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

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.”

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.”

West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.

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Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the country to really start to see God more fully.

 

It’s not about the travel, though. Sometimes just a change of pace, and scenery, and a lot of long walks and talks with people that know your soul. Sometimes it’s just the space to sit for an hour with a journal in the early hours of the morning in a dark living room, or as the wind whips through messy hair and thick sweaters on front porches.

 

It is in the kitchen that I find myself on a Saturday morning, gripping a mug of good coffee, overthinking. We’ve squeezed seventeen people into a beach house, and so I’m surrounded by the coffee drinkers, those of us lingering around the counter as people have started to spread out – some on couches with fuzzy blankets and guitars, some around tables with card games, some zipping up jackets to walk to the beach.

 

As the conversation begins to wind down, I quietly slip out of the kitchen, grab my Bible and journal, and find a place alone outside, to think and pray and read and cry silent tears, if they’ll come.

Continue reading “West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.”

Unfiltered: because the world needs more vulnerability.

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i.

 

It has been much too long since I have sat myself down to write. In the past months, exhausting and chaotic as they have been, I have lived.

 

I have mourned things that would never come to be. I have both sat on the floor of my room sobbing for hours, as well as driven myself to the beach in the middle of winter to dance with joy, alone on the shore, letting my feet be tickled by the ocean waves.

 

I have spent countless hours with friends, working through relationship issues and talking through breakups. I have attended Bible studies, and I have made too many commitments. I have scrubbed floors and washed thousands of dishes and cooked too many complicated dinners.

 

I have stayed up late to get work done, and gotten up with the sun some mornings. I have slept through too many of my alarms, eaten too much ice cream, spent too many hours on social media, and then realized how empty I really felt.

 

I have gotten on planes and braved hours of traffic to hug precious friends from all over, and have gone to coffee shops by myself and pored over my laptop with an overpriced cappuccino trying to force myself to absorb information. I have passed exams, and I have failed them. I have lived up to my own expectations, and I have failed myself too.

 

I have lived with a free and contented heart, rejoicing in both the goodness of God and the sweetness of my circumstances, and I have laid in bed late at night and realized the depression I thought I had beat and the loneliness that came along with it never truly went away.

 

I have prayed apathetically and worshiped sporadically. I have studied the Bible intensely, and I have pleaded with God wildly.

 

I have read books. I have gone exploring. I have lost people I was holding too tightly onto, and have grieved over the people I have disappointed.

 

And in all of that, through the joys and the sorrows, I have become exhausted – too tired to let myself think, but in not letting myself contemplate, become even more drained with the seemingly meaningless chaos my life has consisted of. Continue reading “Unfiltered: because the world needs more vulnerability.”

Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.

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If you met me today, you’d be meeting a pretty normal girl. I like coffee, and cozy sweaters, and reading, and smiling, and driving, and Chick-fil-A.

 

And I really, really love Jesus.

 

If we had a conversation, we might talk about how I like your hair, where we’re each from, or what our day-to-day lives look like. I might ask you if you like coffee or tea better, what makes you feel alive, what your favorite ridiculous bad jokes are, or how I could be praying for you.

 

Sometimes I think we only let the world see one side of us, and today, I’m here to say that it’s okay to be a lot of things. It’s so important to be you, every ounce of the you that God designed you to be.

Continue reading “Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.”

When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are

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I’ve been writing this post in my head and heart for too long.

 

It’s the byproduct of so many late night wrestlings, so many journal entries and tweets and long-winded conversations with the people closest to me.

 

It’s those texts we send our friends about waiting for the next thing to happen – about anticipating the answers to our big questions, about finally finding that thing after waiting so long, hoping so desperately.

 

It’s the prayer we pray of God, just show me where to go and I’ll go, what to do and I’ll do it, who to be and I’ll be that person.

 

I’ve been there so many times, and honestly, I’m often still in that boat. Most of my daily prayers close with something along the lines of, “Lead me, Lord, to where you want me to be, who You want me to meet, to the future You have planned for me.”

 

And over the years, as I’ve grown as both a young adult and a Christian, I’ve often been so focused on that next thing, that I haven’t embraced the space where God has put me.

 

See, something that I’m ever-realizing is this: God doesn’t need us to be anything extraordinary in order to be used by Him; He uses us right where we are to fulfill His purposes that are so much bigger and more beautiful than just ourselves.

 

That’s not to say He doesn’t lead us ahead – simply that sometimes, the place He has for us is directly in front of us.

Continue reading “When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are”

What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus

What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus

Pursue Jesus and love Him first. That’s been on my mind the past few weeks, as I run the concept over and over in my head, trying to more fully grasp what it means, what it looks like, why it’s important.

 

And finally, after struggling for so long to piece together my view of the world with my view of God, I came to a realization that left me breathless, head spinning, but for the first time in my life finally understanding.

 

Why can’t we can’t afford to put anyone other than Jesus as the first in our minds, as the reason we do everything we do? Because only He satisfies.

 

Only He can satisfy the longing for peace in my heart, only He can fulfill my ache for something more in this life. Only He can give me the joy, the hope, and love that my soul craves so desperately.

Continue reading “What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus”