Love others by really being there for them

I’ve learned an awful lot from my daughter. The wonder and adventure of life with Jesus. The trust in him that is so simple and pure. The creativity that comes from looking at something from a relatively blank slate. The importance of really sinking into the perfect hug. She’s taught me a lot. Especially about how to notice people. She waves from our busy corner lot to everyone who drives by. She pets every dog who walks by and greet all of their owners. She tries to engage every possible person like there is seriously nothing more important in all the world to do. She’s taught me a lot about that.

And I have a lot to learn. Because I’m an adult, and I have an iPhone. And an inbox. And a busy job. And a busy mind. And perhaps most troubling of all—a busy heart. Most adults do. It’s what we’ve started calling “adulting,” right? What’s this have to do with reflecting God’s love in our community? Everything. Absolutely everything.

We’re not going to be available to the people in our community with an open hand and a warm smile and a ready conversation unless our hearts are unbusy. We’ll be there, but not really there. And I’m guessing you know exactly what I mean by that.

And the only person I know of who can change that in me is Jesus. He’s the one who unburdens my heart. Who can take my heart from a tossing sea and turn it into water that softly ripples. He does that by paying attention to me. By giving me his very real, personal attention through his Word. And when he does he tells me that is the one who gave himself not only to my heart, but for my heart. The one who came not only to forgive my turbulence but to lessen it, too—to secure me with his promises so that I don’t have to busy myself with . . . well . . . myself. I can be free—just plain free—to busy myself with the people I bump into along my path.

It’s actually quite the adventure—living that way, I mean. To see each person who I run across as someone to be loved right then and right there. To see that each intersection doesn’t merely have to be transactional. My family and I went to the zoo the other day, and we talked to the guy with the corn snake and really got to know him. And we went trick or treating, and we hit up the neighbors sitting by their doors with a smile and a name and a handshake. We chatted up the hygenist at the dentist’s office, wished the tired-looking cashier at Aldi a good day with a hearty thank you and a sincere smile. We pet the dog who walked down the street and talked about Goldendoodles with the owner. We even got into a conversation about Jesus and tacked on a very appropriate invite to our church at the Apple Store of all places. All because Jesus had made us emotionally and spiritually available as we were doing our callings in life.

I could write more about how we love our communities. Much more. Things about staffing soup kitchens or mowing lawns for the elderly or checking on neighbors who are sick. I’ll let someone else do that, though. What I want to say here and now is that my heart sees a culture that’s having a hard time looking up from a screen. And in a culture and community like that, perhaps the most important love my family can show in our Kroger’s and doctors’ offices and restaurants and wherever else it is that we may be, is a face that not only looks up, but also looks at those around us with a heart and a mind that’s spiritually and emotionally available. That’s a powerful, powerful gift we all can give—a gift we’ve all personally received in spades from Jesus. He’s the one who frees us to simply and truly be there in a moment for others.

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