My aunt and I spoke for quite a while more - an opportunity I'd been praying for since we decided to go on this trip together. Thankfully it was given to me: the chance to share with her God's never-ending love no matter the sin. The love that spurs me to gratefulness - away from sin not towards it. I shared with her from Galatians 3 "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." I even told her about Martin Luther, the 95 Theses, the birth of the reformation and told her that reading Romans might help make sense of it all.
Most of the specifics are a blur, probably because I felt the Holy Spirit say the things God wanted her to hear.
The next morning I took a campus tour with a student at Covenant. She grew up in Nebraska (Ogallala to be exact), attended UNL then ended up there. After the tour, we went to Chapel, which was a really great service. The worship was Spirit-let, simply. The message was excellent, and the service even included a "testimony" of sorts from a Covenant graduate who shared about his experience in ministry since he finished his degree. Then on we went to a class on what else? "Communicating the Gospel".
The next hour I spent listening to a very gifted professor share about the importance of communicating God's love and grace, not just the good works mentioned in Scripture. For the next hour we looked through many passages of Scripture that list all the characteristics we are to strive for like this one, and this one, and this one (this last passage you may remember from this post). And these passages have a provision just before them: the provision of God's love.
He then shared a story about his daughter. She was taking a liquid medicine that was bright orange. He would give her Sprite after she took the medicine. On one particular day, he gave her the medicine, turned away from her to get the Sprite, watched her drink it and then sent her on h er way. He glanced down at the glass and saw that it was bright orange. She had clearly spit our her medicine in the glass.
He called her back into the kitchen and asked her if she drank her medicine. "Yes," she replied. "Then how did the glass get orange?" he asked. "I don't know," she said. "Alicia, " he said to her. "You are my daughter and I love you. But you cannot lie to me. What've you've done deserve a spanking." And the tears would come and he would repeat that over and over again.
He went on to share how when their children disobey or sin, both he and his wife always preface the statement of punishment with an "I love you." Many time, they kids just roll their eyes and shake their heads, for they've heard it all before. But have we? Have we really heard that despite our behavior God loves us anyway? My aunt didn't. So when my aunt asked me what the class was like, I was able to share with, yet again, there God loves us anyway. And that will never change. (Plus it made me feel little better knowing I had the words of a professor backing me up just in case she thought I was crazy or even stupid the previous night.)
I don't know if St. Paul or Covenant are either of the places for me. I do know that I’m not sure, so I will simply look a little harder at Liberty University in Virginia and Bethel in Minneapolis. We'll see.
What I'm listening to: Josh Radin's We Were Here