Love, Actually. 

Ladies, what if I told you that the key to your happiness was the very thing you were running away from? 

That our natural thirst to be loved, to be cherished, fought for, and protected could all be satiated by the love of one man?

Fun fact: I am a hopeless romantic. Yes, I am that “reads endless Jane Austen novels, forever swooning over Fitzwilliam Darcy”, authentic, traditional love-desiring type of gal. 

Let me tell you a story: 

About this time last week, I was speaking to a friend about – wait for it – Boys. 

Shocking, right? 

Even more shocking was that we were talking about how MEAN they have been to us in the past! (Don’t get me wrong, I have an immense love for my brothers in Christ, all of them)… But when it comes to having healthy dating relationships, neither my friend nor I have ever won the boyfriend jackpot. 

Now the significant part of this story is that I distinctly remember saying to my friend, “I’m sure some day ‘the One’ will come along who will make all the pain from the past fade away.” 

These are EXACT. WORDS. PEOPLE. 

And I’m here right now to tell you (and myself, a week ago) that the love we desire exists. It is real. It is tangible. 

Better yet, it exists for US

That kind of love exists in a man named Jesus Christ. 

I’ve come to know this man intimately the past few years without ever fully understanding the love He has for me as His bride, until now. 

It was all a little strange to me, the idea of being romanced by God. When we think of Christ, more often than not words like “redeemer” “healer” “savior” and “king” come to mind. When we think of the crucifixion, it’s not exactly a scene straight out of the dining room at Netherfield, is it? I had so many ideas about the way I desire to be romanced, that it was hard to see how I was playing a lead role in the greatest love story ever told. 

You know: That one where God humbles himself to the form of a baby, then gives His life willingly, while carrying the burden of all of humanity’s sin, so that His love can someday spend eternity with Him amidst the absolute joy and splendor of heaven. 

Where you at now, Mr. Darcy? 

Oddly enough, when the aforementioned conversation took place, I was on my way to adoration, completely unaware of the ridiculous romancing that was about to happen.

It was there in that chapel, one ordinary Wednesday evening, where the King of Kings poured His heart out to me and showed me firsthand the thirst HE feels for MY love. MY love? 

I know. It gets better.

As I knelt before a giant crucifix, I was suddenly transfixed upon Christ’s heart. Literally. Because it turned red before my very eyes. I was suddenly feeling a pull on my heart unlike any pull I had ever felt before… As I knelt in complete awe of the love I was witnessing, I felt for the first time just a fraction of the desire that Christ holds for me. It was beautiful. It was tiring. It was painful. 

GUYS. WHAT A LOVE STORY. 

His desire is so great that He literally defends us from the weight of all sin, protects us from our own helplessness, cherishes us to the point of exhaustion, and loves us to the point of pain. He is everything you could ever desire, and so SO much more. 

His thirst is so great that I can’t possibly begin to comprehend it. I won’t even try. 

I didn’t write this post to try to explain the love of Christ, just to share the reality of the happiness we are offered, and to bask in the goodness of the romance of the Lord.

Jesus Christ is the man that I seek. The man that we all seek. 

And “the One” who is forever seeking us. 

That is love, actually. 

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Broken yet Healed

We all know the feeling. Waking up, eyes bright, mind ready to tackle the day before you, a list of to-do’s that (if finished) will make you feel oh so accomplished. 

But then, in the line at Starbucks, you encounter that one snobby person. 
In the car on the way to work, you get that one call. 
As you pull into the parking lot, you are cut off by that one “bad driver”. 
In the grocery store, you are on the receiving end of that one mean glare… 

All it takes is one.

One moment to change your entire mood, your entire outlook on the day before you, and make you wonder, “Why did I even leave my bed this morning?”

Likewise, sometimes all it takes is one bad experience to change your entire outlook on your faith. I’ve met far too many former Christians who have had one horrible experience with suffering that went on to define everything they believe about God. About themselves. That went on to make them think, “What is the point of turning to Christ when He makes me suffer to this extent?” 

I get it. I understand. 

The above may sound familiar to you. If you are one of those people, there is one thing I want you to be aware of before I go on. There is such a thing as God’s “perfect will”. These are things that he directly wills, directly wants to happen. To understand this, we must realize that God’s character is good. His very essence is goodness, is life, is love, is wisdom, is reason, is all these good things. So whenever there’s life, love, wisdom, reason, or any of these good things, they’re all some part of His directly willing those things. 

Evil things do happen. However, those are not part of God’s perfect will, but part of what we call God’s permissive will, that He only allows them to happen. So when you’re suffering and tempted to wonder why (if God is good and loving and powerful) would He let you suffer in these horrible ways, realize that God does not want you to be in pain, but only allows it to happen because it brings about a greater good. In this case, the greater good is the existence of free will. Just as God did not want to see His son suffer and be killed brutally on a cross, but allowed it to happen because He knew that the result would be a greater good… That Jesus dying on a cross would bring about redemption for all of mankind. 

God created a world where He’s not a tyrant, where free will exists, where He’s (by choice) not in control of every little thing… Because He created a world like that, suffering happens. 

Suffering is all around us. Frustration and pain are normal, nay, necessary parts of life, especially as a Christian. These are two realities that I have been forced to face recently. 

You see, I have had what feels like a continuous two and a half months of being knocked down, then trying my absolute hardest and exhorting all of my energy to get back up, only to turn around and be thrown down flat on my face again. It has become a spirit-draining, pain-filled pattern.

And truth be told, I am tired. I’m tired of feeling like I can’t be happy because my problems are just too strenuous. I’m tired of feeling like I have no time to grow in my relationship with the Lord because I’m too busy worrying about how I will deal with all of this suffering. I’m tired of being beaten down. My body hurts. My mind hurts. My spirit is broken. “God,” I’ve prayed time and time again, “just take this pain away. I’m actually begging to be relieved. Haven’t I suffered enough yet?”

This past Thursday night epitomized all of these emotions that have been building up inside of me. It was during a praise and worship session that night that I genuinely believed I could not take any more. It was in the midst of so much joy that I had started losing hope of a good relationship with the Lord. How could I expect that much when I’m this burdened by the baggage life is hurling my way? These things impact me with such force that I am too busy doing damage control to focus on growing closer to Christ. I can’t be truly happy in the midst of this pain, can I? I told myself I was not strong enough to take any more.

However, what I did not realize in that moment of weakness was that the Lord doesn’t want me to do this alone. He doesn’t want me to spend my life doing damage control on my heart. He doesn’t want me to lack an intimate relationship with Him because I feel too broken to pursue one. He doesn’t want me to live a life of suffering. 

He wants me to live a life of happiness. Of growth. Of healing. Of love. Of hope. 

He wants me to live a life filled with His spirit, which provides all of these things, despite the suffering. It’s not that He is just going to make all of my problems and pain vanish in a split second (remember, free will), it’s that He gives me the fortitude to glorify Him through my experiences. 

“Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Lie: I am incapable of handling the suffering I’m going through.

Truth: I am made strong and receive essential support when I take those hardships with me and lay them down at the foot of the cross. 

Lie: I am not able to turn to the Lord and live in happiness because I am too broken. 

Truth: I do not need to have a perfectly pain-free life in order to gain happiness and have a good relationship with my Lord. Nobody has a pain-free life to begin with. Rather, I can realize that ultimately the war has already been won, and happiness is as far away as inviting the Lord to take presidence over my life: Good, bad, suffering, and all. 

Lie: I am far too broken to be healed. 

Truth: The Creator of the Universe longs to meet me at the source of my pain, and make me strong, not by fixing everything immediately, but by filling my wounds with Himself. 

It is in my suffering that I am drawn ever closer to the cross. It is in my suffering that I can give greatest glory to God. It is in my suffering that I am able to share in just a fraction of the suffering of Christ. Do you all realize how special that is? 

It is amidst these truths that we play a part in the ultimate paradox: That Christ uses weakness to bring about strength for His eventual glorification. 

Yes, I still have a lot of work to do, many struggles to offer up, and further opening up to the Lord in my near future, but the point of it all is this: 

I am never out of His reach. 

The Call to Holiness

Holiness used to be something that I considered out of my grasp. 

When younger me pondered the word “holy” (as I did quite frequently), I  would picture the saints, or some cloister of nuns praying all day, and think to myself, “How could I possibly be like them? How could I live that way?” 

I could never devote my entire life to prayer. Truthfully, I didn’t know whether I would give my life for my faith, if faced with the prospect. I definitely didn’t show a calm, loving countenance or reflect the love of Christ towards every one I met. 

I would say things like “I’m not strong enough for that” or “I’d get bored” to deter myself from trying, because the thought of that kind of sacrifice for holiness was an uncomfortable one. I told myself, “I like my family too much, I like my friends and sports and extracurriculars too much to give it all up.” Quickly, I  came to the conclusion that holiness just wasn’t for me. 

But here’s the thing: The call to holiness isn’t necessarily a call to stop everything in your life, join a cloister, and never get to hug your families again (My physical touch love language people are cringing, I know). The call to holiness isn’t always a call to some extravagant change in your daily schedule, but living out the ordinary goings-on in that schedule with holiness as a primary goal. For some, religious life may be a vocation, but that lifestyle does not define the call. 

The world is in dire need of holy people, everywhere, in every aspect. The need for holiness isn’t confined to one geographical location or one specific field in the workforce. The need for holiness is all around us. 

The call to holiness is also not confined to one type of person. We are all called to holiness, and that will look very different for people in different circumstances. The fact that I don’t feel called to join a cloister does not mean that I am not called to holiness, but rather, it means that I am called to be holy in different ways than those of a nun in a cloister. 

ho·ly
ˈhōlē/

adjective

dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.”the Holy Bible”

Dedicated. Consecrated. Not perfect yet, not without flaw… Dedicated to seeking holiness in our everyday lives, and someday becoming perfect saints in Paradise. Consecrated to holiness, to the Lord, trusting that He will guide us towards the right path, and forgive us in the times that we fail.

Holiness isn’t perfection; it’s humble growth. It’s the practice of faith, the outcome of faith, the evidence of faith. It is what impels faith as well as what faith develops. It is a goal and a motivation toward the goal. It is what we choose and how we surrender. 

Seek it, and surrender to it.