple-booked on some days. That’s what you get when you’re a theatre major, on leadership for campus ministry, and have a job. Maybe it was because of the medicine, but suddenly I wasn’t psyched to be going back to school. I was overwhelmed. Moving/settling into an apartment, juggling three different groups of responsibility, then taking a catch-breath and plunging into the first weeks of classes (both those I take as a student and those I teach as a fitness instructor)… what have I done to myself?

 

In the midst of waves of worry and anxiety I was reminded: “WOAH woah woah. I am your ever-present help. Why are you worrying? I will be with you every step, haven’t I always been?”

Hmmmm. TRUE. I felt more calm almost instantly. I know that there will be troubles and stress, but it’s reassuring that I can’t mess things up bad enough when God is by my side.

 

As if to make His point, even a few minutes later about 5 things fell into place that made it so I could pay for my textbooks today, with an assurance of being able to still pay rent. That was even one of the things I had been worrying about. Why is God so good to me?? These sort of things happen all the time, too. I never get in too much trouble financially, safety-wise, relationship-wise… my life is a testament to His blessings. Seriously though, if you know me well… you know that it doesn’t take much for me to get myself in trouble. Ha. Not kidding! I’ll post later about a few times I’ve been pulled out of tight situations. But really, even the seemingly bad things that have happened always end up being for good in the long run! The thing is, I do know why. It’s because when you place your trust in Jesus and make Him the center of your life, He takes responsibility for you. The God of the universe cares for your life. When you seek Him, he guides you.

 

I think in the past when I wasn’t truly walking with the Lord, I believed that if I gave more to Jesus, I would live a life where I was always getting the short end of the stick, sacrificing much at my own expense, settling for a life of no importance. While there are times when it feels that way, if nothing else in the past year that I’ve been seeking the Lord’s will, I’ve honestly seen even more PURPOSEFUL, abundant life. While I don’t always suceed at living how God has called us to in every moment of my life, He is more faithful than I am. MUCH more faithful.

 

Sometimes even when I give of myself fearfully, I see the fruit of it in more rewarding ways than I ever deserve. That’s not just money either, I’m talking time, resources…even reputation. It’s not popular to follow Jesus, and let’s be honest, it’s not natural to give of ourselves freely! But everytime I do give up something to God for the sake of his Kingdom, He is such a loving father in rewarding me beyond belief. He is teaching me that living for Him with abandon is not something to fear. It’s safe, in fact. He is not a “skimpy” God. He loves to give the best gifts to His children, which means sometimes we don’t get what we think we want. It’s always because God has something better. The cool part is, He does all of this for the purpose of bringing Himself glory. We get to be part of God’s global plan (true purpose, bigger than just living for myself), and live a free, rewarding life in the process. Best of all, I get to spend my life enjoying God. If you don’t understand how that could be the best part, ask Him to show you what it’s like to know Him. He will show you. And He’s pretty baller, to say the least. (Who uses baller anymore? This psalmist had better words:)

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

(Psalm 46)

 

Somehow after writing all that, I’m actually excited to navigate the potentially turbulent waters of Welcome Week with my Father. He even works through my verbal processing… perpetually amazed.

J