We all have people in our lives who have been integral to fostering our faith in Jesus. One such person in my life was a campus pastor of mine in college, Ryan. I often think of Ryan in the spring, because he had the worst allergies of any person I’ve ever met. The poor guy would spend most of April and May looking absolutely miserable with puffy eyes, a drippy nose, and frequent fits of sneezing.
This unfortunate hindrance, though, never stopped Ryan from dedicating most of his day to fostering faith in college students like me. He just poured into us. We could talk about anything. When I returned to school for the fall of my second year, I was excited. Halfway through the quarter things seemed great: I had a lot of friends, classes were going well, and I was enjoying various chances to engage my faith life. But something was off. Even now I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was. In the midst of this hard time, where I just felt kind of blue, it was easy to turn to Ryan.
I remember telling him one day, “I just wish that I loved God more.” Maybe you’ve had moments of feeling this way, too: wishing you cared more, or had deeper devotion, or that your faith was more central to your life. I’ll never forget Ryan’s response: “Hayden,” he said, “even your love for God is a gift from God.” His words hit me hard. Rather than try to muster up more love, I had to accept the mysterious gift of God’s Spirit working that love in me.
Yet that’s not all. The amazing thing is that God used Ryan’s very words to grow my love for God. In other words, our love for God is a gift God gives in all kinds of ways, not least through our friendships of faith. My hope for us right now, then, is that we would find clever ways to sustain those friendships; those connections will remind us of God’s love for us. And when we abide in that love, we’ll find ourselves sharing it in ways we never expected. As Jesus says in John’s gospel:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NRSV)