Anticipation mounted in my spirit as I boarded a plane in 2019 to go to an international women's retreat in Ecuador. I was ready for a refreshing, meeting other missionaries, and especially excited about leaving the normal routines of our lives in Colombia.
What I didn't know was what God had planned for me on that epic trip had nothing to do with the retreat I attended, whatsoever.
The Lord has this interesting way of giving us the best surprises. Having arrived a day before the conference, I had an entire chilly morning alone in the altitude of Quito with Jesus. I had opened my journal, my Bible, and a book I had taken called Worship, by A.W. Tozer.
You see, I had been asking God quite a few questions.
I don't know about you, but I have discovered in my 30s that I have so many questions. My 20s were filled with coming to terms with my childhood and what that meant for me and my life...my family...Quite frankly, pretty self-focused. My 30s have been where I discover who God is and who I am... my identity. (I still am discovering that, by the way.)
You see, I hadn't realized that I could ask open-ended questions. All my life I had understood that somehow the questions I asked were only meant to be asked if someone was there to respond immediately. Certainly, I never thought of asking God questions and actually expecting answers. The only exception to that would be this talk of asking for God to make His will clear. But as I think about it, I remember being given/told phrases to ask God for.
Ask God to show you His will.
Ask God to forgive you.
Ask God to help you.
Like application questions at the end of a study... They give the question, I give the answer I think they want to hear. Others are usually questions for personal reflection. The question is meant to generate an action or response in me from what I read or heard.
However, that isn't the same as having a question bubble up from inside you. A savory question that percolates and brews for extended periods of time. These questions were not questions that had one-word answers.... or did they? I didn't know.
The questions I began to scribble down on whatever paper was near me at the time, were of a more philosophical kind. The first question I remember having as pertinent to my life and job was "What is education?" It wasn't exactly a theological question, but I realized the more I read about the curriculum that was out there, the more confused I had become. Really what I wanted to know is what does it mean to be educated. This opened up a whole world to me of discovery and I was thrilled. You see, I wasn't looking for a box-curriculum, system, or machine that would turn out educated children. As tempting as that is, it really is silly. Turns out, this question has been asked for millennia. Aristotle said, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."
What other questions did I have?
What does it mean to worship? What is worship?
This question had been bobbing up and down in my head for quite a while. It led to other soul-searching questions... Am I worshipping? Because honestly, I don't want to lead worship if I don't get it. How could I?
As I sat in the quiet apartment in Quito in 2019, the quest had already been invigorating. Essentially with each open-ended question I asked, my senses heightened to receive the clues. A picture, a song, a word, a phrase, a color, a smell. With each clue, my senses sharpen and an adventure unfolds. The carefully constructed categories blurred and the world seemed to expand with every discovery.
At the beginning of this year, I remember the Lord giving me a word, as He has for the past few years. A word that symbolizes and represents the focus and learning pattern of this year 2020: LOVE. I recognize many people would have a difficult time associating the word “love” with 2020. I can understand that. But the word has stirred up my soul, and provoked a question: What does love look like?
The first meaningful season of LOVE this year was the painful realization that I don’t know and haven’t always truly understood love. I have known about it and implemented it into my life in chunks and pieces here and there, but mainly in the ways that I naturally showed it and gave it and received it. The kind of love the Lord began to enlighten is much more complex and full. If love were a pie, I would have only consumed and shared the whipped topping decorating the top.
The two years before 2020 I truly began a pursuit and thirst for love. It began with an agonizing awareness that in my relationship with my husband I was actually slipping further and further away from love. When the Lord removed the scales from my eyes and allowed me by His grace to see clearly, everything changed. By removing the blindness, He healed and purified my heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Mt 5:8
With a fresh and pure heart in Quito that day, I could see God. Like a radiance on every surface, so became the Lord in every part of my life. A warmth burned within to know God more. Waking up to spend time with Him and worshiping and praising for no other reason than to declare His glory. The relationship has blossomed in the early morning garden of solitude each and every morning.
What does love look like? Through this year, I realized that I have so much to learn about love. I thought I was loving. I thought what I was thinking, what I was saying, and how I acted was love. But as the radiance of God’s love has illuminated the hidden places of my heart, my mind, and my soul, I began to ache for that same radiance in my most important and cherished relationship: my spouse.
I haven’t been able to put that into words. Heck, I haven’t been able to formulate that into thought until a few months ago. What I long for is the love-intimacy that God has shown me. This longing has been growing and aching for a while this year. This year I have taken responsibility for my lack, and I pray I will continue to do that with the Holy Spirit.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The Spirit is granting me eyes to grasp the enormity of Christ’s love. To know it and how it surpasses knowledge! I am sorry that I haven’t loved with the fullness of love. I want to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. I want to spill over in this true love.
Love is letting people in and being let into their lives. This is the kind of depth of love Jesus emulates. It is a “love that surpasses knowledge”… Only through Jesus can we grasp it.
In this coming decade, I want to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Isn't that just fantastic? The fullness of God. What else could I want or need?
May the questions and rabbit trails continue to come. May the Lord continue to radiate into every corner of my soul.