Thoughts on marriage 16 days out

To be honest, I can't pretend this post will offer any deep revelation on the meaning of marriage (though Tim Keller has some solid advice on that front). Like most young Christian evangelicals, I've read the books (probably too many books), had the talks, been to the retreats, and we all know there's nothing hotter on the religious press than a Relevant article about relationships.

Here's to adding to the noise.

Perhaps it's a result of all those years of cultural preparation, or maybe it's just my propensity toward legalism, either way I used to believe I had to have everything together to be ready for marriage. What does that mean?

Well, here is a small list of general Christian dating advice that turned out to be less important than I thought it would. And while I believe they're generally sound advice, achieving them hasn't really prepared me for my relationship with Chris.

  1. Know yourself before you venture out into dating. This is good advice, but only if you accept that part of knowing yourself is not really knowing yourself at all. I thought I knew myself, and then I met Chris. He inadvertently revealed I'm sillier, weaker, braver, less patient, more persistent, more beautiful and capable of so much more than I ever thought I was. It turned out I didn't know myself at all, and in fact, I continue to change, as most people do in their 20s.
  2. Love God fully, and more than your love a romantic partner. I know it sounds silly, but in the beginning months of our relationship, this piece of advice tormented me. As I fell deeper in love with Chris, I also felt guilty-- was I not loving God enough? I loved God, but now there was this other person in the mixture. How did I keep the balance? Eventually, as God began to reveal Chris as my future husband, I found that the two were less in conflict that I tended to believe. God gave me Chris to love in the first place. Most of the time growing in my love for Chris, means growing in my love for God. I don't say this to sound sappy or sentimental, just that it's nearly impossible to silo the relationships. They feed each other constantly.
  3. Fix all your problems while you're single. Okay, no one ever directly says it like this, but if you look at all the self-help books, conferences, talks, and devotionals we have on relationships, singleness, marriage, etc, it makes you wonder... The most freeing thing I've come to realize in my relationship with Chris is that we're two sinful sinners on a journey of sanctification that will only end when death do us part. I spent so many of the early days in our relationship trying to cover up sin, not be vulnerable and striving to be the holiest version of myself. Freedom to accept God's grace and Chris' love came when I started to let go of my absurd notion that we would be a shining white pillar of perfection. Not that we resign ourselves to sin, but we accept the partner and friend God has given us to pursue him with.
  4. Once you've found "the one", your heart will never be broken. Not that Chris and I don't strive to love to one another, but in our broken condition, we often fail (I tend to fail way more...) I've experienced some of my most excruciating heartaches with Chris, but I've also experience the deepest, most exhilarating joy at his side. And I'm not leaving that.

I don't know what kind of adventures God has in store for the two of us going forward. I just know I'm excited. A deep reservoir of joy and expectation run beneath the surface of these days and weeks. It's not what I imagined.

It's been so much abundantly more.

Twenty-dollar manna

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I toss. The sheets stick to my legs in Georgia-heat and grey sunlight filters through the window. Anxiety won't let me sleep.

I mentally review my finances again, like a flash card that keeps reappearing at the top of the stack. Even if I did get a job soon, it could take weeks for the first paycheck to process, and that was if...

Birds start chirping louder and no longer able to feign sleep, I peel the sheets back and wander downstairs.

God will provide. He already has.

I look around the lovely home he provided for us to stay in. Warm with laughter, full of southern cooking and alive with dogs and the Holy Spirit. What more could I ask for?

But even as I sit in this sleeping house, the flash card jumps to the front of my mind.

No, we can't justify going to church today.

The trip to church is an hour long. This means two hours round trip-- with no traffic. Which comes to about a half a tank of gas. I do the math, it'd cost us about $20 to go to church and back. It's a small sum, but with no income is it really worth it?

I walk outside to the front porch. Morning has burst into full song now.

The birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them..

I sit on the stone front step. The day is already threatening to be very warm, but now it's still cool with the morning dew. Light dances with grass and flowers outside the house and leaves rustle with early breeze.

I hear footsteps. It's Emily back from her morning walk. She joins me on the stone step and I pour out the concerns that eaten up my night. A slight line creases in her forehead as she listens.

"I think we should save our funds and just listen to a sermon at home," I suggest. "What do you think?"

"Yeah... we can definitely do that..." Emily agrees but I can tell she is downcast. I am too. I want to go to church this morning.

Part of the reason I left my home and job to come to Atlanta is for this church. To grow in it and meet people. To start building a home and a community for my beloved and I... Now I couldn't even to afford to go.

We watch the day continue unfolding before our eyes.

A car pulls up. Olivia, Aunt June's 19 year old girl hops out. Her bleached-white hair is wild from the night before and she saunters up smiling at both of us.

"Hi guys! You're up early," she observes and adjusts the bullring between her nostrils.

"Yeah we were going to go to church, but I think we've decided we're not going to spend the gas money on it when we can just listen to a sermon here," I explain.

"Oh," she stops. "Well maybe this will help..." She runs back to her sticker-plastered car. Almost immediately she's back and tosses a $20 bill on the stone beside us.

"I meant to pay you for helping me dog sit this morning," she explains as we look at her wide-eyed.

"Olivia... no... it was no trouble at all--" I start to protest but am stopped by a stern look through dark eyes set in a halo of white hair.

"I'm stubborn and you're taking it," the smile fades from her face briefly and she scolds me.

Then observing my defeat the smile reappears on her face and she announces she's headed back in to sleep for "lit-er-ally forEVER", and the door shuts.

Emily and I stare at each other and then at the twenty dollars sitting with us on the step.

"What do we do with this?" I ask.

"Let's pray" and she does just that.

Could it be? I wonder. Like manna, this has fallen into our laps. Not more than we need, not less.

Why is it always so hard for me to accept God's blessings? Without reservation, without fear? I know the answer.

I believe in a God who takes away. In one who challenges us to "do hard things" with the promise of eternal life. I understand a God who allows martyrs to be burned, relationships to be broken, cities to be burned, sicknesses to be endured, families to be separated and who requires sin to be punished.

But what about life now? I hear my heart scream.

I am well-acquainted with the God who sees the big picture and allows me to (bitterly) strive to see it from the same view. I understand the language of pain and loss. I've become so accustomed to the call to "come and die" that I search for it behind every bend.

But this God... I look at the $20 on the step. The one who feeds birds and dresses flowers, who gives his children bread, who creates manna and parts seas, this God I never expect to find.

I struggle to understand how they coexist...

Who is this God?

Emily finishes praying and we look at each other.

"What do you think?" she asks.

I think I disbelieve provision because it comes across as too good to be true. I think I doubt God's goodness and his gifts because I tell myself lies about his character. I think my lens is faulty and my understanding poor.

"What do you think we should do?" I return.

"I think earlier this morning we needed $20 to get to church, and I think within minutes God gave us exactly $20 to get to church. I don't know how much clearer of a word we need from him. We need to have faith."

Faith. I've practiced faith in suffering. But what about faith in goodness? That the blessings we receive aren't happy coincidences. That they are planned and arranged by our Father who owns a thousand cattle on a hill.

I need faith to believe in the God who gives, and not just the one who takes away.

Even more, I need faith to perceive that in the taking away, he is actually giving.

And morning dawns on my doubtful heart-- anxiety is scattered.

Tony, the sex addict


what was that?

Oh I was just saying hi-- that's all.

oh...! hi!

It's a beautiful day! It's lucky you know. It's been a lucky day.


Yeah I've met two girls today so that's good. What about you? Got anyone waiting for you?

yeah, i do. 

You know that's good. Hope he's normal, this one girl, she's an addict. Why do I always attract the addicts?

that's a bummer.

Yeah, you know I've got this one other girl. I used to love her. I'm still in love with her. But there's issues man, I got lotsa money. So there's issues. Sometimes I think I'll go back to her but it's so complicated, you know?

well if you love her, maybe you should just go back to her. 

[pregnant pause]

Nah, man. There's too much shit under the bridge.

there's never too much shit under the bridge. 

What would you know? You're young you got you're whole life ahead of you.

i know relationships are messy and take work.

[another preggo pause]

You know I always thought I liked being with girls you know? It always came easy. Man, but they suck your soul dry! I just don't got much to give anymore.

then stop meeting girls and take a break.

[skeptical laughter]

Where you from?


Aah... Minneapolis... I used to know a teacher there. A hot blonde. We had a WILD nine weeks.... it was short but it was good. She was good at lovin'. What was her name? Sharon? Stacey....? Weaver, weaver, weaver.

where are you from? 

New York City. I hate this place man, it's too small. I gotta get OUTTA here. But it's complicated. I only came here for the money you know.

what money.

You know, the money and the woman I'm in love with.

i still think you should go be with her. 

Ha! No... there's too much hurt.


well... i gotta go. can i pray for you?

Pray? Why do you want to pray for me? No body has asked me that before...

um.... cause it's nice.

You religious?


Shit man. How did that happen? See I used to be an alter boy. But I don't know... now I don't really know about that stuff.

well how it's kinda a long story. but i can tell you.

Eh... I gotta get my food man. You're deep aren't you?

you're deep too. all humans are deep.

Humans! What's the difference between us and animals? Nothing!

that's not true. you have a soul. 

You saying animals don't have souls!? See I can't take that man, I'm a vegetarian. I remember it just hit me one day, I was eating some chicken and was like 'how is this different than eating a human?' It ain't. You'll find out after you're gone who has souls. Gosh I'm gonna start crying.

no you're right, i guess i'll find out. but you have a soul.

No I don't. I'm a mess. I'm too far gone.

what does that mean?

I'm too bad. You don't know my life. I'm too far gone. You know. I used to think sex would satisfy me. But it doesn't. I used to know a girl when I was young who told me 'Tony, this isn't going to satisfy you forever!' But I didn't believe her then. Now I do.

well nothing can really satisfy forever. that's why we can't hope in things or people they'll disappoint you. 

YES! They disappoint you! Shit, I disappoint me. How do you do it? How are you so calm?

well....i have God. 

How did you get God?

it's a kinda long story. i can tell it to you if you like though.

Well... I gotta go get my food man.... But maybe you could tell me real quick?

i just reached a point like you, when the world couldn't satisfy anymore. i had friends who loved God so i just started talking to him too. he never disappoints me.

You're deep aren't you?

you're deep too.

I don't know man, I'm too far gone.... I'm an old, bad man.

not any worse than i am. i have shit too, tony. 

Huh? Why? Do you do drugs?


Oh. I used to date this girl who was an addict. Man she was crazy. You know, I'm gonna be real with you. The other day I was crying-- I just started CRYING!-- because I just.... I am just so tired of everything. Sex doesn't do it for me anymore. It's good for awhile... but it's just empty. Everything is empty.


I need to go get my food. I've gotta meet a girl tonight. Hey it was nice meeting you, Minneapolis. Thanks for talking.

it was nice meeting you too tony. 

It was your usual gathering of over-educated, sustainability zealots

It was your usual gathering of over-educated, sustainability zealots. We nestled our way under the porch and out of the rain as we shared stories of life over cups of local brews and homemade gluten-free cookies. Party conversations are story time. Sometimes they're striking, other times they are full of the the delicious ordinary we call "life". I've come to realize that most people have a streak of the eccentric in their bones, waiting for someone to realize it.

Like Bob for example. Bob doesn't own a car. He biked ten miles in the rain that evening to hang out. He'd pick his ear and wipe it on his dirty shirt throughout the course of our conversation. He likes to make it up to the Midwest Renewable Energy convention and camp when he can, but it's a 70 mile bike ride. His life is busier now that he's retired than ever before even though he used to work at the Capitol pushing conservation and sustainable legislature. He is vague about what keeps him so busy now that he doesn't work. He asks about me.

People always want to talk about themselves until you ask something they don't want to answer.

But more striking than Bob was a woman I chatted with later that evening. She pushed greying, un-dyed curls back from her face and kept switching her glass between her hands. I forget her name so I'm calling her Lela.

Lela used to work as a copywriter. Now she works for a publishing company east of Madison. Lela loves her job but she recently just got back into the industry. What took you away initially, I ask.

She looks up at me from her drink sheepishly. Well, we had our son, and I know it's bad but I just wanted to stay home with him. But I did freelance work on the side, she adds quickly.

I'm shocked and not entirely sure why a mother has just apologized to me for working from home to spend time with her son.

Is that really what our society has turned into? A mother has to feel ashamed of wanting to quit her job to stay home and take care of her child? Why do we have such a small view of what it means to be a mother, that intelligent, hard-working, vibrant women like Lela apologize for choosing it?

I assured her that I thought it that was wonderful, but who really cares about what a stranger thinks about your life anyway?

Lela continues. She felt insecure about stepping back into the work force after being out of it for about 20 years. Much to her surprise, however, she was hired at the publishing company she now works at. I'm not surprised at all, one brief interaction with Lela tells me she's highly intelligent, passionate and full of life.

Motherhood has weakened her sense of self-esteem.

Shouldn't it be the opposite? Shouldn't she take pride in undertaking one of the most selfless, most challenging and potentially rewarding careers of all time? And what's more, she stopped because she wanted to be around to raise her son. Shouldn't she be able to do that without fear of social condemnation and without apologizing to a perfect stranger?

I'm slightly baffled.

The most eccentric and bizarre thing I heard that night wasn't that Bob doesn't shower to conserve water and is not-so-secretly disgusted with his neighbors for owning cars. It was the revelation that even in what I'd like to think of as our country's most "progressive" circles, we apologize for being mothers.

It doesn't End here.

IMG_0417 Emily smiles shyly across the table from me, "Well what do you want to know?" Rain monsoons outside the coffee shop window and I hunch over the small table between us to hear her soft words.

Honestly I want to know everything. I want to know what has to happen inside your heart to change your life completely. To cause you to change your major, your life direction, to pack your bags for Thailand and leave for at least three months.

Two years ago at Passion Conference in Atlanta, Emily, along with thousands of other college students, heard about the horrors and prevalence of human trafficking for the first time. Like many college students it stirred her and moved her. But with Emily it hasn't stopped there.

IMG_0419"I just kept thinking: What if I was born into that? What if I had no choice but to be a sex slave?"" She looks down at her chai latte. "There are girls younger than me who are be raped, over and over and over again..." She trails off and her voice breaks a little.

This is what's motivating Emily to use her Human Development and Family Studies major to intern at a school in Thailand that would allow her to work with girls in the Red Light district.

"What is especially sad for me is that these girls live horrific lives and usually never get a chance to even hear about Jesus," Emily looks at me, freckles barely visible in the gloomy window light. "It's not fair."


She explains to me that although petitions to change legislation regarding prostitution in Thailand are being made, sex traffickers have corrupted the local government to safeguard this from happening. So for most organizations reaching the individuals stuck in prostitution is the most effective way of breaking in.

I ask her if she's scared.

Yes. She oscillates between excited and terrified. "Honestly I have my ideals of what it's going to look like to go there, but I realize it's probably not going to be at all what I think," she says. "It is probably going to be really hard."

If she doesn't get accepted to the program Emily plans to take a year off her studies to work in Thailand with young girls trapped in slavery.

Emily is encouraging to me on many levels. For her, the "End It" movement doesn't end tomorrow when she changes her Facebook profile picture from the symbolic red "X". It will continue this fall as she uses her education and formal training to help those who are in greatest need to see Jesus and feel his love.

For Emily, the End is just the beginning of something she is letting impact and define her life.

Emily is applying to work with sex slaves in Thailand through Impact School of Missions.

Sometimes you have to stand in a manure field to finally understand what you want in life

photo (3)

Sometimes it takes standing in a manure field to finally understand what you want in life

I stood, in the middle of the North American Manure Expo, having all my post-grad fears realized. I blinked in the morning sun (or were those tears?) and shook the dew off my sandal-clad feet in mild irritation. Yes, this was life.

Every graduate- no let me rephrase— every Letters and Science graduate harbors a secret fear they won’t find a job after commencement. Let alone a job they like. And though we speak of things like “moving to Seattle and hiking on the weekends” or “writing a book” or “interning with some non-profit”, deep down we fear the deafening thud of a zero-income moon-landing in our bank accounts.

Our dreams are many and impractical. We console ourselves because, after all, at least we have dreams. Our dream job is a nebulous concept that’s subject to change when it’s challenged and, dare I say, requires some work.

My dreams felt the last deadly nail drive into their coffin that morning at the North American Manure Expo. As farmer after farmer filed passed my tradeshow booth discussing the latest manure spreader technology, the only person there I disrespected was myself. At least attendees of the North American Manure Expo wanted to be there. Their passion compelled them to attend this conference to listen to seminars, discover the latest technology and meet other professionals.

I, on the other hand, terrified of failure, shamelessly flung myself into the arms of any job that would have me. That’s how three weeks after graduating I started as a marketing and sales intern for a renewable energy company. Deeply grateful for a job that promised writing opportunities on the company blog, I settled for something that was remotely “connected with my degree.”

Sometimes it takes standing in a manure field to finally understand what you want in life. Or at least begin to show you what you don’t.

Making a pipe dream into a rent-paying reality takes work. But it’s not impossible. Sure, you need to convince the world you can make it, but first you need to convince you.

So, let’s begin this journey together. What’s the next step? I’ll give you five.

1. Understand your goal.

Sometimes this is the hardest part. My dreams change daily. Sometimes I want to move to New York and start writing my autobiography, others, I want to open an orphanage in Peru. It can be hard to fully grasp what you want out of life. But start small. Start with a five-year plan. In five years what do you want to have accomplished?

2. Meet people.

Once you know what it is you want to do, start making appointments to meet with people who are actually doing it! Invite them out for a cup of coffee (on you!) and ask them questions, hear their story, ask for advice. DON’T ASK FOR A JOB. 

3. Be persistent.

My greatest failing— commitment. We live in a generation that likes instant results. It’s not new information, the best things in life take time, commitment, hard-work and heck, a good freaking attitude. Find someone to keep you accountable. For me that’s my dad, and trust me, both of us really want me to continue to be financially independent…

4. Consistently inspire yourself

You’ll lose sight of the goal if you don’t remind yourself why you’re hanging in there.

5. Pray.

Pray for God to open doors, give you patience, provide the strength and stamina to keep going. When he does, guess who’s getting all the glory?

Grace- a sermon to myself.

header copy I've realized there are realms of grace I can understand and am comfortable with-- usually these are ones that I secretly believe I deserve. Of course God will forgive me because I've tried my hardest to be a good person, and even though I fail, at least my heart was in the right place.

The problem is there are times when your heart isn't in the right place. What about the times when you spurn God? When you deliberately choose things over him because you believe they will give you more joy? When you return to that cistern again, and again.... and yet again. When you look at your heart and despair because all you really see there is someone who desires only to satisfy and please them self?

Does grace extend that far?

What are the roles of men and women in the Bible except to tell story after story of deliberate disobedience met with grace through repentance?

I've discovered there are realms of grace I'm uncomfortable with, that are too radical for my mind to grasp. And yet they are not for God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German and Christian who risked everything to shelter Jews from the Nazi's said this of God's love and grace:

"God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”

What is grotesque and repulsive in you? What is in your life that keeps you from accepting grace and guidance to move forward and out of sin?

To reject such costly and powerful grace is the saddest possible outcome. So accept it. Even when it seems too radical to believe. Especially when it seems too radical-- because that in of itself is a sure indication that it is from Jesus. Because through him alone can such grace exist.


treasure I keep staring at the blinking cursor. Surprisingly, it's hard to put into words the things I want to express. It's weighty, and joyful and inspiring. It's a concept I've been processing of Jesus as a treasure. Actually-- the treasure.

My relationship with God is multi-faceted. It takes on different forms in different seasons. Sometimes he's Father, sometimes Comforter, other times Savior. But I keep pondering Jesus as my Treasure.

Everyone has something that motivates them. It's the engine behind their actions, the things they get up and do everyday. What we believe about God shapes the kind of faith we live. If you believe he is a comforter primarily, you might run to him most naturally when you're sad. If you believe he is an oppressor, you might run away. If you believe he is the fount of all wisdom you might study him and cherish his words. But having experienced a range of beliefs about who God is, I've recently come to believe that the most genuinely radical and free faith comes when you believe God is Treasure.

When God is your Treasure the world and its pleasure pale. Only when he is Treasure can you foresake mother, father and riches in abandonment to his will. It's when he is Treasure that seeking his face, being in his presence and communing with him stop becoming practices, burdens, a means to an end and start becoming all that matters.

It's when Christ is Treasure that idolatry is dethroned. When our will bends it's knee not out of oppression, duty or call, but glad and joyful surrender. It's true belief that the thing you are giving up is vaporlike compared to the riches of knowing Jesus Christ.

When Jesus is treasure life stops being about you.

I long to treasure Christ more. My biggest barriers to radical faith, to self-abandonment and pursuing him above all else come when I treasure something more than I treasure him. It breaks my heart and it also humbles me. When I see how chained to my earthly desires I am, I quickly realize how only divine intervention can break the shackles that bind my heart. I see that there is nothing I can do that will truly free me from my imprisonment to my will and my desires-- it has to be him.

I'm incapable of having that kind of faith in and of myself. I can study the Bible, go to church, even pray, but unless God intervenes, I will keep pursuing Self. Those things can aide in helping me see Christ as the Treasure that he is, but only the Holy Spirit has the power to change.

I've claimed Jesus as mine for almost 10 years now. And everyday I still need him to come into my heart and free me from myself. Not that my position in Christ ever changes! No, that work is done. But the sanctification of my heart relies on daily, hourly, moment-by-moment intervention.

Radical living comes when he is being treasured. And it brings him the most glory. Because it's an act of worship not committed out of duty, obligation or routine-- but out of a love and delight in his person.

So today..... I pray that he will establish himself as my Treasure. Whatever that could mean.

Great is Thy faithfulness

"No, sorry. We don't have any available apartments at this time." "K, thanks," : words I barely squeak out. Attempt number 2,546.  Speedwalking out of the leasing office I barely made it out of the door before large, long- overdue teardrops spill down my cheeks.

No one mentioned the trials of homelessness at commencement.

Fumbling for my phone I did what any self-respecting, 23 year-old, young professional does in a moment of emotional crisis-- I called my mom.

"There's NOTHING in all of Madison!" I blubber.

"Something'll show up, Ella. God'll provide," she uses the same low, comforting voice she uses on our golden retriever, Willie.

"No he won't!" I'm inconsolable. Obviously I know this isn't true, but my Emotions have completely taken the floor now and it's hard to back-peddle from there.

What makes this narrative more embarrassing than it already is, is that I was not homeless or even desperate. Living comfortably with close, loving friends while making a gainable income isn't exactly on par with homeless shelter desolation.

So I drove back in my car that I own, back to the warm home of friends and ate food I could afford and probably laughed and got over my emotional meltdown later that evening.

But the whole ride back and rest of the evening I was angry and sullen in my heart with God.

"...while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us..."

Why do I have so little faith in God's provision? In his goodness? His kindness? His sovereignty?

Post-graduate life has been my wandering in the desert. I feel like the Israelites. I have forgotten all the times that God parted the Red Sea, rained manna and meat from heaven, poured out water from rocks and provided for every single need I have had along the way.

And yet I grumble. I forget and look back at my old life and think "Why am I not back in Egypt? God why have you left me here?"

When in reality God is just bringing me to the promise land. Even if I never saw another blessing my entire life (which I HIGHLY doubt is what God has in store for me...) I have an eternal dwelling waiting for me. I have my sins forgiven, my life redeemed and more blessings than I can count.

On top of all this, God brought me a roommate who loves Jesus, an apartment the is in my price range and a wonderful community to grow in Madison.

I emailed my mom when I found my a place to live. She emailed me back one sentence:

"Isn't this more than you could ask or imagine?"

Yes. Yes it is. I'm so grateful that he is good when I am evil. That he is faithful when I am faithless. And that his love for me isn't based on anything I do, but on Jesus.

Jesus, lover of my soul.

Perhaps it's one of my best friend's weddings that inspired this post. Watching her exchange vows of love and commitment to the man of her dreams. Maybe it's the result of watching too many chick-flicks in this lull of post-graduation unemployment. Or maybe because it's what my soul was designed to hear and therefore I seek it out on my own.

"I love you."

It may be one of the most powerful and sought-after sentences in human existence. And yet, one that I felt like I had never directly heard from God myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say I don't feel like God loves me. Rather, I long to hear from his lips that short but sweet sentence.

There's a scene in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility at the climax of the film where Rosemary, the younger and reckless of the two sisters portrayed in the novel, is devastated because the man she loved has married another (See? I have been watching too many chick-flicks...). Amidst Rosemary's heartbroken anguish, her older sister Marianne asks her younger sister if he had ever told her he actually loved her. Through tears Rosemary says "Yes... no. Never absolutely. It was implied everyday but never declared."

Sometimes that's how I feel about how God's love for me: that he has done all these things, that he died for the world to be reconciled to him, that he formed us in our mothers' womb, that he rescued us from sin, that he protects us, defends us, guides us, gives us his Spirit-- but where in the Bible does he actually utter the words "I love you"?

So I went on a hunt for those words in the Bible and it turns out they exist. Maybe there is more than just this one appearance, but the only one I've been able to find so far is in Isaiah 43.

The book of Isaiah was written to the people of Judah, who had long given up on God's fulfillment of his promise to Abraham-- to bless the nations through him. Many of the chapters in the book of Isaiah reveal God's passionate, reckless love for his people and his jealous character for the ones he loves. In chapter 43 is God declaring himself as Israel's one and only Savior. As a declaration of passion and abandon for his own glory, it may be my new favorite chapter of the Bible.

"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, you Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you..." (v. 1-4)

I love you.

I LOVE you.

I, love YOU.

Does this sound blasphemous? Heretical? It did at first to me. That the God of the universe would utter such a raw and unadulterated phrase as "I love you". Who are we that he should love us?

Well there's an answer to that too. It's further down in the chapter.

"Fear not, for I am with you... everyone who is called by name name, who I created for my glory, who I formed and made."

We are his glory. Because of Christ death which resulted in the removal of our sins, we are now God's glory, Christ's inheritance, his Church and his bride. And he LOVES us. He loves us because we are his glory, which he cannot ever deny.

This shocks and awes me. I am loved. I don't have to just speculate, or interpret the gestures, but I can know because unlike Rosemary Dashwood's lover, the lover of my soul declares it boldly. This humbles and inspires praise in me. I hope it does the same for you.