Reflections: Teaching, Actions of Love, & God’s Holiness

I’m sitting in a small corner of Love Library and I’ve been staring at the blank screen, unsure how to begin. But I suppose I can begin right here in this moment—hungry, tired, relieved, happy, and so so grateful. I have successfully completed the first year of my PhD program. I do not have any confetti going off in my chest or feel the urge to cartwheel down the hall. Apart from the feeling of knowing that this moment is indeed here, there’s barely any tangible evidence of change in my outward expression, except for a big smile, which, I’m told, I tend to carry around pretty much all the time. So, nothing new. And yet, change is taking place all around me and within me.

I’m sure at this point, my anxiety about public speaking and teaching is no surprise to many. I’ve written about it many times and shared experiences in the past too. When I received admission into the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I vividly remember the first months of receiving the news were clouded in fear. I remember sitting in a Zoom meeting and telling the Graduate Chair, Dr. Waite, that she should please let me do anything else but teach. And how she said that was the offer, there was no getting out of teaching, and that I would be fine. I panicked. What should have been a moment of celebration immediately became a season shrouded in dread. It was all I could think about. Here I was, barely able to place an order at a restaurant or make an appointment on the phone without fumbling for words and I had to stand before a group of students to teach.

August will be exactly a year since I stepped into the classroom. Minutes before walking into class, I hid in a bathroom stall and whispered breath prayers, asking God to still my heart, to quiet my mind, to teach me what to say, to wash me with calmness, as I spoke words of affirmation: “You can do it, you can do it, you can do it.”

Looking back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for His presence with me always, for His confidence, His promises of walking with us through each difficulty, of blessing us with what we need to fulfill the purpose for which He’s called us. In moments of despair, He’s prompted thoughts about His character, about His promises. It is a good place to be–in the sure knowledge of God, in the sweet assurance of His arms. A few days ago, I told my friend on a phone call about how acutely aware I am of my own depravity, of my helplessness, my futile desires, and the blip of my existence which is only made meaningful, purposeful, and beautiful through the saving and redeeming work of God.

It is strange sometimes, even for me, to admit this posture of surrender, to relinquish control and look to His sovereignty. It feels silly, absurd, and even frankly, quite unnatural to look beyond my circumstances and anxieties about the future, and find refuge in God. And yet in the same vein, when I consider the Subject of my gaze, the One to whom this surrendering is grounded in, I come to the realization that the ‘unnatural’ is indeed wise and necessary. After all, who or what else can I live for? What can I do outside of His reign that would satisfy the very soul created to hunger and find delight in Him and Him alone?

Here’s something profound I’ve discovered lately and holding close to my heart:

“Actions of love lead to feelings of Love”

timOTHY KELLER

I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and I must admit I am compelled to question everything I thought I knew about love. There are so many gems about the selfless, compassionate and sacrificial nature of love that I’d like to reflect on but a blog post wouldn’t do them enough justice, however, here’s a quote I’ve been mulling over:

Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love. Love between two people must not, in the end, be identified simply with emotion or merely with dutiful action. Married love is a symbiotic, complex mixture of both. Having said this, it is important to observe that of the two–emotion and action–it is the latter that we have the most control over. It is the action that we can promise to maintain every day.


I think, again, how this brings me back to the notion of what is natural, what we would rather do and think because it comes easy to us vs. this intentional inclination to wrestle ourselves out of the mold of the fleshly things, to challenge ourselves to do more–in love, in service, in forgiveness, in kindness. I’m awed by the notion of effort, which action requires, by the intentionality, mindfulness, even resistance, that influence how we choose to respond to and navigate life. If I choose to tie how I live my life and love others solely to my emotions and desires, I’m setting myself up for a life I don’t want–entirely dictated by the vain and fleeting stuff. But I’ve been called to more as His beloved. I suppose this is the real challenge: to feel what we feel, to know what we know, and still resist, and still choose to love and honor God.

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word”

John 14:15

It feels to me a test of obedience, of surrender, of belief. Who do I believe God to be and how does that knowledge affect how I live in the world? Too often I’ve confused mental depravity with moral depravity. I have ignorantly cheapened grace, mishandled my reverence for Him, and numbed my conscience by choosing to abide by the standards of the world–repeatedly. But alas, “If it breaks God’s heart, why do I think it would fulfill mine?”

The more I come to understand human nature–its fickleness, its impatience, its greed and ungodly tendencies– the more I yearn to eagerly receive and actively live out, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness gifted me. The more God’s holiness is unveiled to me, the more I’m aware of my need of a holy and perfect God. For by lifting my eyes to behold Him, I cast a glance on this life of mine and see no true way to peace, humility, joy, hope, than through the One who perfectly embodies them all. He is, and so I am.

3 Comments

  1. Chukwuka Osakwe says:

    Your writing is so beautiful as always, and I have no idea how a PhD works but I’m rooting for you hard! God will bring you through just fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading, Chukwuka! Grateful for your kind words. The PhD is quite the journey, but I feel so thankful and blessed to be here! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nad says:

    Your posture and alignment of words never seems to amaze me.

    „But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.“

    I love you. God loves you. Always, Nad•

    Liked by 1 person

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