As I sit in my dorm, which I had expected to move into several months ago, I reflect on the unprecedented past year–one defined not by the world’s chaos or my new experience as a college freshman, but by the immeasurable love God poured into my life and soul.
My conception of love used to be characterized by the obligatory care of my parents, the superficial friendship of classmates, and the intimate romance that was just as easily built as it was fractured.
But God took me on a journey this past year…
He halted the world, and told us “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He forced everything–my tiring academics, my restless mind, my unhealthy habits–to stop; God commanded me to rest in the reflection of the world in His eyes.
I started quarantine with a boiling frustration as I called off vacations abroad, excursions with friends, and graduation celebrations. Even more distressing was seeing how undisturbed my family was by all the cancellations of my plans. As they enjoyed cooking food together, exploring new hiking trails, and playing brain-teasing games, I locked myself in a dark room surrounded by annoyance and bitterness–until Jesus knocked, opened the door with His key of light, and irradiated the room with His warm presence.
Gradually, as my eyes opened to see the way He loved me, the distance I once had with my family diminished and my love for them dilated. When my first semester of college was announced to be completely virtual, I took pleasure instead of provocation during this unusual situation that allowed me to enjoy some more home-cooked meals, play with my younger siblings, and rest securely in the tender protection of my parents.
Whereas I did not think twice about the comfort and care my family brought to my life, I now feel so thankful and blessed for the compassionate family I have. Whereas I had taken moments with my family for granted, I now cherish every memory and conversation I have with them. Whereas I used to think that the love I shared with them was restricted, I now feel boundless love from my family.
God grew my circle of love as He extended my relationships beyond my parents and siblings: He introduced me to the welcoming Christian community at the University of Pennsylvania. I used to feel uncomfortable with my classmates and often kept thoughts and emotions–whether good or bad–all to myself. I was burdened with questions, fears, and misdirection and had few people to share ideas with and seek advice from. However, as I listened to the moving testimonies and sank into deep friendships with my peers this past year, I began to unearth a new meaning of friendship: one that was built from vulnerability and acceptance. I was released from my burden and uplifted hand in hand with my new Christian friends.
When I finally physically stepped foot onto campus, I will never forget the overwhelming love and emotion I felt when I met the Penn Epistle team for the first time, or when I held a heartwarming hug with a sister in Christ, or when I clutched my friend’s hands and prayed with them for the first time. I continuously wonder with excitement, gratitude, and delight when I might get to seize a breath, shed a tear, or share a laugh with my beautiful friends tomorrow. When I once thought friendships were merely gilded with smiles, I now understand and have the privilege to experience the depth and strength of the love and bond formed with friends.
From each experience I shared with my family, I learned to cherish every second I have with Jesus. He is mine and I am His forever, but each individual moment with Him is so precious, unique, and joyous. From each friendship, formed virtually and in-person, I learned how Jesus is my best friend, whom I can be vulnerable with in any situation, whether I am at my best or my worst. He is always here to catch me when I fall, wipe every tear off my face, and lift me in heavenly happiness. I do not want to spend a second away from Him; I want to spend eternity bathed in His presence, so that I may glorify His name with every breath I take and “do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14, NIV).
As human beings, we are hungry for a companionship, a connection, a comfort, that can only be satiated by an unwavering faith in our Lord and the love of Jesus Christ.
Our Heavenly Father loved each and every one of us so much so “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). How can I not love Him? How can I not love each and every one of His creations? God is love–the most unbreakable and steadfast thing in the universe. He is my all in all, and “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
God shattered my preconceptions through love, strengthened my heart with love, and renewed my soul in love. Gazing into the reflection of His eyes, I see beauty in the world and meaning for my life.
Filled with the love from my Heavenly Father, I look out of my dorm window at the bright sunbeam illuminating the purple and pink horizon, and I reminisce about these truths again and again. The crepuscular rays guide my eyes upward towards the heavens, and all I can do is shout, “Jesus! I love you too!”