A few weeks ago I had a death in my family - it was so unexpected and left us all reeling. Death has an uncanny way of reminding you of all the things you already know but have somehow forgotten or taken for granted. Things like each day is a gift from God, none of us know when our appointed time is, don't miss an opportunity to let the people you love know just how much they mean to you. As I sat at the funeral and listened to the emotional eulogies given by my cousins for their beloved father I had a glimpse of the magnitude of pain they were experiencing for the loss they had suffered. A day before Father's Day having to lay to rest their dad. That day when I had time to reflect on the sorrow & all the wonderful memories of my uncle whilst growing up, I recalled an incident that took place the day before whilst at my nail technician.
I had arrived at the salon to find her chair empty. I was feeling rather anxious because I had little time before having to drive to my family's home for the service that night & had been unable to reschedule this appointment without settling for a month delay. She soon arrived but I could tell she was completely distracted & kept checking her phone. She then apologized explaining that her university going son who lives in student residence had not been in contact with her. They had an unspoken rule that even if he didn't want to chat with his mum she would send him a message saying "All ok?" to which he would respond with a thumbs up emoticon. I found this arrangement rather peculiar but having done youth ministry for a few years I quickly reminded myself that this is pretty normal for your average teenager or young adult. He hadn't acknowledged her message since she had sent it the day prior though which is what had her in a flat spin. She toyed with the idea of calling the housing body but feared that he would be embarrassed by her mothering. So she continued to call and send messages. She even sent him data in case he was unable to contact her due to lack of funds. Still nothing! By now she was somewhat frantic. Finally a little while later a beep and lo and behold a message from him indicating he was all fine. I immediately saw a sense of total relief come over her. And then as she seemed to relax she blurted out "Do yourself a favour & don't love anything or anyone - it's just too painful!"
The statement left me somewhat intrigued and stayed with me for days after. I realised that my cousins weren't sorrowful because they had risked loving their dad and it now brought them pain but rather that they would no longer feel that love that they had been accustomed to, the love that only a father can give. We all risk experiencing pain when we love even our parents, spouses, children, family and friends- because the day our loved one is called to heaven we will feel the pain of their earthly absence. Does that mean we shouldn't have loved in the first place? We sort of do it naturally without even thinking. Most people shut off their inclination to love because they never know if that love will be reciprocated. God calls us to love one another with no conditions attached, and boy is that difficult to do in the world we live in but isn't it what we should be striving for in spite of the possible outcome? It is often easy, and I say that cautiously, to love those closest to us, but what about the strangers we meet randomly or during outreach events for instance - whether it be with Acts of Love or in your own capacity?
I once came across a quote that said, "You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you!" What a profound statement that in essence captures the interaction that takes place at an outreach. The love and kindness you show in that moment, in that word, in that hug or in that smile - you are likely never to receive anything for it and you may never know the effect or see the effect it has on that person. But what if we dared to think that very small act of love was able to change the course of that person’s life. We would all try so much harder to demonstrate love. I have spoken to many volunteers who have gone away from outreaches having enjoyed being a blessing to someone but also at the same time experiencing something life changing within themselves - a clearer perspective, an appreciation for life and blessings, a passion to do so much more than just exist. I think that love has the power to transform not just the recipient but also the giver. There is power in love that expects nothing in return. If we just consider the great exchange we will see the ultimate expression of love. God sent his only son Jesus to die for each of us, knowing full well that we would never be able to repay Him no matter what we did and that one day in some way or the other we would disappoint Him, reject Him, doubt Him, question Him ultimately bringing Him pain. Yet the sacrifice was made, the price paid. This is the true example of love that we are called to emulate - Christ centered love that has no need or want for self-gain and risks it all to love anyway.
I'm a big fan of the initiative of a young lady called "Girl with Cake". Her concept is so simple yet so striking - she bakes a cake and gives it to someone random - a street sweeper, a municipal gardener, someone standing at the robot. The way I see it is that the cake isn't the important thing - it's the love that is behind it, it's the conversation that ensues when she gives the cake, it's the kindness that makes a difference to the recipient of the cake. Making someone feel loved, special & appreciated could very well inspire them to change their life and their world. This is an expression of love in the way she knows how with all the risk of appearing crazy, being rejected or frowned upon but she does it anyway. It is likely she will never meet these people again, they will never repay her directly, but she hopes the kindness she shows them in a few minutes will make a lasting impact on their lives. So many people go through life never feeling loved & it utterly destroys them! We can be the kind of people who show love with no expectation of anything in return & no fear of rejection. We may never know the impact but we must see the potential in every situation to make a difference & love in spite of ourselves.
The day after my uncle's funeral, on Father's day, my beautiful niece was born - a child we had prayed for as a family for years. God heard and He answered because here she is! The day I got to hold her in my arms, this precious baby that God had knit together in her mother’s womb, I immediately fell in love. She doesn't know me yet, she hasn't done a thing to cause me to love her, she is unable to reciprocate the immense love I have for her yet I still love her. Shouldn't we look at each person we encounter like a new born baby - unable to return our love, having done nothing to make us love them yet we feel compelled to love them with the love of Christ anyway.
A friend of mine recently made reference to the popular scripture 1 Corinthians 13 on his Facebook wall and I thought his comment to be so apt. He starts with quoting the 8th verse of that scripture which says "Love Never Fails...So if you want to win in everything you do - simple - Do it by Love". That just blows me away. Want to be a winner, apply love to everything you do. It's the winning formula! Certainly food for thought...
Till next time...stay happy, healthy and blessed & love the socks off every unsuspecting person you meet! You will be better for it & so will they!