How is it, that I can wake up on Valentines Day and feel like all the love is slowly being squeezed right out of me? Thirty-seven consecutive Valentines Days shared with my husband Joel, and here I was entering this one with a melancholy attitude I couldn’t identify.
I should have prepared myself for the unexpected low, as I had just said hard good-byes to my brother and sister who were visiting here in the Philippines.
While my brother was doing ministry work in the Province, I enjoyed two remarkable weeks together with my eldest sister. Each day was hinged with laughter, reminiscent memories of experiences from days gone by, the creation of new memories recorded on my I-Phone, and opportunities to show her my world in the Philippines. Despite both of us being sick at the same time, we didn’t skip a beat in sharing and embracing each day. It was just so nice to see family!
Even though my brother was away for most of those two weeks, the few days I did see him were like a gold ring being placed on my finger. He always has a way of taking my problems and putting them into palatable bite size pieces that become manageable again. His pastoral wisdom opens my eyes to look beyond the old and causes me to glimpse through a new lens and watch with astonishment as the murky, suddenly becomes clear again.
But despite our amazing visit, I wasn’t ready for how low their leaving would take me. I had tasted family, and now I missed it in even a greater way, with their leaving.
But God has a way of gifting us with just what we need when we are feeling low. He has a way of entering our lives and showing up, in the least expected places. This happened to me this morning when I met Victor.
I had just walked outside our apartment to go on a morning walk with my husband, Joel. As I approached the elevator I saw a man that I had never seen before.
Right away he said to me, “Do you preach the Bible?”
Wow! What an introductory statement from someone I had never met. Smiling, I told him that we do read and teach the Bible.
Then he preceded to ask; “Are you a Christian?”
Surprised again with his bold question, I answered with a joyful, “Yes!”
With my affirmative response, he then began to unfold his story of how he had been raised in a Catholic home. Later in life he began reading the Bible for himself. And it was through reading the Bible, that he began to realize that salvation does not come through repetitive works to earn God’s favor; but through having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that the assurance of heaven can be attained.
As I tuned-in, to the bold authenticity of this story, my heart began to sing. Was the glory of God so evident in our lives that this sweet Filipino man could feel the freedom to share with us about his newfound faith?
The conversation continued as we stepped into the elevator and began to travel slowly down from the 37th floor, stopping to let other residence on.
In the small elevator I could tell others were listening in. Yet not once did he pause in conversation or hesitate in boldly continuing to share his salvation story with us. As we traveled to the ground floor he continued to excitedly tell us about how he personally came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
As we stepped off the elevator we let other residence pass by and slowly drifted towards the side of the corridor. As we stopped to continue our engagement with this amazing man, he immediately thrust out his right hand, and with a big, bright smile said, “Did I tell you that I’m Victor?”
His joy was contagious as with a broad smile and great animation he said; “I guess I’m just thirsty to know more about the Bible!”
As I look back on what began as a hard day for me, a deep joy settled over my heart. An instant smile wreathed my face as I rehearse in my mind our conversation and connection with Victor.
The verse in John’s gospel, chapter three came to mind; “For God so loved Victor, that He gave his one and only Son, named Jesus. That if Victor believes in Him, Victor shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 – paraphrase mine)
Victor has discovered new life. He no longer has to live a life earnestly trying to earn favor with God or wondering if his life and works are good enough to merit him heaven, when he dies.
How beautiful that Victor has realized that there is nothing he can do to earn or merit God’s love or favor. The everlasting love of God has been extended directly to Victor as a gift. Nothing to earn. Nothing to merit. Completely free!
That’s how God’s salvation is. Salvation doesn’t come after we have done amazing acts of service, or sacrificial acts of kindness to cover or appease all the bad we have done in this life; this is a gift from God and is offered freely to all.
The emotional struggles I experienced today as my husband and I reminisced about my sister and brothers visit, the hard conversations regarding our future, and the loneliness that can swoop in as we think about being so far from family; all were brought into perspective in meeting Victor.
Victor reminded me that I am Linda Jane, uniquely different by God’s incredible design. And when I live feely out of this design I represent Christ to a lost world. And people like Victor can walk up to me and see something different in me and ask me; “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?”
Even after several deep conversations with my husband about our future I still don’t have the answers; but one thing I do know, today I was in the Philippines for Victor. I became someone in whom Victor could vibrantly share his faith with. Someone with whom he could say; “I’m hungry to know more!” Someone in whom he could spiritually identify with.
Just one day after meeting Victor we headed out for our morning walk. As we finished our final steps we turned the corner and walked right into Victor and his father. After introductions were made, we shook hands, and I immediately took-in Victors big, broad smile.
A smile of redemption and grace. A smile that said to me that Valentine’s Day is all about showing love to one another, but the greatest love is found in having a relationship with Jesus Christ! A relationship Victor had found!
In the past four days, we have had three Filipino’s come to us with similar stories, much like Victor’s. With either the desire to share their new-found faith in Jesus Christ or sharing a heart that is searching for spiritual truth. Each one is hungry in different ways, but we recognize that all are wanting more of God’s amazing love.
When we live freely, as the person whom God-created us to be, we reflect His glory to the world around us. People like Victor will seek us out, and we will be able to touch them with the astounding love of Christ.
Does your life reflect the abundant love of Christ?
• What keeps you from boldly sharing God’s love with others?
• Are you willing to ask God to direct someone to you who is hungry to know more about God’s love?
• What steals your joy and keeps you from reflecting God’s love?
• What keeps you from living fruitfully as a woman who is created in God’s unique design?
“God, help me to not give in to what will steal the joy you have given to me; whether it be joy-stealers that come in the form of anxiety for my future, unmet desires for our children, longings for family members, blocked personal goals, or my deep desire to know how to live purposefully out of my passion and unique design.
God, it is my desire to live joyfully out of all you have given to me and created me to be. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You, the champion who initiates and perfects my faith. Help me to realize this today, as I lay before you the list of questions – that seem to have no answers right now.
Thank you, God, that there is nothing in this world that can ever separate me from Your presence! You are with me right now during this deep turmoil that I am feeling, and you understand.”
Personal Prayer is written from the following scriptures: (Philippians 4:6-8; Philippians 4:4; Psalm 89:15-16; Psalm 37:4; Hebrews 12:2; Romans 8:38-39)
“God, as I read your Word I hear you saying to me; “My Daughter, peace, be still. Rest in my love. Trust in my presence, for I am here with you right now. Rely on my goodness, and I will show you the very best pathway for you to follow. Fear nothing, for I am always with you!
Dear One, I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I freely give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
So, do not allow your heart to be troubled and do not be afraid. There is no need to fear because I am with you. I will never leave you nor will I ever-ever forsake you. So be strong and courageous!
I am the LORD your God and I will personally go ahead of you. I will neither fail you nor abandon you. For you are my Beloved daughter, and I love you with an everlasting love. “
Prayer response is written from the following scriptures of the New Living Translation of the Bible: (Isaiah 41:13; John 14:27; Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Jeremiah 31:3)
“Psalm 63 NLT
O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Linda Jane Dingeldein celebrates the hardworking, Filipino women who work at the Baguio farms!
Photography by Linda Jane Dingeldein