Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (English and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have four young kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
When I’m around her, when I look at her eyes, I fall more in love with Jesus. Because, He’s run hard after this girl’s life, and He’s let me witness it.
Humanly speaking, she shouldn’t have stepped into the light – not this one. Too much darkness at home. Too much instability, drugs, depression. It should’ve been impossible but here she is, sitting by me at church and smiling.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
She and I have prayed together. Actually, I’ve prayed over her many times, when I was out of words and overwhelmed with heaviness she carried and took on. Praying was almost a cop-out, really, because I had nothing left to say. If there’s ever been a situation too far gone for me to continue hoping, it was this one.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8
Then, suddenly she started praying too. Slowly. And, even when she was deep in pain, she started choosing to surround herself with people of God and she began to read His words to her for the first time. And today, I see her smiling, her words making sense, her words hinting at hope and life.
I settle back, breathless – so this, this is the God I serve. How I love Him.
How I love the God who pulls the outsider close & whispers- Yes, you, it’s you I adore.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:9-10
How can it be?
Really, she looked beautiful today. She looked adored – loved. Maybe she doesn’t even know it yet, but she’s being pursued and pursued by Relentless Love. His is a love that extends to the outcast and pulls in the outsider.
And, today, I could see it in her eyes: He’s winning her over. Hallelujah.
More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:11
Friends, really, who is this God whose heart beats for the baggage-carrying teenagers with hard home lives and equally hard hearts? Who is this God who cradles hurting souls and holds arms bloody from cutting? Who is this God who ordains friendship after friendship, people to care and love in His name, for this one individual life? Who is this God who gently gathers up minds broken by anxiety and depression and then whispers peace over them? Who is this God who moves looming mountains on behalf of trembling kids, cares tenderly and tangibly for the widows, and reaches far for those pushed to the side.
This is the God I love; this is the God I serve.
This God? He draws in the first-timers. Yes, He’s the God of second chances, but He’s also the God of first-timers - those of us who were flailing in darkness on the outside, but then for the first time were drawn into His love. Those whose yesterdays were just brokenness. Those of us who lived not knowing about this thing called Grace or the blood-bought freedom for us in Jesus.
But then, one day or little by little, He began to win us over. And, for the first time, everything was different. The clouds looked different, knowing the Creator. People looked different, knowing humanity's Redeemer. Work looked different, knowing His ultimate mission. There was purpose, beauty, a new standard of love.
This God. I shake my head. How I love this glory-filled God who runs hard after our souls and then pays our way back to His heart.
This is the God I am compelled to love, grateful to serve with my life.
And, may I never cease to be amazed at His limitless love. May I never cease to be amazed at the sight of the Gospel falling fresh on ears just opened, of a listening heart just starting to pick up on the Spirit-language of grace and truth, of a head bending for the first time in surrender to Glory.
So, I watched her from across the crowded room that Sunday - past the orderly rows of chairs, past the well-dressed folks warming their hands on coffee, past the well-arranged smiles on the individuals now comfortable in His family and familiar with His words.
I watch her for she is a picture of the God I serve – He who runs to the outsiders, the out of control, out of order, out of touch, on their way out kind of lives.
And then, He draws them near - drew me near - and holds us for the first time with a Love that will not let go.