A Year of Extravagant Love

I want to write. I think about writing. I fill up pages in my journal and make notes in Evernote about the longings of my heart, but somehow putting it out here on the blog seems to be too much. In part, it’s because I am still processing. I also think I am afraid to be vulnerable.

So, I’m going to start telling you a little bit about my past year. 2014 was “The Year of Extravagant Love” – I knew from the start of the year that God was going to be doing something more in my heart. He is always working, but last year it was different. At the end of 2013, I prayed hard about the next year. I wanted direction from God, not just from my own ambitious self. In my quiet times, God kept showing me that 2014 was to be about love – about His love and they way it pours through our lives.

My year started out with my saying “no” to expectations of others and “yes” to God as I moved back to China to teach for what I thought would be a year. I struggled with the decision to go back to China because my heart was being drawn toward a man I would later find myself in love with.

I stood at a crossroads at the beginning of 2014.

To go to China where I knew God was calling me?

Or, stay in Iowa where Jonathan, the man I was beginning to fall for, remained?

The “Sunday School answer” was obviously to go to China. How could I not go where God was calling me?

What made things even trickier was that I didn’t think my feelings for Jonathan were just my own. I believe God put those feelings on me, truly giving me the desires of my heart. I had prayed about Jonathan for a few months (and I later found out he had been praying about me), receiving what I felt was confirmation that he was for me.

But, why would God send me halfway around the world if Jonathan and I were supposed to be together?

God, in His abounding love, has ways that we can never fully understand. Looking back I can see some of why He did what He did, but even so, parts of it remain a mystery.

Saying “yes” to God means trusting that He loves us and that He is working for our good (Romans 8:28).

In some ways it would have been easier to stay in Iowa to “see what happened” with the potential relationship, but I knew God wanted me to trust Him.

So, I obeyed.

In that act of obedience, I learned a lot about love – true, pure love that can only come from God. I learned that above all else, God desires our hearts. If I was going to love the way God purposed for my life, I had to give up control and let Him work it all out.

When the time came that Jonathan pursued me and we were able to be together sooner than we had expected (after another cool twist of events), I could only give God the glory because it was His timing and plan.

While the circumstances surrounding our relationship have pointed me back to God and His love, I also learned more about God’s love for humanity in 2014.

My heart keeps shifting to see people the way Jesus does. In the choices I make and in the things I do, I want to be better about letting Christ be shown through me. I’ve been challenged to love greater in all areas of life.

I could tell story after story of how God showed me His love in China, but for now, I’ll leave you with something I found to be pretty neat.

When I left China in July, I said goodbye to a fellowship of believers I truly loved. The simplicity in the way they talked of their faith inspired me. There was a language barrier to overcome, but in the end, at the heart of it, they loved Jesus and wanted to make Him known. I felt the same way.

On my last day in the city, we met for our last small group of the semester while tears streamed down our faces as we bid farewell. A little bit later, one of the group leaders came to my apartment with a gift. He and the group had come together to give me something to take back to America as a remembrance of them.

This friend – let’s call him Wang – opened a box holding a glass trophy, much like something a person would be given as an award. Etched on the glass was a verse in Chinese. I wasn’t familiar with the characters of the reference, so Wang quickly opened his Bible to show me the verse.

God is Love

As he turned to 1 Corinthians 13, my eyes began to water. The love chapter. In this year of “Extravagant Love.” Wow. God is good, I thought to myself as I rested in that sweet moment.

This is significant because when I had prayed about 2014, God specifically laid 1 Corinthians 13 on my heart.

On the trophy was 1 Corinthians 13:13, which reads, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God, through my Chinese friends, reminded me of His faithfulness in a beautiful way.

My life was changed little by little in 2014, but it all started in the heart. It started by submitting and trusting that God is who He says He is and that His love never fails.

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