Friday, March 13, 2009

Party Girl

My first college roommate was the antithesis of everything I held dear. I was a girl interested in a pursuit of God. She was interested in partying. Within the few days of freshman orientation, my roommate found others on campus just like her. They began to go out drinking most nights. She would come back to the dorm room drunk in the early morning hours, almost always inadvertently waking me out of a sound sleep. I would lay in bed, my face to the wall, angrily stewing about her state of rebellion. Her parents were in full-time ministry and loved her dearly. They made a huge sacrifice to send her to a Christian college in hopes she would turn her life around and begin to follow Christ. But all of their concern was lost on her. She was living for herself.

Soon my anger at her irresponsible behavior spilled over into every part of our relationship. I hated what she stood for and judged her harshly. I could barely be civil, so great was my distaste for the lifestyle she was choosing. One day, alone in the room, I began to rail at God. Why had he placed us in the same dorm room? How could I be expected to peacefully coexist with someone who stood for everything I hated? I knew Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for them. How could I change my feelings?

In desperation, I turned to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. What exactly was God calling me to do? What did he mean by love? I wanted specifics. As I read over the list detailing biblical love, I was struck with one thought: each of the expressions of love listed did not involve an emotional response at all! Instead, they were specific actions that actually might be carried out in spite of what we might be feeling. Biblical love is an act of the will. Emotions have little to do with it at all. I decided I could do that. If I didn't have to feel love, but just perform the correct actions, I could obey.

I began to work to change my part in our relationship. On the nights she was out drinking, I made up my roommate's bed, moving the piles of clothes off it so she could easily slip between the covers. One night I stayed up late typing a paper for her. If I got out to the store, I would always bring back a candy bar or some other small token gift.

As I worked to obey God with my actions, a funny thing happened.

God began to change my heart.

I began to look forward to when she would come back into the room. Her well-being became important to me. Rather than gritting my teeth in determined obedience, I found that loving my roommate had become an enjoyable task. No longer was I seething with resentment. I began to actually like the girl! By the time we parted ways at the end of the year, it was with great affection and tears. God had blessed my obedience by changing my emotions to match my actions.

Loving is not about feelings. That may be how society views it, but the Bible has a different take on love. In Scripture, love is all about our actions toward another. This is how we can love our enemies, as Jesus asked His disciples to do. It is how we can live in unity despite many differences. I found that loving my difficult roommate was not such a challenge at all when my focus was solely on obedience to God.

Biblical love is given only in the interest of the recipient. It will not be for our benefit at all. Jesus even said, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get... do not even the pagans do that?" Biblical love has nothing to do with how deserving the recipient of our love may or may not be. It is a response to the love that God has lavished upon us.

Where we keep our focus as we move forward in obedience makes all the difference. Our eyes must be trained on Him, the initiator of our own love relationship with Him. Our actions must be a response to the love we have ourselves received.

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." John 4:10-11

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3 comments:

Zoe said...

Yeah Julie,
I ove this post on Obedience and I'm thrilled at your de-cluttering!!!!
Keep it up sweet friend.
Thakns for the precious gift of prayer. It's an expensive gift and I am grateful
Zoe

Van said...

I was that rebellious girl in college. Thanks to people like you God was able to rescue me. I saw the light and now I walk with the LIGHT. Praying...

Laura said...

What a beautiful story, Julie. I love this about God: He knows our natures, and He knows how to change them.

How blessed your roomie was to have such a faithful friend and follower of God sleeping under the same roof.