And on the eighth day, God settled: the sacrifice of unconditional love.

A year ago, I was so sure I’d figured it out. “Love is not a sacrifice,” I adamantly declared to everyone around me. “Love has to be a joy. We sacrifice because we love, like God sacrificed for us. But love itself is not a sacrifice.”

I’ve thought a lot about love this year. I think I grew up with the mindset that when time passed and love got old and was more about serving and giving than feelings, it wasn’t love anymore, it was obligation. Love should be thrilling, electric, the most natural and easy thing in the world. But now, I’m not so sure about that.

Because in a world that screams “never settle,”
that’s exactly what God did.
He looked at us,
A bunch of broken, selfish, messed-up sinners,
and said, “Them.”
“Those are the ones I want.”

He settled for us.

He could have destroyed us all and started over.
He could have changed the human heart to serve and love Him by nature.
He could have done a whole lot of things.
But He didn’t.
He chose to sacrifice instead.

Because that’s what love does. That’s what love is. Love, when it counts, is a sacrifice.

And sacrifice isn’t convenient, or easy, or the most logical choice. That doesn’t mean it’s crazy or irrational in the way that we think of irrational love – leaving everything behind for someone you’ve just met, moving across the world on a whim. That sort of love is driven by a feeling, and I know that were I to love like that, I’d move across the world and promptly turn around when it ceased to be as glamorous as I once thought.

But God doesn’t love like that, acting on an emotion He was overcome with because it seemed like a nice idea. He had all of eternity past to consider what He’d do when we would inevitably turn away from Him, and He chose to act in a way that would make no sense to us – He gave everything for the people He loves.

Love is a lavish gift, a calculated choice to freely give something completely undeserved.

God doesn’t love us because we’re good – He loves us because He’s good.

And I want to love like that, too.

*

There’s a parking lot not too far from where I live, surrounding a few restaurants and stores that I end up at probably once a week. There’s nothing special about this parking lot, nothing romantic or lovely about it – in fact, it’s quite loud, far from private, and humming with activity most days of the week. But somehow, it’s a place that’s held so many deep and long conversations with many of my favorite people.

It is in this parking lot late at night during one of these conversations that I find myself relaying a truth told so many times to me: “God knew what He was taking on when He took on you.”

In times of failure, of disappointing the people I love, of dealing with the guilt and shame that accompany life as a human being painfully self-aware of my shortcomings, this has brought me comfort. God knew what He was getting into when He chose to love us, and He didn’t run.

He knew. Our God knew all the baggage we’d bring to the table. And He wanted us anyway. Our God settled, and He delighted in doing it.

*

This year, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to actively love when the subjects of our affection are flawed and our capacity for desire and craving for perfection are limitless.

As someone who used to be among the enthusiastic, idealistic hordes of people shouting, “NEVER SETTLE,” I think I’m starting to change my tune. I think that in a broken world as this one, we’re always going to be settling for something, and so we’re brought to a decision: is this worth it to love anyway?

I’m not saying we should ask and answer that question lightly. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use wisdom and discernment in the choices we make, because of course we should.

But if we decide that love is worth it, then settle and settle well. Settle well and love hard, because people will never be perfect but we can choose to love them fiercely and freely like God does. Because perhaps we’ve made love out to be something given in exchange for perfection, a transaction of a sort, and we’ve forgotten that God has never ever loved us like that.

Love is a sacrifice. It’s a joy, it’s a privilege, it’s a delight, it’s a gift – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or deserved.

God settled. He sacrificed. He gave a preposterously wayward world exorbitant amounts of grace.  And if God says people are worth loving like that, then maybe we should love that way too.

*aj

If you’re struggling to hold onto hope, this one’s for you.

The leaves are still clinging to the trees when the first taste of winter teases the autumn sky and a flurry of snowflakes falls to form a soft blanket over the earth.

With my face to the sky drinking everything in, I stand gasping for air as the biting cold burns my lungs and the chill permeates my too-thin sweater for the first time this season. The world is crisp and quiet, the atmosphere soft and lovely, and the snow carries with it a much-needed newness to the places where older things are no longer. It is here where everything begins to change.

This tangible reminder of winter’s arrival is accompanied by a single thought: I haven’t seen snow since the world was normal. And while normalcy still seems far-off, the flakes that land in the folds of my jacket and the rips in my jeans remind me that nothing can stay the same forever.

In this perfect moment, everything is still, and it feels as though time itself has stopped to watch. And like a switch flipping without warning, the snow that once evoked feelings of dread for the impending winter beckons me to hope instead.

For the first time in my life, I am comforted by change.

Continue reading “If you’re struggling to hold onto hope, this one’s for you.”

A God of Good Gifts: read this when you’re missing the way things used to be.

Early on a Saturday morning, I cradle a mug of coffee in my hands and sit in silence as the world begins to wake up.

The earth is turning cold and the pale blue sky hints at autumn’s arrival, and here I sit — watching the leaves blow outside my window and feeling things churn inside of me.

There is something about October that brings me to mourn, and there is something about this mourning that brings me to my knees. Whether by the change of the seasons or because the world seems to still be spinning slowly, I feel the pangs of loss, and I quietly grieve, telling God all of the things that I miss.

Continue reading “A God of Good Gifts: read this when you’re missing the way things used to be.”

The Gospel of lifeboats.

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“Do you think you see Jesus as a lifeboat, or a luxury?” My friend and I are driving, slowly picking apart the way we’ve seen Jesus preached in our communities, churches, and young adults groups. “Because sometimes, I think we miss telling people why Jesus is so incredible in the first place.”

 

It’s a sleepy Sunday afternoon, and she and I are falling into our rhythm of long drives and strong coffees and deep talks, tumbling into deep and hard and holy conversations interspersed with laughter and good stories – my favorite. We’ve both noticed this pattern – Jesus being preached as if He’s a jetpack to make life better, if we want Him.

  Continue reading “The Gospel of lifeboats.”

It’s time to stop pre-grieving.

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“Do you ever pre-grieve your life?”

 

This is a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately, curious as to how much this particular condition affects others beyond myself. I define pre-grieving as the act of mourning in advance outcomes that are not guaranteed. Or, in other words, giving a voice to anxiety where it has no place; being sad in advance over a future that may or may not ever come.

 

More often than not, in response to this question, I hear, “Oh yes. I pre-grieve all the time. I thought I was the only one.”

Continue reading “It’s time to stop pre-grieving.”

Hallelujah in the dark.

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It’s Monday morning, and I miss my old life.

As I tumble out of bed, I glance at my phone and frown at the time. It’s later than I wanted, but I’m up now. I look at myself in the mirror as I put my hair in a scrunchie on top of my head – the bags under my eyes are beginning to resemble suitcases. I sigh.

 

My first coherent thought is to brew a cup of coffee, and so I do – the first good cup of coffee I’ve had in three weeks. This morning routine provides me with a small shred of steady familiarity; every sip is reassurance.

 

From where I sit, I have the perspective of a gnat. I am selfish and spoiled by nature, and I know this. I miss my friends. I miss my life. I miss normal. I miss lunch dates and late-night ice cream runs and Bible studies with my community. I miss road trips. I miss coffee shops. I know people are dying and yet I am a helpless bystander grasping at anything to numb the feeling of powerlessness.

Continue reading “Hallelujah in the dark.”

To love is to be vulnerable: how one simple concept is changing my life.

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C. S. Lewis wrote that to love is to be vulnerable.

 

The full quote is a beautiful one. It’s one I’ve held onto for a while, one that reminds me I have to give up safe in order to receive something so much better. But that doesn’t mean vulnerability is easy, by any means. And slowly, I am peeling back the layers of my life to reveal the fear and the imperfection, and I am learning to find joy.

Continue reading “To love is to be vulnerable: how one simple concept is changing my life.”

seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.

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“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”

 

It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.

 

“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”

 

I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.

 

“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”

Continue reading “seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.”