My friends say I have a song for everything. I’m starting to think it’s true!
Love, so many people use your name in vain.
Love, those who have faith in you sometimes go astray.
Love, through all the ups and downs, the joys and hurts.
Love, for better or worse I still will choose you first.
(Love by Musiq Soulchild)
Wow what a great song.
All of my life before You,
You see when I rise and when I fall.
You’re faithful beyond my weakness.
Your love will never change. You won’t let go… You won’t let go of my hand.
So I will believe You’re for me.
Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me.
In life and in death, You have overcome.
Your love will never fail. You won’t let go… You won’t let go of my hand.
Even in the battle,
You are with me, and I will not be broken in the fight.
You will go before me and behind me. You’ll never let me go.
(You Won’t Let Go by Cory Ashbury)
Another good song.
This post is inspired by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke’s book, “Spoken For”. The titles of these posts are directly taken from the book (with a little modification on my part) each a reflection of how I’m personally growing closer to Jesus.
CHAPTER 3: YOU ARE LOVED
Two months ago, I wanted to bring friends to my house for a small get together. I don’t know what it was, but I just really missed them. Like really missed them.
The fall semester flew on by, and before I knew it I was home for the holidays. We had a get together of just over thirty people at a friend’s house, but it wasn’t as intimate as I had envisioned. Still, better than nothing!
That evening, I was called to lead out our devotional talk. The Lord led me to talk about seasons. So, we took time to reflect on what God had done in our lives throughout 2017 and make room for what was to come in 2018.
Here’s an excerpt:
[The seasons of the year created by the powerful hands of our Heavenly Father speak of the need to slow down, stop, and reflect. Times of reflection create space for God’s Spirit to speak, helping us remember what He has done, making us aware of what He is doing, and stirring our hearts for what He wants to do next. God loves to use a change in season to remind us to center our lives around his pervasive works. Whether it be a change in jobs, weather, moving, or the approaching of a new year, it’s crucial that we make space for God to speak to us and prepare us for the wonderful things He has planned.]
– Seasons with God, December 26, First 15
In December we spent time reflecting on our seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall – both literally and metaphorically. It was then that I noticed a common longing for love in each testimony shared. Interestingly, the theme for the annual ACF Frenda Retreat was, “Jesus of all Seasons”. Life just got real.
The two songs I shared in the intro of this post, are what I thought could help paint a picture of “love”. It’s February, and we all know what “theme” tends to weave throughout this month – LOVE. We see red and pink hearts, cheesy cards, and get tempted by chocolate and other luring sweets.
To be honest, Valentines Day was just another day to me. In the past I’d felt lonely, but somehow this year, it was just another Wednesday. Why should I show more love on this day than any other?
The first song, Love by Musiq Soulchild, was a song I used to jam to in high school. Come on guys, you know what it was like. Catching the feels with those slow jams – KC & Jojo, Boys II Men, Usher, Brandy (oh man, I think I may have just dated my self haha). Those were the days! Those were the feels that made me happy. Those were the songs that filled my soul.
While the second song, You Won’t Let Go by Cory Ashbury, is a song that calms my heart when I’m feeling anxious and unsure about where I’m at. This song makes me cry, makes me smile, makes me sigh deeply. I guess you could say I also caught the feels with this one, but it was long lasting.
Love is such a hard word to define. For a universal language, there are hundreds of definitions people use to attempt to describe what love really is. This post was actually hard to write because I, too, have a difficult time describing love.
This past weekend, my friend was impressed to facilitate a prayer room for the retreat. On Friday night, she slept over and we were to leave the following morning to make it in time for the program. As we prepared for bed, she mentions, “Ashley, I’m doing prayer room this weekend… can you help me?” Me?! Ha, you’re kidding right? What does doing the prayer room even mean? Wait, prayer room. Ashley – it means to pray… duh! I responded, “Uh… yeah, sure.” Now I don’t even know if I want to go on this retreat anymore...
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The only time I recall a prayer room was last summer when someone prayed for me. Wait, is that how simple it would be? Maybe this won’t be as bad after all… All I remember feeling after being prayed for, was a sense of peace and confidence in taking on the next step God had for me for that particular season.
Here we go.
As soon as we got there, my friend and I went straight to the director’s office – to be transformed into a prayer room and place of refuge for the weekend. My friend seemed super excited to get this room ready, while I was still trembling and God, are you sure you want me to do this? You could have chosen anyone else… why me? I’m praying for so many things right now, I don’t have the capacity to pray for others (Sigh).
Here’s to being a prayer warrior…
We prayed, set up, and just before we could even leave the room, a couple of our close friends came in. My co-prayer warrior invited them in and offered to pray with them. Wait, we’re starting, RIGHT NOW?! I’m not ready! She asked how they were doing and how we could pray for them. They appeared to be uneasy and unsure – questioning what they were even doing at the retreat in the first place. (For context, this retreat was meant for university and college students in public campus ministries. Our friends were alumni, so I guess you could say they felt a little out of place). We shared each other’s prayer requests prayed for one another.
After praying and being prayed for, I found myself tearing up. They left the room and my co-prayer warrior and I stared at each other, smiled, and sighed. Well, this is it! Here we go.
As the weekend progressed, I started feeling weaker and weaker. How are we still praying for our ACF family? I’m so tired. I feel like I literally fought on the front lines of a battle. I definitely underestimated the power of prayer prior to this weekend.
One student after the next, coming in and out of the prayer room; some prayers weren’t even lifted up in there. We prayed for individuals in the cafeteria, the lodge, the fireside room, hallway, laundry room, parking lot – who said prayer was limited to one space? Prayers were lifted in abundance this weekend!
It was on the Sunday night that I broke down. I was so weak, I needed God’s strength to keep me fighting and praying for my fellow brothers and sisters. I went up to my room, sat on the bed and took deep breaths. God, I’ve spent the entire weekend praying for people, it’s time to pray for me (Deep breath).
I don’t have to be the strongest, ’cause You are perfect in my weakness.
Lord if You can move a mountain with faith like a grain of mustard seed, I wonder what You could do with me… (What You Could Do With Me by Josh Wright)
Tears. Where are these coming from? Why am I at peace and crying? This has never happened before…
This is what love is. This is what love is all about – giving your everything for the sake of others. This is what God’s unconditional and selfless love is bound upon.
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us… God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:5, 8
Tears. They kept streaming down my face and I was weeping like a little child. Why am I so calm? (Deep breaths). That was when everything started coming full circle; I had to be a prayer warrior this weekend to actually grasp what love truly was, and that my former understanding of it was so superficial and empty.
One exhortation shared in our prayers throughout the weekend was: We truly cannot love God as much as He loves us; His love is so great that we cannot measure how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is. Love is more than candy hearts and fancy cards. Love is more than my favourite latte or class. Love is a verb. Wow, a lesson I tried learning years ago was now coming full circle.
I cried. I cried until my eyes couldn’t take it anymore and prayed out loud:
God, I get it now. I get why You’ve asked me to pray for my brothers and sisters – You wanted me to see how much You truly love me. That You wouldn’t leave me nor forsake me. That You love me anyway, despite my sin and doubt in the purpose You have called me for. You love me regardless of my failure to appreciate Your love for me. You show me love through the coming and going of Your children who want to be prayed for. You are love, and I am loved. I get it now. Thank You for being patient with me, God.
Lives were changed, hearts were filled, burdens were lifted.
It took more than my strength to simply be still, to seek but never find.
All the reasons we change, the reasons I doubt…
But you love me anyway – it’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known.
Yes you love me anyway, oh Lord, how You love me.
I am the thorn in Your crown, but You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from your brow, but You love me anyway.
I am the nail on Your wrist, but You love me anyway…
(You Love me Anyway by Sidewalk Prophets)
So there I was – an empty and broken vessel set out to pray; a task so common, yet so extraordinary. Wondering why and how God would ever choose me – I was a mess, I was broken, I was weak. I dried my eyes and suited up for the next battle. I’m gonna be okay. God loves me and is my strength in my weakness (1 Corinthians 12:9). I was left wth the smallest grain of faith (Matthew 17:20) that what God was doing through my co-prayer warrior and I was exactly what He intended.
Over the course of 4 days and 3 nights, the students received an abundance of love. Love in the sense of prayer and God’s Word. We dove into stories of individuals who were set out to do extraordinary things for common people: Joshua and the walls of Jericho, Rahab and the spies, and Zaccheus and the sycamore tree. Each of these individuals have had an encounter with God – one that was unique in it’s nature, one that only God could have orchestrated.
Similarly, I have confidence every student and adult present had had a meaningful encounter with God this weekend. Why? Because of love.
We all want love. We all have love. We are all capable of sharing love.
So the next time you hear that word, “love”, take a step back and actually define what love truly means to you. For me, love is a choice that takes action.
QUESTIONS TO REFLECT ON:
- Do you see yourself as the object of God’s affection? Why or why not?
- Even if another human has loved you deeply, in what ways do you see God’s love for you as deeper still?
- How can you separate your understanding of God’s love from your understanding of and/or hurt over a human’s love for you?
- In what ways would your life be different if you lived each day in the confidence and security of God’s love?
“He met me in my pain. He held me. He cared for me. He was intimate. I learned that sometimes our Good Shepherd leads us through valleys to build up our muscles to climb the mountains. And He doesn’t let us do it alone but walks with us the whole way, sometimes carrying us until we can walk again.” – Alyssa Bethke