Last month at the Venue, Pastor Juan asked us what our goals were for 2015. Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it here but one of my goals for 2015 is to be more hospitable. In January, I read a book that changed my life. It was one of those books that makes you want to buy it for everyone and their mother for Christmas. This particular book was “Bread & Wine” by Shauna Niequist (Amazon & GoodReads). From the first page, I fell in love with the book and the author. It was about hospitality but not in a preachy-preach way. It’s just a collection of essays and recipes. There’s not Bible verses scattered throughout the pages or devotionals at the end of each chapter. But you know how they say actions speak louder than words? This book is that phrase. I was touched just by the way this woman lives to be more hospitable. I didn’t need a verse or a preacher to tell me that’s how God wants us all to be.
Now I wouldn’t say I’m a cold-hearted person. Chris and I love to entertain and have people over. That wasn’t the area God wanted me to work on. He wanted me to work on be more loving and kind to those people in my life that I see every day, and just pass by. He wanted me to get know people on a deeper level and see the nitty gritty. He wanted me to see that there are people in my life that are less fortunate than me that are thirsty for His love.
I’ve been on missions trips and I’ve worked with people in communities that live in “the hood.” I’ve seen poverty in my home state and in foreign countries. But over the past few months (since December, to be be accurate), God has revealed to me a neighbor that He wants me to love. Since December I’ve been trying to set aside time to make cookies for her and her daughter. But every time I go to do it, I get busy and it gets pushed to the side. By continuously pushing off the simple act of baking cookies, I was neglecting my calling to love her.
But God finds a way. My neighbor actually reached out to me through my husband. She gave Chris a book to give to me in hopes that I would read it with her as a type of Bible study. So I did. I read a little bit and took notes. One day Chris texted me saying that our neighbor was having a really bad day and was wondering if I could give the book back. So I skipped the Venue that night and went over to her house with book in hand. I found out that night that she had just found out that she had cancer in her mouth and that her doctor told her she needed to get a will written out so that her daughter would go to a familiar family instead of being placed into foster care, if she died.
My neighbor who I kept putting off meeting and caring for was hurting badly. At one point, I was even sitting on the floor with her, holding her while she cried. I looked around her house and became very aware that she was not as fortunate as I. That night for dinner all she and her daughter had was a hamburger patty. I even saw something in her house that I had put out to the dumpster a few weeks prior because it was broken and I considered it ugly. She told me how she doesn’t work and her home and basic necessities are taken care of by the government but even sometimes that’s not enough. She told me how she constantly worries about having enough for her daughter and when she runs out of milk or bread, she just sits down and prays so that God will provide it for her. She even mentioned once she had to use shampoo to wash her clothes because she ran out of detergent and couldn’t afford more.
This is my neighbor. I am not on a missions trip or passing out outreach fliers in the inner city. This is my neighbor who has lived across the street from me for the past 2 years. Even though I am most likely moving in a few months, it’s become my personal mission to love this woman for as long as I’m living here.
The reality of loving someone the way God wants you to love them, is sometimes hard. To love someone how God loves, is to love beyond what you see, smell, and hear. It’s to love all of them, the pretty presentable parts and the dirty parts they try to hide. It’s to love when it’s inconvenient or when you don’t feel like it. It’s to love constantly and steadily, despite what’s going on in your life. It is dying to yourself and placing someone else’s needs and life above your own. This is God’s love.
Today is Valentine’s day and with the help of the Venue, we gave my neighbor and her daughter a huge care package of basic necessities, homemade cookies, and a card signed by everyone. It’s the day of love. We usually spend this day loving our spouses, boyfriend/girlfriend, and even ourselves. But it’s my challenge to you to love someone else. My challenge for you is to pray and ask God to show you someone He wants you to love. After that, my challenge is that you step out and show God’s love to someone who really needs it. Love your neighbor. Love your coworkers. Love the waitress that is working his/her butt off on one of the busiest nights of the year. Love a homeless person. Love a family member you haven’t said a word to in years.
Love the way that God loves.