I've come face to face with what it means to love . . .
and as beautiful as love is, it isn't always pretty.
My Christian upbringing, protected, good-girl, upper middle class, stylish, educated life often insulated me from the realities of a lost and broken world . . . from lost and broken individuals. Even though my parents were medical missionaries in New Guinea, and worked with the most primitive pagan people on the face of the earth, I don't remember it, and our return to suburbia never took me back to a place similar.
I've heard it said that sometimes you can't see the forest because of all the trees, but maybe, just maybe, we often miss the trees because of the forest. It's that forest where good, upstanding, Christian girls don't go because we might get lost. We can't go there because we might get dirty. It's the forest on the outskirts of town that we talk about, we pray about, we hope good things for, but we just don't visit because well, what might happen to us if we go there? It's the world of the lost, the broken, the different from us.
It's a forest made up of trees that up close, don't always looks so pretty. But there is life in there. A dwindling life that we are required to offer hope to - the hope of Jesus.
A Jesus kind of love sees individuals as eternal souls. It doesn't see them as false God worshipers, prostitutes, drunks, drug addicts, tattooed hippies, homosexual, disease ridden, sex addicted, homeless, poor, materialistic, dirty, or untouchable. Jesus had dirt beneath his fingernails, and on his nail pierced hands. His nostrils new the stench of disease and poor hygiene, and his feet knew the dusty paths to sinners' homes.
"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” ~ Luke 7:36-48
In recent years I have taken love to people and places I never thought in a million years I would be, and when His love reaches the hopelessness of those eternal souls, it is a breathless thing to experience. In an office, in a hospital, in an apartment, in a nursing home, in a shelter, on the street, in a bar, maybe even in a church pew - you will encounter them, and you will be changed when you love them.
I fail so often. My love falls short. I catch myself making judgements, but God's grace is sufficient as I pray for a greater love for all people. And I keep asking these questions, "Am I willing to go to the forest? Am I seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching the "ugly" trees of that mysterious place in hopes to bring a new fragrance, a new song, and a new life there?"
Am I helping Jesus make all things new? Do I love like he did? Are my fingernails dirty?