What's been on my mind and heart lately

In light of recent events, in my household, in my city, and in my country, I've been spending a lot of time in prayer and reading the Bible. To process. To cry out for our broken world. To ask for comfort and peace. Here is the clarity I've found.
  1. First, here's my favorite Bible passage: 1 Corinthians 13
    I know, this passage is kind of overdone, to some extent. It's used so often, at weddings, especially. But this passage has spoken to me so many times in my life, in a different way each time. I'll explain, but first, if you're unfamiliar, here's what it says:
  2. Verses 1-3
    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  3. Verses 4-7
    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  4. Verses 8-10
    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
  5. Verses 11-12
    When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
  6. And verse 13
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  7. Why is this important?
    Because love is the reason that God made us and that Jesus saved us! God loves each and every one of us. I'll get back to that later...
  8. The first time I was really affected by this passage was a long time ago
    I think I may have been in middle school, though that seems pretty early to me. All that I remember is reading this passage, and realizing for the first time just how vast and deep and wide and incredible God's love was for me. I felt surrounded by it. It was probably the first time I actually experienced this feeling that I get sometimes, the feeling of awe and wonder of God. I felt close to him, for probably the first time ever, in that moment.
  9. But then, life happened
    I moved on and away from God again. I forgot about God, how great his love was for me, and I took him for granted. All of the way through high school, up to senior year.
  10. Here's where I should make a few notes
    I was a wallflower, all of my life. I was shy. I didn't have very many friends, though the ones I did have were great. I went to a Christian high school, so it was small, and everyone at least knew me, or knew who I was. I was known as a twin, and was defined by having an identical look alike, and for being "smart." I wasn't very social, so I put all of my effort and energy into school. And it paid off; I don't regret graduating second in my class, behind my twin brother.
  11. Another note:
    Christian schools are very sheltered, as I am coming to realize, or at least mine was. And most people that attend them aren't doing it by choice. So it's not like their faith is SO IMPORTANT to them that they decided to go to a Christian school.
  12. And my senior year...
    Things were looking up. I was starting to be more social, and was breaking out of my bubble, and was having a ton of fun in my friend group, a group consisting of my twin brother and one of our best friends and some girls from our class. I felt like I belonged, for maybe the first time in my life. Though, at this time in my life, God still wasn't very important to me.
  13. But then, things went to shit
    First, let me apologize for the profanity. I don't normally swear, unless colorful language is the best way for me to express what I'm actually thinking. But yeah, shit hit the fan...
  14. Here's what basically happened:
    My twin brother and I, one of our friends did something that was wrong. And the other friends in the group wouldn't forgive him. So it ruined their relationships with him, and in the process, their relationships with us. The guy that had messed up found new friends. And so did the other people. So my brother and I were left to ourselves. I felt so alone. Unloved. I got my job at the greenhouse around this time, and focused on school and work.
  15. Other things happened that spring and summer include the following:
    I chose to go to Calvin College, a Christian college; I don't know why I actually chose Calvin, but looking back, God was obviously at play in that process. I didn't really do anything with any friends for months, but I told myself that it was ok, because I needed to focus on my hard classes and on my job. I lied to myself. I was unhappy. I didn't have a great relationship with God.
  16. And then I got to Calvin
    My roommate was great. My floor and dorm were amazing. I liked it at first, and would end up loving it.
  17. Another note:
    Christian college is much different that Christian high school. People who go to a Christian college actually CHOOSE to go there. People's faiths were much more evident to me at Calvin.
  18. I made such great friendships
    Better than I had ever had. Honestly, I felt so loved. It was amazing. One night, I even wept when I heard the song "Brother" by NEEDTOBREATHE, because I feel like I actually HAD true brothers for the first time in my life. That feeling that I had in high school, of loneliness was gonE. My shy personality was gone. I was new; I had a fresh start. But still, my personal relationship with God wasn't very good.
  19. That all happened the first semester. But after the first semester...
    I broke up with my girlfriend, who I only dated for like two weeks. I realized that there was a lot about me that I wanted to change, as a result of that process. I also grew even closer to my floor mates in that process, as they helped me through it. This is when I started feeling closer to God again. I realized that my personal relationship with God needed to be improved. I knew that reading the Bible, going to church and praying were important. I needed to get better.
  20. And all through the second semester...
    I deepened my relationships with people on my floor, and with other friends around campus. They became such loving relationships. And I became friends with so many people from my dorm that are so important to me now, and that I love so much, and that love me in return. Side note: I miss them so much this summer!
  21. One day, my friend from high school told me that he was struggling with his faith
    Remember that guy who did something to make the rest of our friend group mad at him? He told me that he didn't have a strong faith in God, because he didn't feel God's love. After what had happened, he felt similarly abandoned and alone.
  22. And here's what I told him:
    "We can see God's love through the love of those around us." I don't know how much it helped him, but it actually really affected me, when I realized this, myself.
  23. This is when I realized, again, how important the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 actually is
    This is where my personal relationship with God got back on track. I realized how much God was at work in my life. And I started responding to him, and began to strengthen my relationship with him, with this new understanding of God and his love.
  24. That's why I became a Young Life leader
    Young Life is a youth organization committed to building strong, Christ based, loving relationships with high school students, to show them God's love and to celebrate in that, and to bring them to God. It's literally BASED on love, which was becoming very important to me.
  25. Also around this time...
    I realized that faith based relationships are the best, and and that they're really important. By adding this dimension to my relationships, they became so much stronger, fulfilling, and just better.
  26. Now, let's look at another passage: Matthew 22:34-40
    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
  27. We are commanded to love God and to love each other
    And this love is supposed to be the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13: patient; kind; not envious, boastful, or proud; not dishonorable, self seeking, or easily angered; keeping no records of wrong; not evil, but truthful; protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering.
  28. I try to live by this love
    Love is what gives me the desire to serve people, and the desire to help friends and to even share food with them. Love should make me want to love people that don't love me back, people that hurt me and that are hard to love. I try to surround myself with people I love. I also think that we need to love people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We can't ever give up on people and stop loving them. Love is also what makes me ache when people are mistreated or hurt.
  29. Another note I feel is important:
    I feel like everybody experiences their relationship with God in a different way. We have different opinions and values as a result of this, and we all have different ways of justifying our actions. That's why there's disagreements, and different denominations in the church. We also all have different ways of dealing with guilt and sin and darkness. We need to love people we disagree with, and that's all that we can do. We can't judge. And no one has it all figured out.
  30. Anyways, this past winter, in February...
    There was a shooting in my home town of Kalamazoo. I didn't personally know any of the victims, but I know people who knew them, and I knew where they were when the shootings happened. Never before had tragedy struck so close to home. I realized just how real every tragedy was.
  31. And last Tuesday, in Kalamazoo...
    Seven people were killed by a drunk driver while riding their bikes. My sister used to babysit for one of them. It again struck me how real tragedy is, and how it could have been anyone.
  32. And then, Sunday...
    I woke up and went to church, without hearing anything about Orlando until I got to church. And it was only mentioned in passing. I didn't realize the devastating details until I got home.
  33. And at home...
    Other shit happened, with my family. Stuff that I had to process along with the news of the shooting in Orlando, which made my heart ache. I was reminded that it was a real tragedy, just as real as what had happened in Kalamazoo, and much more significant.
  34. Details of Orlando confused me
    Was it a hate crime against the LGBTQ community? Was ISIS behind it? Why were politicians using it for their own gain? What is wrong with our world?!
  35. Then I heard the good news
    There were people lining up to give blood to the victims. The country and the world united behind the people of Orlando. I felt helpless in the whole situation, but American would not be helpless, and God was not helpless.
  36. Love won
    This outcry of light and love is so much louder than the shouting darkness. There is so much good in the world. There is so much love in the world.
  37. And so, I read 1 Corinthians 13 again today
    And I realized that love always wins. God's love for us is so perfect and great. God loves each and every person so much. It's amazing. He loves the LGBTQ community, Islamic people, politicians, and he loves the people who hate LGBTQ people Islamic people. And we should, love all of these people too. No matter how hard that is.
  38. God loves me
    And all that I can do at times is love him back, and love people around me. And I'm definitely going to do those things. Who knows what will result from that love?
  39. We all need to send our love to people who need it right now
    Maybe it's hurting people in Orlando. Maybe it's hurting people in Kalamazoo. Maybe it's hurting people in my household. Maybe it's a hurting high school senior who feels alone and confused. Everyone deserves to feel valued and loved, because they are valued and loved by God.
  40. All I know is this
    Love will win. God's love will win. God's purpose will win. And though we may not always understand God and why these things happen, we need to continue on, and not let the darkness win or swallow us up.
  41. I guess what I'm trying to say is this
    Let God's love fill you up and overflow into the world around you. It is full of darkness and needs your light, now more than ever.