How He Loves

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hang on friends, {the ivy project} is about to get deep.

This one's been on my mind for a while, building up since I moved to Manhattan.  But it's Easter, and I feel like writing, and I hope it's ok.  It's the first of two (maybe three) on the subject, so stay tuned.

(Side note: Grace Church in the Village might be one of my favorite places in the city.  Look how beautiful today...)

I spent my whole life in the Bible Belt.  Grew up in suburban central Oklahoma.  Went to church every time the doors were open.  Dad has an M.Div. from a conservative Southern Baptist seminary.  Mom is The Chief for a Southern Baptist nonprofit.  Uncle is a pastor.  Grandma writes Sunday School books. Chose an unapologetically Christian university (and I will forever love Baylor for that).  Interned at churches.  Majored in religion.  The whole nine yards.  Faith and my family are inseparable.

And now I live in one of the largest cities in the world, a place where Sunday brunch is as religious as attending church and diversity of religious beliefs is the norm, not the exception.  And in that regard, I am the minority.  Nine million people...nothing in this city is unusual.  I love living here.

And I love my students.  I love that I get to have amazing intellectual conversations with fantastic young women and play big sister for a few months or years of their lives.  I am as much counselor as I am teacher, maybe more so.  I'm not so crazy about the day-to-day programs and paperwork and things, but then I help a student through a crisis, offer a hug when mom's not there, and a reminder that every little thing really will be alright.  And in those moments I am certain that I am exactly where God needs me.

Even though I studied world religions in college, my students have taught me more than I could ever imagine about their faith and various ways this plays out in their lives.  I rarely, ok never, hear students talk about Christianity on campus.  Does not happen.  I do, however, have a lot of fascinating conversations with students from various forms of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other faiths.  These young women are amazingly dedicated to following the laws and traditions of their faith, observing holy days, and pausing their lives to obey their religious beliefs.  They speak with rabbis before agreeing to work responsibilities that might interfere with observing the sabbath.  They pray in bathroom stalls or quiet corners when they're unable to attend the five-times-a-day prayers.  They literally put their lives on hold to obey the laws.  I have so much respect and admiration for how wise they are at 19, 20, and 21 years old.  We could all learn a little from their priorities.

But here's the thing, and it's just my thought...

I am so glad that I know a God who loves me in spite all of that, not because of it.  Who loves because of who He is, not because of the things I do or don't manage to accomplish on a daily basis.  Because I'm not worth it, and contrary to popular belief, I do not have it all together.  (I know, you're shocked.)  I don't deserve His unquestioned, forgetful of my screw-ups, unbelievable love.  None of us do.

And here is all I really know...

Too well said not to steal from the young pastor of my tiny childhood church...before I am anything in this world, I am a sinner saved by the amazing grace of God.

So I've been going to church on quiet New York Sunday mornings, slowly trying to build a life with the things that are most important to me.  I try to live my life in a way that pleases God, not because I have to, but because I want to and because He loves me.  And I am full of faith that all of the things I hope for will one day be reality.  Because the God I love and who loves me gave everything so that it would be.

"God is love... There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us."  (1 John 4:16, 18-19)

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