My best friend growing up got married this weekend, and it was a blast. If you’ve been to a wedding that wasn’t fun, they weren’t doing it right. Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding! He turned water into wine. If He was good with the wedding being fun, I’m good with it, too. (Excuse the happy couple photo bombing us in the background!)
They say the L Word a lot at weddings. LOVE is the word of the day! It’s a happy occasion. Life is good. People are cleaned up and on their best behavior. The future is bright, full of promise and hope. Plenty of laughter, happy tears, eating, drinking and being merry!
Using, and even feeling, the L word at a wedding is fairly effortless. Where the rubber hits the road is trying to love people when they’re not cleaned up, when they’re miserable, crying, and full of despair, when their lives are messy.
Back during the bleakest time of my life, which I affectionately call The Dark Night of the Soul, people would see me in Walmart and react in one of four ways. I can’t see people’s hearts, so I don’t know for sure, but I’ll describe how I perceived each scenario.
1. Give me a hug, say, “I’m so sorry” and tell me they were praying for me. Yes, yes and yes! I had never needed a hug, never needed sympathy, never needed prayer more in my life. When faced with seeing someone hurting, you don’t need to worry if you don’t have the words to say. Just love on them.
2. Ask me how I was doing. Not the sincere kind of “how are you?” asked out of true concern, but the rude, sarcastic kind we Southerners are infamous for — the “bless your heart, you got a little too big for your britches and got taken down a notch or two, didn’t you?” sort. I didn’t want to talk about it, even if I perceived sincerity, so my standard go to line was, “I’m hanging in there, like a hair in a biscuit.” (That, friends and neighbors, is called a Southernism. There will henceforth be many of those in this blog. Prepare thyself.)
3. Act like they didn’t see me and go down a different aisle. I could sort of understand this one. Sometimes you just don’t know what to say to someone, and rather than say the wrong thing, avoidance seems like the easiest choice in the moment. I felt like hollering, “I don’t blame you! If I could avoid my life, I would, too! I’m a lost cause, but save yourselves!”
4. Glare at me in undisguised and unashamed disgust and turn away in a huff. Having been in church my whole life, I knew this one was going to happen. I had fallen from grace. Sadly, somehow, somewhere along the way, someone decided people with broken lives are bad advertisements for the church.
Once, I remember shaking my head and saying out loud in the middle of the cereal aisle, “Lord, protect me from Your followers.”
Not that I’ve always been loving to everyone, mind you. However, I do try to be kind and loving, and I’ve tried to apologize to those I have hurt and asked their forgiveness. None of us are guiltless in this area. But Jesus gave us this goal in John 13:35:
“By this everyone will know that You are My disciples, if you love one another.”
He didn’t say they’ll know us by how we’re dressed. Or where we go to church, or IF we go to church, or how we look, or how we talk, or where we’re from, or what music we listen to, or what we eat or drink. The true mark of a Disciple of Christ is LOVE. No other litmus test. Just love.
So if you’re wondering what to do with yourself this happy Monday, try this: Love people. We’re all fighting a battle of some form, and the world already has enough anger, hatred and judgment. Someone in your path today feels defeated, scared, hopeless and unloved. You know what it feels like to be torn down. So build people up. Hold the door for someone at the grocery store. Tell the bank teller she looks pretty. Wave at your neighbor mowing his yard. Tell the grieving widow you’ll pray for her, and actually DO IT. Speak a kind word to the lady at work who is always nasty.
And if YOU’RE the one who’s always nasty, for Pete’s sake, stop it. People with broken lives aren’t the ones who are bad advertisements for Jesus . . . .