During my mid-twenties, I faced the weight of overdue decisions that I’d avoided. I had let fear dissuade me from moving on to the next phase in life. I was at a halt in my college education, leaving me to linger in stagnation, postponing me from achieving my degree, causing me to feel hopeless—I thought I wouldn’t be able to pick myself back up again and be admitted to a good university. Many of my goals were deterred because I couldn’t overcome certain hurdles in my life, and not just with my education. I also had to confront emotional baggage I stubbornly held on to. The backlog of unsettled issues was like a room of library books with stamped slips indicating months and years of neglect, and all because of fear—fear of failure, disappointment and hurt. The room grew so cluttered that the cyclical behavior of fear and neglect took turns playing yo-yo, and I was the overworn yo-yo.
One evening I was chatting online with a guy friend who noticed my sadness; he concluded our conversation with friendly words that most people say when they really don’t know what to say: “God loves you, ok?” Although he said this with good intentions, it felt so cliché, like default encouragement. I already knew God loved me and that He had such affection for me, but the statement felt like a familiar tune that just comes and goes that rarely stays to ruminate in one’s thoughts. I turned off the computer and went upstairs still feeling defeated. Although I believed God loved me, my mind was resolved in being encumbered with feelings of dissatisfaction. Despite my stubbornness, I took comfort in the fact that despite circumstances, at least God loved me. Despite all the failings of my life, I was loved.
As I was about to sleep, I lingered in thought about my friend’s final encouragement. It continued repeating itself like a contagious children’s Sunday school song, with a poignancy covered by simplicity.
I saw the folly of my limited thinking. Love isn’t the mere capsule of humanity’s capacity or standard of love. But love in context of that sentence encompasses a deeper plight and purpose other than and including affection. Love is not just an obscure emotion, as one can “love” a certain color, particular food, a specific NFL team, or a little black shirt that gives your friends the illusion that you’ve been frequently hitting Bally’s. Instead, this love imitates the function of a verb—an action beyond the mushiness of the heart. Instead, it is the manifestation of the complex idea. And for me to agree that God loves me yet remain hardhearted forces me to reevaluate what “love” means.
If you break open this simple sentence of encouragement, you’ll reveal an intense outpouring of kinetic intentions from God’s heart. We begin to realize that God’s revelation of love for us is not merely like that of a Hallmark card—it’s more of an invitation for Him to work in us and conduct major renovations in our lives. Through this love, God has taken active involvement to slowly mold our lives, fulfilling His role of Faithful. In our limited vision and shortsightedness, all we need to rely on is trust. To trust the simple phrase “God loves you” is to acknowledge God’s rearranging of the areas of your life that seem immovable, areas that seem impossible for you to be at peace with, maybe even areas of your life that you refuse to let go of. To trust this sentence is to believe that God is constantly at motion to show his beloved that the work of His hands equals the intense emotion of His heart.
I’m turning 27 this year. I’ve graduated cum laude in my class, and, it turns out, God wasn’t the only one in love with me. Two years after that online conversation, I married that friend who gave me those simple words, and we named our daughter Emmanuelle Grace: “God with us.” The knowledge that God’s love is in continual motion in my life allowed me to face my fears that critical year. I confronted the issues that needed attention, knowing the difficulty involved was a part of His constant revision in me. Now, in our marriage, when obstacles push their way into our spirits, we remind each other that God loves us. That phrase long lost its whimsical tune and has become a solid hymn we cling to. He’ll continue to make renovations in me and in my life, even some that I can only accept with faith. But I’ve seen what He has done with my mustard-seed faith; He loves with passionate abundance.