I don’t necessarily know what love is yet. And when I ask around, it seems like everyone has a different opinion. My mom has told me many times that “When you meet the one, you just know.” And when I told my teenage brother about this blog post, his words of wisdom to me were, “If he brings you tacos, he’s a keeper.” So, really, it could be just about anything. But what I do know about love is that it’s worth trying to understand, and what I’m coming to understand is that there is only one source you can turn to for that – which brings us to this past Wednesday.
I don’t go to Judson University, but my father has been the president of this American Baptist liberal arts college since spring 2013, around the same time as my graduation from high school. Immediately afterwards, our family picked up and moved from small-town Indiana to the Chicago suburbs, and about a month later, I moved down to Nashville to go to Vanderbilt. All that to say, I’ve never spent a lot of time at Judson outside of big events – but since I’m home for a little extra time before studying abroad, and our friend from Belize is staying with us and taking classes there this semester, I’m finding myself with a lot more opportunities to be part of the daily life on campus. Wednesday was the first day of spring semester, and I went along with Ana to the first chapel of 2016.
Stephen Miller, a worship pastor and author from Texas, was visiting today for chapel, and the crowd was full to bursting. He led us in song after song of praise for almost 45 minutes. I haven’t worshipped like that in I couldn’t tell you how long – it was incredible. But what was even more challenging and insightful than the melodies and the lyrics was Stephen’s voice ringing out between bridges and choruses. Worship leaders have a much bigger job than just singing – Stephen spoke truth into the silent spaces where our minds might wander elsewhere.
In death, In life, I’m confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
separate my heart from Your great love
“One Thing Remains” is one of my favorite worship songs. Partway through, Stephen cut off singing and asked us if we really believed this, that nothing could separate us from the love of God. He talked about how hard that was for us to believe, how foreign a concept that was – when here on earth, it seems love can so easily come and go. It fails us. He said that was okay – it just made it all the more important that we continue to know the height, the depth, the width, the breadth of the love of God. And I thought about that, and I thought about my experience with love.
2015 was a rough year for love in my life – the romantic kind, at least. don’t get me wrong, I met a lot of incredible new friends, and the relationships I already had with friends and family grew exponentially. But here’s where I get real. Last winter found me struggling to move on from the end of a three-year relationship that had been a huge part of my story, my time and my life. I was lonely a lot. When spring found me meeting someone new, I was thrilled. We tried to take things slow, but timing didn’t have it that way and we started dating as school ended. Summer found me head over heels with my freedom in Springfield, and that streak of independence put strain on our relationship when we got back to school. We had different expectations for what our relationship would be and we broke up. I felt responsible. Fall found me falling hard for someone I couldn’t be with. I still hoped. I prayed and prayed for clear direction of what and how to tell him, but before I had my answer, he met someone else. I felt defeated.
I listened to what Stephen Miller was saying, and I thought about the way love had played out in the past year of my life. I realized, as he spoke, just how often I was buying into that lie that I could be separated from the love of God. Not that the love of God could fail me – the way I know the love of another human can and does – but that by my own doing, God’s love might turn away from me. It hit me like a bolt of lightening, that lie, and all the ways it had showed itself in those times I felt so tired and empty, and far away from Him.
What if, because I had failed and been failed by love in a relationship, I believed I could be likewise be separated from the love of God?
That’s a pretty scary thought.
But it was also liberating. It was the moment God broke through my sinful state, my doubt and my fear – it was the moment I put words to the battle raging in my heart and my head these past few months.
The enemy LOVES to keep us in our heads with the lies, fears and doubts that he speaks.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. // John 8:44
BUT when we are able to name those things that he likes to keep hidden in darkness, God can speak His freeing Truth to them and they lose their power!
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. // 1 John 1:5-7
In His perfect grace and timing, God had already been introducing a new framework to begin rebuilding my understanding of love on as the longest semester of my life wound to a close. My wonderful and wise mentor Stephanie planned a workshop for us to study godly truth in dating and relationships that utterly shook the way I understood God’s plan and purposes for love in my life. Yesterday after chapel, these verses from our material were what I thought of first.
I had told Stephanie what an incredible conflict I was experiencing this semester between fear of a relationship and desire for one. Her response, as above, impressed on me the value of naming those fears in order to fight them with truth. The truth of the song “One Thing Remains” is the same as 1 John 1:5 – there is no darkness in God, and when all else falls apart and fades away, His love – the light – will be what stands, what cannot be denied or defeated. Once this question was out in the open, I understood the disconnect between the way I’d been viewing God and the way I’d been singing about Him. I could believe in the truth Stephen was preaching to us. I could be confident and covered by the power of His great love.
And let me tell you, that was one of those moments that cuts through the distractions of life like a knife, one of those moments I could feel the Holy Spirit in my bones, one of those moments where I wanted to hold onto that feeling forever and never let it go.
There’s good news on that front – God’s love is not a fleeting feeling, because God is sovereign. Like I mentioned earlier, once I’ve countered my fear of relationships with truth, I’m still conflicted by desire to be in one when I’m not. When it seems like I can’t find love down here, how do I continue to believe that truth that I will always be able to find God’s love?
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. // Isaiah 46:9-11
One of the most spiritually rich conversations I’ve ever had took place in 15 minutes at a table in Rand on Homecoming with my friend Emmie. We talked about how challenging we’ve found it to trust God in his sovereignty – which, I’ve come to find, has a lot to do with my faith in His love as well. She used a metaphor I adore – as hard as it is to give up my grip on the pen, we have to trust God to write our love story.
That’s not just a beautiful metaphor – it’s truth. Check out the last verse of Isaiah above – “What I have planned, I will do.” Then read on.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? // Romans 8:28,31-32,35
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. // Romans 8:37-39
What God has planned, He will do, and in all things, His plan is working for the good of us who love Him, who He has called. When I think about what it means that God called me – Allie Kay Crume, five foot four inches, has fallen down a lot of stairs – I can’t help but have full confidence in what the Word says next: nothing can separate me from the love of God. Whether I’m single or dating, the circumstances of my relationships – and the way I experience love – here on earth can’t change the goodness of His plan a bit.
Last thing, and this is important. Emmie was so, so wise to remind me that God is the one writing my love story. But in reading Ephesians, I learned that God has a purpose for my life as a little story in the Big Story of His rule and reign. In closing out our time together studying dating and relationships, Stephanie reminded me of some powerful truth about love and the Big Story.
All of this is about a Greater Love Story that is at work within us. Let us never lose sight of that in our fears, struggles, desires and hopes. The God of the Universe is writing a love story to draw you to Himself. It will end in an eternity in which you are FINALLY in perfect union with Him FOREVER!
Whatever else happens with the love story He is writing me here in my time on earth, I can be content. My little life is so full from knowing it is being woven into the Greater Love Story not because I did anything to deserve it – quite the opposite, in fact – but simply because from the very beginning, that was God’s plan.
And that is love.
When you can look at a man and know that he can’t give you what you most long for – worth, love and a sense of identity – then you are free to be loved by him. The most he can ever do (which in itself, is no small thing) is to give witness to the worth God already invests in you. But you must claim it first for yourself.