Brightness and blue skies illuminate Upland today despite the icy air (and sidewalks - watch out). The sky reminds me that it’s nearly spring and already March.
God has shown me His faithfulness in fresh ways during this (almost) spring. Or maybe it’s that I am just now realizing how faithful He has always been. Either way, His providence is incredible and overwhelming.
I was sitting in chapel this morning and my eyes filled up with tears. I’m not a huge cryer, so my initial response was, “Oh no, not here.” But the tears still came.
Friends, we serve a gracious God who answers our fervent prayers. Two nights ago, I felt restless in my faith. I didn’t understand why; my week was going well. But suddenly, I felt frustrated and drained. This year, the Lord has consistently taught me about joy, celebration and peace. Needless to say, this restlessness was far from joyful, celebratory or peaceful. I drove through the vast Upland cornfields and poured out my frustration to the Lord.
To sum up my messy prayer: God I’m really trying to love people just out of love, but I can’t do it. I want my love to be a reflection of your love, but I keep messing up. I’ve got my motives all wrong. I should be concerned with discipleship, not be consumed by selfishness.
God, it’s not that you’re not faithful. You are abundantly faithful. I’ve seen that over and over again. It’s not that you’re not loving. You’re infinitely loving. But I’m just not grasping it. Please show me ways that your love manifests itself in my life. Show me ways that I can tangibly reflect Your love to others. Amen.
It was a lot longer and messier than that, but you get the message.
I drove back to campus, went to bed and woke up early for worship with a few friends. I opened my Bible to Isaiah thinking, “Hey, this book is full of God’s faithfulness for Israel, maybe I’ll find some truth there.” I turned to Isaiah 44.
The section was titled “Israel the Chosen” and spoke about God’s faithfulness and purpose for Israel. While I’m not Israel, the passage showed me a lot about God’s character. The passage has an overarching theme of God renaming and restoring Israel. It begins by naming Israel “my servant” and “whom I have chosen.” It all leads up to verses 4-5 which state, “Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”
Those verses reminded me of the other times one can undergo a name change: marriage or adoption. Both reflect unique and powerful visions of love. Marriage, is a powerful metaphor of Christ and the church. Christ’s love for the church, His bride, is vast and deep. It knows all and yet still loves. It desires unity. It grieves in brokenness. It restores the deepest wounds.
Adoption also portrays a powerful image of love. When a family adopts a child, they may have visited the child many times, but still are welcoming (at first) a stranger into their lives. Yet this is all done with a powerful love. The family gives the child a new name, a new home, a new identity and a new kind of love, often never experienced before. In a Christ-centered home, not only are children chosen, they are prayed over, hard.
In reading these verses, I realized that just as Israel was given a new name, so I also was given a new name. Out of Christ’s love through both adoption into the family of Christ and marriage to the church, I have two new names, “Child of God” and “Bride of Christ” (with the church).
How rich then is the love of Christ if He, who established marriage and adoption, chose to lavish both relationships onto me despite my recurring failure to reciprocate?
After I finished reading, the Bible Study leader had us partner up and pray. “Pray a prayer you’re afraid to pray for yourself,” he said. As my partner started to pray, I realized that nearly everything he prayed for me, I had been praying about the night before, almost word-for-word. Things like “experience [Christ’s] love tangibly,” “know how to love others best” and “know that [Christ] is always present,” were recurring themes.
This morning in chapel, our campus pastor’s message was centered on what else, the love of God. Our campus pastor gave a message centered on God’s love being made tangible. As the message moved forward, I realized that once again, many of the words spoken echoed my own prayers two nights before.
The ideas of selfishness, repentance, celebration and joy were touched on - each of which I had prayed over in the weeks prior. They now began to line up. The joy comes with great celebration when we reciprocate God’s love, repent and orient our selfish hearts toward Him. It all made sense. (I get that a lot of this is “well, duh” types of things, but my stubborn heart needed a little extra help).
Here’s the takeaway:
- God has a mysterious way of showing up in our lives. (Very apparent to me based off of the past few days).
- He has insurmountable joy when we turn to Him. (Think the father throwing a huge celebration for the prodigal son…or prodigal Katherine).
- He feels love and compassion toward us, despite really knowing our messiness. (That means He loves us even despite the worse-than-your-bedroom-closet-in-middle-school messiness of our hearts).
In the story of the Prodigal Son, our pastor made the comment that whichever son we are, we are called to be the father. I am called to love despite of everything with everything for the One who gave everything.
I’m seeing more clearly that God is love. It’s His very nature. In His love for us, He held nothing back. What more perfect a season to remember that than Easter.
I am thankful for God’s abundant faithfulness and love amidst my messiness. I’m thankful that He celebrates when my prodigal heart turns to Him, even when my sin grieves Him. I’m thankful for His tangible expressions of love in my life.
Luke 15: 20-24
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.