We are created to be relational beings. The trinity itself exists in a constant state of an equal loving relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Created in this image, we are not only called to build a relationship with God, but to build relationships with each other as well. It is my hope that sharing this part of my life will allow us to connect more relationally. And I just want to encourage you guys to share pieces of your faith with those around you. Even when you stumble, God can use your story to speak volumes for someone else. So let’s get real friends. Gone are the boundaries, gone are the walls. I hope that the Lord speaks to your heart through the work that has been done within my own.
I finished my freshman year of college with an arsenal of hard memories, but feeling closer to the Lord than I ever had before. I faced so many hardships that year, but throughout each of them I could feel the Lord’s hand on my life. The first few weeks of school were extremely lonely. My roommate and I would see groups of people, who had easily made new friends, or had come into school with friends from home. Missing home and everyone that loved us for who we were, we both felt the heavy weight of loneliness. But God is good. In a crazy turn of events (much of which involved morse code, flashlights, and the residence hall across the lawn) that loneliness began to fade.
A month later, I returned home for my first vacation, expecting everything to be familiar, only to find that it all had changed. Life had gone on without me as my family prepared to move from my childhood home. What’s worse, my home church was torn with hardship after hardship. Desperately clinging to all things familiar, I wanted life at home to hit the ‘pause button’ until I returned. Finding that instead it had gone into ‘fast forward’ mode was more than disorienting. Over coffee with a professor, I was reminded of the grounded nature of God. Life is continually changing no matter how much I hope for my own consistency and familiarity. Yet, one thing remains constant amidst it all: the love that God holds for all of us. The truth that He knows our first and last breath, our next move, our next thought reminded me that all of it was in His hands.
I returned home excited to see what God had in store for me that summer, waiting with an expectant heart that was ready to receive His guidance. That was my hope. But my reality was very different.
Week after week I poured all of myself into my work, which left me emotionally and spiritually exhausted. After the first month and a half, I began to feel as if I had no love left to share when I returned home. My patience had run string thin, and I hated the tired and exhausted person that I was becoming. Throughout it all my Bible remained closed.
That was the first mistake. Another month and my prayer life felt equally as dry. After feeling God’s presence so strongly while at school it seemed as thought He had fallen silent for this season of my life. Church at home felt mechanical and I desperately longed for the presence of God that I had felt so strongly during the months spent in school.
I entered my second year at school with the feeling that I could never measure up. I had spent a summer feeling disconnected from God, and still felt distanced even at school. All I could cling to was the memory of what I knew was true: the work that Christ had done in my life, the growth that had occurred, and the love that He had for me. I knew who I was, but I was still afraid. I was weak. I felt like I was not enough. “This period of stagnation doesn’t happen to real Christians,” I told myself, “I am a failure. How can I be a daughter of Christ?”
On the first night of a university chapel conference, which I entered into with low expectations, waves of truth that spoke to exactly where I was washed over me. The speaker focused on something that in church seems so basic, but is so foundational to our very existence: love. The love that God has for us is too abundant to fathom. Those of us who’ve grown up in church, well we’ve all heard that before! But it was the nature of this love that shook my my stagnant ground. The Lord loves us like a Father. Again, a concept that’s simple enough right? But the speaker challenged us to really think about the impact of that statement, to stop and consider what that truly means for our lives. The analogy that was provided was one of a father and his one year old son.
While learning to walk next to his father, the baby falls. The father does not yell at the child “you’re a disappointment. I cannot believe that you represent me in this way. You must not truly be my child. How dare you fall down!” No. instead he gently picks up his son and encourages him to continue. “Go on,” he says, “I’ve got you. I’m here. When you fall down, remember to look back at me. I’m right behind you and I will pick you up.” Our Father in heaven loves us in the same way. This summer I convinced myself that I was a failure. I wasn’t as good of a Christian as I should have been. Why would God ever want to claim me as His child? And so, I distanced myself. I covered my ears from hearing His voice by avoiding the scripture, distancing my prayer life, and entering church without an expectant hope of feeling His presence.
At this conference, however, I worshiped alongside men and women who were brought to tears at the the name of Jesus. Bit by bit the wall that I had put up was torn down and I felt the same tears running down my own skin. Each night of the conference reminded me of God’s love. God was there the whole summer. He was there waiting for me to look back and let Him pick me up. Instead of realizing His love, I let the devil convince me that the Lord did not truly love me–that I was a failure. But after the conference I realized that I had been drowning– inflicting my own suffocating without even realizing it. For the first time I was able to take a breath of air, and the relief and waves of love that washed over me were so overwhelming. Every word of the worship songs we sang, every truth that was spoken over us those nights was unbelievably applicable to what I had so desperately needed.
On the final night of the conference, I opened a devotional book that all of the nursing students received at the beginning of the year. It’s a collection of devotions written by the friends and family of the students studying nursing abroad in Zambia. I opened to the first devotion, which I found to full of words that matched my situation so closely. I know God was trying to speak to me.
“A concept that I have always struggled with is God’s love. Sometimes it feels like I’m always falling down with mistake after mistake, and He is always there to pick me up. I’m grateful that He is near, but sometimes I feel immense shame. A sense of failure, a lost cause even. I want to speak truth over all of you hearing or reading this right now that you are not a failure…God’s love is proud to be seen on you. God’s love is PROUD to be seen on you… Let this truth become who you are. There is much thought and theology behind this simple idea, but once you let it become your truth, things start to change… One truth that I know for certain is that as you share struggles and hardships with those around you, the bond in Christ and the pursuit of faith becomes much more strengthened and firm.”
~Conner McGrew, Zambia Semester Abroad 2018 Team Devotional Book
Everything that God does has purpose. I truly believe that He led me to this conference, led the message, and led the writer of this devotion to speak into my life in this way. I’m living in grace, experiencing the freeing breath of God in my life as I continue to be awed by the continuous love that He pours into my life. My Father has changed my life in these past few weeks in ways that I can never adequately express. And so friends, if you ever feel like you’re in the same place that I was, I hope that my words can be used to speak some ounce of truth unto your lives. Let us share the many miracles that God’s grace has fed into our lives with each other. Let us love, let us share, let us remember what He has done, and let us never forget who He is and what that means for who we are. You, child of God, are priceless. And that is a constant that will never change. So live fearlessly and turn your eyes onto the savior and you will bloom<3