To Mr. and Mrs. Müller
There's an email in my BFA inbox dated September 2, 2013 from Clint and Helen Taylor that has a subject line, "Welcome to BFA!" This wonderful couple sent me a note after my first parent night to let me know how excited they were to have two daughters taking classes from me my first year at BFA. I was so touched by the encouragement that I kept it in my inbox as a reminder that I was loved and prayed for in this new place. The Taylor family only grew in importance in my life, and the email has stayed there as an ongoing reminder of the prayer warriors and amazing people that God has put into my life and allowed me to interact with while serving in this unique role as a missionary teacher and mentor.
As I sat in the front of a room full of people yesterday watching a stunning Maddie Taylor lead a row of bridesmaids before her sister Alyssa walked down the aisle in her beautiful wedding gown, I thought of how I'd taught Maddie English 9 my first semester at BFA and had Alyssa in my Spiritual Formation class that same term. Those first months as their teacher, I never could have dreamed I'd have the privilege of officiating Alyssa's wedding seven years later. I've journeyed alongside Alyssa through some dark times in both of our lives through the past seven years - she visited in me in the hospital and prayed for me then, and I was given the gift of leading prayer over her and her husband during their wedding ceremony yesterday. God is doing a massive work of love and restoration through Daniel and Alyssa's union, and they invited me to be a part of the avalanche of beauty beginning in yesterday's ceremony. I'm beyond humbled by how God is using me in an incredible story in this community, and as it's still ongoing, I can't articulate the significance of all of the details of what happened in my life this week.
Instead, I'm posting below the text of my message that I shared with Daniel and Alyssa and the small gathering of Jesus loving people present yesterday. As I've told this couple multiple times in the past several months, pray that God is glorified - oh, and it'd be nice if I could walk again too.
Alyssa, I was invited into your story seven years ago as your Spiritual Formation teacher. In class, I was impressed with your eagerness to engage and grow in your walk with Jesus. After the semester, I was all the more amazed to discover you (along with your peers) would leave drama at the door for 45 minutes a day to prioritize Jesus over high school hormones and miscommunications. Alyssa, your character has stayed faithful in that deliberate and difficult choice to put your pursuit of truth over what is socially or culturally easy. I’ve watched you wrestle against the easy way out and consistently choose a deeper relationship with Jesus. Over the years that’s taken you across continents in pursuit of truth. There have been wounds along the way, but it’s been my joy to watch you choose healing in the face of hurt.
As Daniel has joined your story, I’ve been privileged to watch the two of you prioritizing Jesus again when it would be easy to slide into complacency in faith or compromises in relationships. Neither one of you has done that as Jesus remains the anchor of your relationship. Again, not always easy, but always, always worth it.
One of the gifts that I’ve had in walking alongside you for the past several years is that God has overlapped our stories with similar lessons, so as I prayed about what encouragement I could share for you together with Daniel, I decided to use three words that the Lord gave me for events in my life currently that I know have beautiful overlap and potentially more connections than I immediately see in your lives.
After several sleepless nights the past couple of months, I started asking people to pray with me “for vision, for freedom, and for action.”
The Lord writes better stories with our lives than we could on our own, and Daniel and Alyssa, you don’t know all the details and plot twists ahead on your journey, but you know with absolute clarity you pursue Jesus together. I celebrate the vision you have of lives that glorify God, and I ask for more vision as you move forwards together in a crazy adventure that is beyond what you can imagine. Hold tightly to the vision you have and don’t be afraid to seek more clarity.
Several months ago the two of you sat on my couch and processed with me how you were imperfect people and wanted to grow closer to Jesus. I got excited and made you open my Bible to 2 Corinthians 7 where I’d underlined a verse on the top right of the page: “you were grieved into repenting... for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” I celebrated with you in that moment that you were moving closer to Jesus without any shame. We talked about how you were going to prioritize Jesus in your relationship and that you wanted accountability in that, knowing that you are both humans who make mistakes. You wanted to set a high standard of transparency and truth, and I commend you for that. What a joy to be able to stand here now knowing you kept Jesus the top priority even when it was hard. When you flip one page back in my Bible from that verse I just quoted, in almost the same spot on the page is the verse in chapter 3 underlined that says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” You left my house that day in freedom rather than bound by shame. You live each day onwards in freedom, never held back by shame.
Now to “action.” In between those two passages of 2 Corinthians that I’ve already quoted is the charge that “the love of Christ compels us.” I can already celebrate the way that each of you has sought guidance and godly counsel in your lives to be moved along in your decisions as Christ encourages you to. You are motivated to godly living by God at work within you. I encourage you to move forwards from today on compelled by Christ to represent him in every way everywhere. I know that won’t be easy.
Paul’s next paragraph tells us that we are given the “ministry of reconciliation.” You are being knit together in your relationship as two individuals who represent reconciliation in layers of your lives.
This is an ongoing part of your story. You’ve begun a great work - or rather, you’ve let the Lord begin a great work in you - and I commend you for that. I also want to encourage you to continue on a path that models grace and humility as you advocate for and participate in the ministry of reconciliation. Your story is in process, so I want to encourage you both to keep your eyes on Jesus as you look for the ways that you are able to represent him well across relationships in your lives. With the vision and freedom that God has given you, don’t be hesitant to act in love and truth.
Daniel, one of the most significant strengths I’ve seen in your relationship is that you don’t doubt Alyssa, and this helps you to act together as a team when God prompts you each.
Alyssa, one of the gifts you have for Daniel is complete trust in his character; continue to believe in this person you are serving God with.
There is a lot packed into the end of 2 Corinthians 5 - I would argue there’s a great summary of the entire Gospel message as Paul tells us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” but what blows me away each time I read it is that this very idea in Paul’s mind logically follows our invitation to have a role in the extension of the Gospel. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,” he tells us; he then goes on to say that we are entrusted with this ministry and made ambassadors of reconciliation. What a gift.
I’ve talked many times with Alyssa about how God has called her to be an agent of healing in the world. She has deep wounds that God redeems as he heals and allows her healing to be extended to others. We all know the cliche “hurt people hurt people,” and she’s chosen to step out of that cycle of brokenness to let the Lord redeem and become his agent of healing in an ongoing story of grace and beauty and love and truth. Alyssa, I’m so proud of you, and we all can learn from your example. I know there is still healing happening in your own heart, and I encourage you to continue on the path of healing with Daniel. I’ve had the privilege of talking to this couple about how the two of them joining their lives together means that Daniel joins Alyssa as an agent of healing, and that means intentional action in their lives everyday to choose Jesus over hurt. Choose healing over brokenness. Again, this is a model for all of us.
As I wrap up, I have to explain that I wrote the majority of this message and outlined all of it with Alyssa’s permission to say what I wanted because she trusts me. When we finally sat down a couple weeks ago to talk about the ceremony today, she started by asking me to read the verses from 2 Corinthians at the start of the ceremony. She had no idea that I’d planned my entire message around other passages from the same epistle. We took that to be a God thing and celebrated the beautiful messages and encouragements in this specific book for Daniel and Alyssa. As Paul wraps up his letter to this hurting church who he loves so much, he tells them, “Your restoration is what we pray for.” When packing in those final exhortations, he says, “Rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Daniel and Alyssa, you have your vision from the Lord, you have your freedom in the Lord. Take action to glorify the Lord.