Rewriting the Narrative…

by Kate Anderson

As Daniel mentioned in his post last week, this week was Story, Durham University Christian Union’s Events week.  Abi and Maria spent the entire week meeting and talking with Durham University students in and outside the marquee. They have wonderful stories about the way God worked in Durham University’s student body over the week. Unfortunately, I’m writing the Internlog this week. My stories are less exciting, though still wonderful. I got to meet many students through standing by a fire exit, pouring fizzy drinks, and telling people drink choices!

If that paragraph makes no sense to you, don’t worry it meant nothing to me until January. Durham University’s Christian Union puts on an entire week of talks, interviews, free food, and other things for non-Christians on campus to hear about Jesus. The purpose of last week can be summed up in a fancy Christianese word, evangelism. I come from a culture where the word “evangelism” and its related words are loaded. To be an evangelical automatically brings up political connotations with a sprinkling of religiosity. Yeah, we tell people about Jesus, but you also support a certain political party, ideologies, and morality. To evangelise meant more to be like an evangelical. They did not seem loving, respectful, or anything I wanted to be. I was not finding love and acceptance in that church, so why should I expect anyone else to? I still cared about people finding Jesus, but I had no idea what that meant. He just wanted me to try better so I could get mansions up in heaven and maybe He would protect me from the mistakes my siblings made. (There is a huge age-gap between me and my siblings. One of the benefits is seeing them make mistakes and learning not to do what they did by watching the fall-out. One mistake they made was walking away from Christianity.) They might view me as one of those unloving hypocrites – and that wouldn’t be showing Jesus.

There was no great purpose in evangelism to me. People said I claimed to believe the basic doctrines of Christianity, but I fell in and out of believing them and questioned if I believed they were the greatest thing I had ever heard. Then came the main talk on Thursday night at Story. It was about selfless love. The speaker started out talking about romance and sex. As a single girl who is not necessarily single by choice it was agonising to hear. God has been having me deal with those issues, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear about them. I said to God “okay, open my heart, you put me here, what do you want me to learn?” Suddenly, the talk changed from the opposite sex to Jesus and something so basic hit me.

Jesus loves me. He loves me without expecting me to be something. I don’t have to smart, funny, outgoing, bubbly, or whatever positive adjective you can think of. He just loves me. God is the one losing when I agree to enter into a relationship with Him. I bring nothing to this relationship. I bring debt. He’s got it all, and He still loves me. While He expects me to be nothing when entering the relationship with Him, I’ve expected things from Him and from others. This has hurt God, me, and others beyond belief. I can love all three of those without expecting something in return. This is truly healing and life-giving. It is not condoning abusive relationships or being treated badly. I am free from anger and the insecurity of relying on people’s love and acceptance to tell me I’m worth something. God tells me I’m worth something, I am someone, and He loves me.

Why wouldn’t I want others to have this same freedom that I have? When you fall in love, you want others to see how wonderful that person is. You want others to love that person as much as you do. If people don’t, it is painful. You don’t understand why they can’t see him or her like you see him or her. If you fall into unrequited love, it is easier to imagine what it must like to be God, be in love with someone, and be rejected.  The crazy thing about Him though is He always welcomes back that person who rejects Him! He doesn’t become jaded, He doesn’t stay mad, He isn’t guarded. He thinks it is better to love and lost then not love at all and if the one who chose not to love Him chooses to love Him, He offers a full love – no strings attached.

This is my story. Although it has some incredible twists, I still struggle. I struggle with accepting singleness is a gift from God. I struggle with the pain that has come from sin and heartbreak. I struggle to love others and want the best for them. If you can’t tell, I struggle with self-centredness. I’m going to fall back in sin and fear, get my identity from something else at times. Through it all, God still loves me.

Evangelism changed its meaning this week. Although I am working through what it means to evangelise, it’s not about buying into a certain political ideology. It is about offering people the best thing that has ever happened to you. It is about helping them decide if they want to make a choice about the most important relationship they could ever have. It is about wanting them to have the best life possible. It is wanting the best for them. That is not unloving. It may seem stupid, bigoted, and annoying to some people, but really it is sharing the best love ever with others. If that seems hard to believe, then go back to the basics. It’s never too late. Trust me I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years. This probably won’t be the last time I’m shown something life-changing in the phrase “Jesus loves me”.