Elaine M. La Van, a US-2 missionary, shares her views on what it means to have relationships that God intends for us.
This past week, like many of you I’m sure, I was glued to the TV to see the unfoldings of the tragic news from Boston. Since most of my week involved working with our tea project, I was able to have the news on in the background. Now, this is not a post about those occurrences, because let’s be honest, I know relatively little about the event. Only the news stories that spun on every news station, which cannot lead me to claim any knowledge whatsoever. My personal ties to Boston are also very few, although I do feel a connection to my fellow runners. What the events in Boston have to do with this post is that they have been a push for me to travel a path that I have long been destined to explore.
While watching the events, again, as I’m sure many of you were, I found myself praying for those affected by the bombings. I suddenly felt convicted to pray for those responsible for the bombings. After I did as much of a double take as you can while you’re praying, I stopped to ask, “why?” I received the response of, “Because, they are still Mine.”
Now, in addition to this, as a single gal I have also recently felt convicted to examine what it means to have the kind of relationships that God intends for us to have, with not only a significant other, but with people in general. This includes family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers, etc. But most importantly, how to seek God out to have the kind of fulfilling relationship we all crave with our creator. Through a series of fortunate events I have come to be reading a book on the life and love philosophies of St. Francis. After only a few hours I have made it about half way through the book and I am already completely floored by what I have been learning.
|Art by Elaine La Van|
In Daniel P. Horan’s book, he states, “although the times have significantly changed…the human condition remains strikingly unchanged. Our human brokenness and sin continues to affect our outlook and daily encounters, but that intrinsic capacity to desire and know God remains.” How true is it that we seek companionship and fulfillment not only from other people and hollow things, but now also from hoping for connectedness through social media and impersonal interactions. More and more things are being added to our lives daily that only make me feel more and more alone. In all transparency what I have been seeking is an explanation of worth and purpose. It’s somehow easier to get lost in a world that claims to all be connected. Although logically, I know where to find what I need, I have not known with such deep conviction as I have lately while beginning this recent journey. It has been difficult to express my jumbled feelings lately into words but one of my favorite things that Horan says in his book is, “…we usually don’t know what we want—at least not at first.” And I love that. It’s such a simple statement, but so profound at the same time.
I know what I want, an even deeper relationship with my Creator. I don’t want to get one kind of fulfillment from Him, seek another with a friend, seek another at work, seek another from Facebook, and so on. “We must communicate our whole selves to our Creator.” Through this kind of relationship we have, “the potential to turn our whole life into a living prayer.” What a beautiful concept. This kind of relationship also has the potential to give us a whole new confidence in ourselves that no other can give. Compliments and pats on the back soon fade and lack meaning, but God’s very cause for our creation gives us a whole new understanding of purpose and value. God doesn’t love us because we are human, “God’s plan for my existence centered on me, just as God’s plan for bringing you into the world centered on you.” We have worth in us simply because God desired us to be in the world. We are, “unique, irreplaceable, unrepeatable, and individually loved by God.” Now, if we can take faith in the fact that God loves us so incredibly much to put so much individual effort into our creation, then we must take comfort and truth in knowing that He wants to continue to know us deeply and intimately. Another line that I love from Horan is that we are, “individually loved into existence.” Horan goes on to explain that without knowing this raw truth of our creator, “what can we bring of ourselves to the relationships?” If we don’t know who we are, who’s we are, and why we are, then how can we share ourselves with another?
Now, however long it takes someone to come to terms with the depths of our Creator’s love for us, we can then move on to explore, how selfish and misguided we could be to think that God would not love another just as much? The recent events I discussed at the start of my post were like a smack in the face. How could I disregard my own personal mission statement? I wanted to be a part of the work that I do exactly because I want others to know the profound love that can be found through a relationship with Christ. How could this be that I could be so stunned to think this really did mean everyone. When spiritual gifts were being handed out, “judge” was not amongst mine. But mercy and empathy were. And I need to continue to practice them.
“No one is, at the most basic and human level, better or worse than another. Every life is sacred. It is only in embracing that image of ourselves and others that we are able to in turn embrace God.”
Life occurs every day, from the earth shattering and devastating events that call for all media coverage to the little things that some don’t even see as worth gossiping about. But, in embracing who we are in Christ and what others are to God we can learn to connect with others and God on a whole new substantial level.
Seek comfort in knowing your value lies in your very creation, friends. “What you are before God, that you are and nothing more.” -St. Francis
Blessings to all of you in your daily mission fields. Until next time.
*All quotes came from Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis by Daniel P. Horan.
Elaine M. La Van is a missionary through the US-2 young adult program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Commissioned in August 2012, she is assigned as an advocate at the Women’s Shelter at the Navajo United Methodist Center in Farmington, New Mexico.
This post originally appeared in La Van’s blog: “To Never Be The Same.”