Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Loved One

I seem to always "discover" something new each time I read the Bible. A verse sticks out that never did before, a phrase means something new because of a new life experience or struggle. And some things always stick out, always make an impact, or always leave me with the same bit of leftover confusion or lingering questions.

I've read the Gospel of John numerous times, and with each reading, one phrase sticks out to me and leaves me with a slightly unsettled question.

"...the disciple whom Jesus loved..."

The verse is repeated multiple times in the Gospel of John, and I've never quite understood it. As far as I'm aware from scripture, Jesus doesn't love some people more than others. Yet it seems like John, by commenting that he specifically was loved by Jesus, is saying he was most loved. The only other alternative I could come up with, which I have been more inclined to prescribe to, was that John was just a little prideful. Why else would he feel the need to comment that he was the disciple loved by Jesus?  Like he was the favorite, when I'm pretty sure Jesus doesn't play favorites.

But then my perspective was changed. The emphasis isn't on "the" in "the disciple Jesus loved," and it most certainly doesn't say "the disciple Jesus loved most." No, the emphasis is on "loved."

It's not about John. It's about Jesus, and Jesus' love.

John was the disciple "who never got over the fact that Jesus loved him."

John wasn't trying to say he was Jesus' favorite, he was simply in awe of the fact that he was loved at all.

John never got over the fact that Jesus loved him.

He didn't take Jesus' love for him for granted. Rather, he was so in awe of Jesus' love for him, he couldn't stop talking about it. Instead of a prideful, "I'm loved by Jesus," it was a humble awe that "Jesus loves me." The focus isn't on John, it's on Jesus.

Man, I want to live that way.

I remember a point in college, which lasted for probably about a year, when I was so in awe of Jesus' love for me. I was so astounded by the fact that He did love me. That the God of the universe, all-powerful and incredible, knew me personally, loved me intimately, and had such compassion and mercy on me that He died for my sins. It legitimately brought me to tears when I thought about it.

And if I'm really honest, it doesn't bring me to tears like it used to. I long for those days, when the mere thought that Jesus loved me brought me to my knees and caused me to praise Him.

It's like I've become so busy (isn't that the catchphrase of our culture), that I've forgotten why I'm even where I am, why I'm doing what I'm doing, why I am who I am. Because of love. Because of beautiful, perfect, sacrificial, undeserved, substitutionary love that gives me life and hope and freedom and breath.

I want to live like John. So humbled by the fact that I'm loved that I never get over it, never stop talking about it. I want to live in utter awe of His love for me.

He loves me! Jesus loves me! That's amazing. Beautiful. That should change my life, change my every moment. I was lost, and now I am found, freed, and deeply loved. How can I do anything but praise Him through eyes filled with tears at the indescribable beauty of being completely known and unconditionally loved.

It's a love that changes lives. It's a love that leaves you with no option but to sing and to serve.

It's a love you can't get over.

I too am the one Jesus loves, as are we all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Living as a Child

I stood at the kitchen sink, washing the remains of dinner from a pile of dishes as my fingers slowly wrinkled, my mind racing with a thousand thoughts and worries, to-dos and trying to figure it all out. And I had a sudden realization. 

I'm a Martha

Not the Stewart kind. But the worrier who was too busy "doing" to sit at Jesus' feet and be present in a moment with Him. 

Story of my life, even though I'd rather not identify as a Martha. I want to be Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning and growing, worshiping and enjoying the relationship I have with Him. 

But just like I've identified with Peter in the Bible and found hope and redemption in that, I can find it in my similarity to Martha as well. Because while I may be like her now, I don't have to be like her forever. There's grace for that. There's hope for a changed heart and a changed life. 

As many of you may know, I have joined staff with Cru and am currently raising support to be a full-time missionary working with college students in Denver (read more here). It's an incredible experience in learning to trust God and rely on Him wholly, and so I am deeply grateful. At the same time, it is hard, stressful, and not my favorite learning experience.

Through this process I have learned what I've always known but never fully realized. 

I work hard, I'm diligent. I'm disciplined. But honestly, I also work too hard, am too disciplined. I don't rest well, I feel guilty taking breaks to do things just "for me." Things that don't seem "productive." 

And what I am realizing as my stress level increases and my prayers become more urgent, is that I am afraid. 

Because I truly do trust God. I have complete faith He can provide the ministry partners I need to raise the money I need to be fully funded and do the work He has called me to. I also have complete confidence that He will provide those funds. I am utterly convinced of my calling to ministry with Cru in Denver. God has made it clear again and again, moved my heart countless times, kept me safe and provided for my needs. 

But my actions don't match what my heart knows is true. 

I work like I don't believe He can and will provide. 

Almost like God is my backup plan. Like the plan is to work in my own strength and hope that will be enough, and if it isn't then God can provide. God shouldn't be my Plan B, there shouldn't even be a Plan B! 

The only plan I can have is God. 

But I work like God won't provide, while saying that I trust He will. So do I really trust Him? 

My realization a few days ago was this: I trust God can provide, but I'm so afraid He will choose not to that I think it's safer not to ask. 

I was talking about this with my Denver team leader (Shawn Cramer, aka best-boss-ever-other-than-Jesus). And he described it like this (I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember his exact words).

It's like I'm a a child living like an orphan rather than a son. As an orphan I have to rely on myself, I don't know where my next meal will come from. My time is spent worrying about where I will sleep and how I will eat because I am on my own, instead of living like a son who can play carefree, not worrying about their physical needs being met because they trust their parents to watch over them and provide. 

I think this may even be some of what Jesus talks about when He tells us to have faith like a child. Children are so trusting (barring tragedy that removes their innocence at a young age and teaches them not to trust. The tragedy of our broken world). Living as a child of God means I can "cast my worries on Him, because He cares." 

Childlike faith. Wonder in the cross. Awe of His sacrifice. Life changed by love. 
One of my favorite photos - my dad and  brother when he was little,
who also happens to be adopted from the Ukraine.
What a beautiful representation of God's grace manifested in human relationships.
No longer an orphan, but a son.

When that is my focus, I'm not worrying where my next meal will come from, because I can trust it will be provided for me. It's not even something I think about, because I'm so confident God will provide, in His perfect timing, that all I need to do is rest in His love and live a life changed by the Gospel. 

And so I will recognize that my broken tendencies lead me to work instead of worship. But by God's grace I will learn, as I'm sure Martha did, to let go and obey God in whatever He asks of me. Whether that be meeting with people to tell them about my ministry or taking a day off to serve my family or spend a day praying and reading my Bible, and trust that God can, and will, still provide. 

Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. 

I am learning to wait.

I am a child. No longer an orphan, but a daughter of the Greatest Father.