Responses · Testimonies

“Jesus Loves You More Than a Man Ever Could” – On Guilt & Falling in Love

I was listening to a love song. A person came to mind (or maybe to heart) when I heard it. And I immediately felt guilty.

back at the pianoI grew up in a culture that told teenagers their romantic feelings and desires were something they needed to get rid of. And if they couldn’t shake those feelings and desires no matter how hard they tried, they had to direct them toward Jesus instead.

“Jesus loves you more than a man ever could,” I was told innumerable times. And when I’d have a crush and it just wouldn’t go away, I would reprimand myself for not letting Jesus be enough for me. I loved Him so deeply. But I didn’t have confidence that He was satisfied with me; I believed He was demanding I love Him more and love Him differently. I didn’t believe my genuine love was enough for Him.

When I was told Jesus loved me more than another person could, the application was always: “So you better give Him credit for that.”

Back in October, when I heard that love song, I felt guilty. Because I wanted to sing it about a person, and what’s left of teenage Tessa immediately pointed an accusing finger and told me I couldn’t. I had to sing it to Jesus, or I shouldn’t be singing it.

But then I heard the whisper:

“What if I sang it to you?”

A bit of all of it happened. And He healed something in me that day.

Jesus loves me. More than anyone else ever could. But instead of the response to that truth being guilt, He wants something different.

When He sang that love song to me, He wasn’t shaming me for any lack on my part (and He certainly wasn’t angry at me for having feelings toward a person). He helped me understand by using a song I could relate to: the way I felt for that person? It resembled how He felt about me. And the response He wanted– the response it naturally elicited from me– was not guilt or forced praise.

It was awe.

I had so much in me for that person; it swept me up just to be in possession of it. They didn’t have to do anything to maintain it. It was something living in me, for them. I loved them because of who they were, not because of anything they felt (or, more accurately, didn’t feel) toward me. It was overwhelming in a beautiful way. And finally it was beginning to connect– God goes through that concerning me?

I am a wildly imperfect person, yet I am able to love in measures like these. Why have I believed that God who is Love… would do less?

It would take more time for me to unpack these things. I’m still in the process; He’s still teaching me how to let Him love me. But I wrote in my journal that night, after the song ended:

“Maybe the whole reason we fall in love is so that we can grasp Him better.”


Embraces for Your Spirit

Abiding When It’s Too Deep

I’m hiding in a classroom right now. My campus is on lockdown, but I’m not afraid. I was at first. But today I’ve just been hearing a lot about the Lord and the truth that He is a refuge I am to abide in. I was thinking about that in terms of my refuge from struggles in life, but a literal, physical refuge is true, too. He is my refuge from all that would come to hurt me, and He sees me and knows.

I was told today that when Jesus said to abide in His love, He used a Greek word that is also used to mean “abode.” He wasn’t simply asking me to be in the presence of His love– He was and is asking me to make my home inside His love. My home. Where I live and feel at rest and host others. Home.

DSC07526I’m at my house now, released from the lockdown, and everyone is safe. And I cannot forget that when I was in that dark classroom with a few classmates and professors, I was praying for those in direct danger. I prayed such strange things that didn’t seem to fit what I assumed the situation was– and later, we were notified that I had been wrong about the situation. My prayers had made total, complete sense. The Lord cares about us so much that He prayed with me because I didn’t have details. He sees and knows, friend.

As I prayed, I looked down at my hands. They were palm up, and one was raised a little higher than the other. Thoughts began swirling in my head, and soon they were all pieced together to become a declaration of truth. This truth was for the dangerous situation, yes, but it was also for so much more. It was for a friend who’s been trying to piece their broken heart together for months; for a friend who feels pressured and rushed and confused when all they want to do is live life in love; for a friend who is battling painful, wearying illness within their body; for a friend whose world completely crashed a few days ago, leaving them utterly stunned and broken. It was for me, about to leave a lot behind and walk into the unknown with His word as my only guide. And maybe it was for you. Yes, I think it was. The truth was this:

The deeper the pit, the higher the Lord is lifted.

Friend… I know it’s hard. This trouble feels so deep. Some days you feel like you can look up and only see a speck of light, because you are so far down in the pain and despair. But the Lord wants you to know that it is in this place you will see His glory more brilliantly than you ever have before. The depth of this pain is drilling a well for His wellspring of life to take even greater residence in you. It may look bleak now, but friend– oh, dear friend– be prepared for glory. The Lord is going to be lifted up because of this place you’re in, and He’s taking you with Him. Be prepared for glory.

As you await the coming glory that the Lord is going to bring out of this, abide in His love. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” He says (John 15:7).

“Abide in my love.”