Embraces for Your Spirit · The Basics

On Submission, Choice, & Love That Stays

DSC09435God will not love me more if I obey Him. He will not love me less if I don’t. He loves me, every piece of me, completely, unwaveringly. I cannot change that.

In middle school, I told a friend that God couldn’t go with them where they were going. That was a blatant lie, and telling it is one of my biggest regrets, even after they’ve forgiven me. I believed what I said; I believed it about them and about myself. But it was a lie. He would leave ninety nine to find one that was lost.

I have been afraid of where He wants to take me. Sometimes because I’m nervous, but sometimes because no part of me wants to go there. It might make me a little angry, but more than anything it makes me confused and hesitant; it has made me scared to go to Him fully open. But then He told me:

“If you decide not to follow me where I want to take you, I will follow you where you want to go. It’s you and me. I’m not going to leave you.”

If God responded to our disobedience, to our no’s, by leaving us? It would not be love anymore. Love gives, and love allows choice. “Obey me and I’ll stay, refuse and I’ll leave” is not love– it is manipulation.

Love without choice is manipulation.

It isn’t love at all.

God does not give or remove His love or His presence in our lives based on our submission to Him.

Here’s the thing about submission: if it is forced, it isn’t submission– it’s control. In order for me to submit myself to Him, there has to be the option not to. Submission is a choice, and by giving us that choice, God also submits Himself to us. He wouldn’t ask us to love Him in ways He Himself does not love. Love is sacrifice, is generosity. And He embodies that. He is love.

He never forces me to do anything. He knows what is best for me and He has shown Himself trustworthy, so submission is something I get to do out of deep love for Him and out of that trust– not out of fear or duty. But I could always choose not to submit, because love does not force anyone to do anything; love is given, it doesn’t take. And because I see His love in the fact that He lets me choose, it is easier for me to choose to submit. I want to. He loved me first; I love Him in return. We both give, we both receive. No one has to take.

He has always said that He doesn’t want our sacrifice if He doesn’t have our hearts. Because sacrifice without love is theft; it is one-sided, duty-driven, an attempt at control. Love is given; it cannot be demanded. He doesn’t want what we have to give: He wants us. He wants to be genuinely loved by us, willingly, affectionately.

Because that’s the way He loves us.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   -Psalm 23:6

Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies · The Basics

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

flower walk, pink and treesGod knows how to love you.

He knows what’s going to reach you. He knows how to show you love in a way that will connect with you and make its truest mark on you.

He doesn’t love like people do.

People have loved you, but not perfectly. Sometimes, their love has manifested as dominance and even control. And it scares you, makes you build your invisible boundaries so that people can see you but can’t know you. You are open and honest and don’t hide your true self from anyone… but never do you give yourself to anyone. You let them see, but don’t let them touch. Because if they can touch, they can hurt. You don’t want that to happen to you anymore. So you hold up your invisible boundaries, so that you are visible but not truly vulnerable.

You know love is giving. That love is always a risk. But the cost… you’re not sure you’re truly willing to pay it.

She tells you that to love is to be willing to be broken for their sake. And that in order to be loved, you must make yourself vulnerable to receive what they give… which makes you vulnerable to the risk of being hurt. You know she’s right. You want to listen to her.

But you realize that in your efforts to keep people from controlling you, you have begun to act controlling toward them. You’ve learned to maneuver conversations and interactions so that you can keep anyone at a subtle distance, to protect against the chance of them hurting you. And when He shows you that you’ve even extended that to how you relate with Him… it terrifies you. Because who is He, truly, if He isn’t the image you’ve crafted of Him for yourself? If you can’t ignore pieces of Him and pretend He’s someone He might not be?

You pray a prayer you can feel the danger pulsating throughout: “Reveal your true self to me. Help me to accept the way you want to love me, even if it’s not a way I’d ask for.”

He starts answering. But not in ways you expected. And you even expected the unexpected.

He shows you a young man. One who is sweet and humble, but not without being strong and bold. The young man leaves soon, but not without searing that image in your mind. Part of you slowly begins to believe those things can coexist, gentleness and strength. Part of you begins to see that strength makes you feel small, but doesn’t have to in the ways it has before. Instead of intimidating and scaring you, this strength can make you feel safe. You don’t have to feel powerless. You can feel wrapped in it, and it can warm the winter in you. Among the wild mess inside you, there’s a moment of clarity, and you realize that is what’s happening.

You realize it is Him doing it.

You see that His love is meeting you in ways that will get through to you. He’s been going at your pace. Instead of demanding you change so that you can be loved, He has been entering what’s there, even your vices, and loving you. Not simply in it, but with it. Anything, He says, to be with you.

Anything to love you.

He knew what would reach you. You hid, but He still saw you and knew you. He became the shape that would fit the hole you’d found yourself in.

He knew the deep desires you barely knew existed in your heart, and He entered them, met them in ways you wouldn’t have thought. You didn’t think to want these things, because you didn’t believe you were the kind of person who would ever have them. But He brought love home to you, in a bouquet of flowers bigger and more elegant than anything you’d ask for. It blew you into wide-open wonder and gratitude. But you weren’t looking at the flowers when you thanked Him– you just looked at Him. You met His eyes with your teary ones, and you just looked at Him. Because He was the gift. He didn’t only give you flowers; He had given you His heart. Himself.

Love is giving. The giving of yourself for their sake. And He knows that more than anyone. He always has.

He’s been doing it right under your nose this whole time.

You thought you had to do the hard work of breaking down all the lies that live in your core before you could let yourself be loved. You tried to take steps to do so, and it was beautiful and brave of you. But He chuckles, and He murmurs into your ear that only one thing has ever been necessary.

All you had to do was lean into Him, and let Him love you.

So that’s what you do. You close your eyes, lean against His chest, feel Him wrap you close.

And you let Him love you.

“Simple trust is your participation.”   –Eve by Wm. Paul Young

Soul Food

Soul Food {September 2015}

September was full of good things, in my life and in my art/media intake. I’m excited to share some of these gems with you!

Musicjonmcl

  • Daniela Andrade’s cover/mash-up of “Yellow Taxi/Back Home” by Joni Mitchell and Caribou. She just makes everything sound so lovely.
  • Tyler Ward’s cover of “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber. My slightly-guilty pleasure song, made beautiful.
  • Two Worlds, particularly their cover of “Not a Bad Thing.” I was slightly obsessed with them this month… and maybe had a liiiiittle crush on Nick Voelker.
  • Authentic Fiction. The artist-name of Jordan Watts, whom we lost two years ago. His music is such a gift to this world. I listen to it when I need to hear what he left for us to know. His BandPage plays in the background of my life often. Always missing you, Jordan. Thank you.
  • “Mockingbird” by Chase Coy. I woke up with it in my head on the first day of September, and it was so, so fitting. Changing seasons, trusting in the passing of time.
  • “Know That’s Right” by Andy Mineo. His new album just came out and I’M FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT, GUYS. My jaw dropped a few seconds into this song.
  • Pen Pals’ “Gold” ep. Oh… my soul felt a comforting embrace the first time I listened to this. Breathtaking. The more I listen, the more the lyrical depth touches me. Sample it and get it for yourself! My favorite from it might be “Away,” but the title track is incredible, too.
  • The Sleeping Beauty soundtrack. Because Tchaikovsky was a genius, and I’m a sucker for haunting choruses and nostalgia.
  • “The Dream Alive” by Vocal Few. I love everything they do. They inspire and encourage me, make me feel heard and like I have kindred.
  • Everything by Jon McLaughlin. I’ve admired him for years, and recently rediscovered some of my favorites of his. I also discovered more of his work for the first time. He is a gifted pianist and a thoughtful songwriter, and I’m thankful his music is part of my journey. “You Never Know” “I’ll Follow You” “If Only I” and “These Crazy Times” are my favorites from his “Promising Promises” album; and the entirety of his “Holding My Breath” album is incredible, but I’m obsessed with “Throw It on The Fire,” as well as “Hallelujah” “Oh Jesus” and “At Night.”

Movies/TV/YouTubetreasure planet

  • This vine by Thomas Sanders. Relatable. And this vine, also by Thomas Sanders, also relatable.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This film is a work of art. The animation, the music, the creativity… sigh. I love the experience of watching it.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2. Heart-wrenching and exciting all at once. This portrayal of Peter Parker makes him one of my favorite people, period. I admire him and am endeared by him. [A bit of slightly gross action.]
  • “Lead Us Through the Fight” by Alex Currie. A short documentary made by a young man who toured with Tenth Avenue North. Seeing a glimpse of tour life, and the thoughts and feelings that come with it, was enlightening.
  • “Why Not Choose Kindness” by Tessa Violet. I heard a friend say once, “When you say ‘I’m just being honest,’ are you being honest by sharing the truth, or are you only being honest by sharing how you feel about the situation?” Both can be important. The latter is almost never necessary. This video reminded me of that and touched me greatly.
  • The Cimorelli sisters having a blast with a Taylor Swift cover. Their cover is actually very pretty, but the reason I put this here? Their dancing and their behind-the-scenes bloopers had me crying I was laughing so much! Sister interactions are so fun for me to see.
  • “The Crossroads of Should and Must” with Elle Luna on Soul Pancake. This spoke to me so deeply. I’ve met that crossroads a few times, and I’m learning. I’m making my way through the levels she spoke of. And hearing this was a boost to keep doing it.
  • “Saturday Morning Car-Tunez, Season 3” by Andy Mineo. Seeing the process of creating an album and growing as a person at the same time was fascinating for me.
  • Cinderella. The live action version Disney released this year is beautiful, visually and thematically. I loved it and was deeply touched (as you can read about here!).
  • Treasure Planet. It’s always been one of my favorite movies. Jim’s growth is beautiful to watch happen, but I love him from the beginning. Plus John Rzeznik wrote two songs for it and they are perfect.
  • “Why Giving is Better than Porn,” a TEDx Talk by Dave Erasmus. I was thinking a lot about giving and how much it matters in love, how big a piece it is of love. I then found this whilst exploring Dave’s poetry. So many good points in it. Lust takes; love gives.

Books/Articles/Blogsreading 1000 gifts on beach