Friday, July 28, 2017

When We're Made for Relationship and We Are Dying Without It


Someone asked me to give a little Sam update every day and I said no. Here's why: Bringing Sam, my dying neighbor, into my home, is overwhelmingly hard and I'm not good at it yet. It's all-consuming, and I need to talk, and write, about something else when I can. 

We've done what I said we would, and it doesn't seem remarkable to me. I knew it would be hard, and it is. I also knew I would get used to it, and I will. I'm not there yet, but it won't take long. I hope. 

Before much time has passed, I'll begin to see the humor in the midst of the struggle, and laugh about it. I'm not there yet, either, but it's not far away. When I reach that sweet point, our struggles will be fodder for humorous stories. We'll all laugh together about how good God is in the midst of a trial. 

Sam's a sweet man who needed a place to stay. I had extra room. Loving my neighbor as I love myself requires that, if they have a need and I can meet it, I should. So I have. 

A friend of mine had that same attitude when someone she knew needed a liver transplant. She offered a piece of her liver. Her neighbor had a need and she could meet it, so she offered to do it. 

There's nothing heroic or amazing about this kind of giving. I'm doing what Jesus clearly described in Scripture. This is what sacrificial love looks like. We're all supposed to love like this. The world would be a different place if we did. It would be the place Jesus intended when He suffered, died, and rose again for our sins.

Within twenty-four hours of moving Sam to my house, he was better. Eating a little. Drinking more protein drinks. Gaining strength. He's getting around with his walker now. Joking. Tapping his foot to music. Talking for hours with visitors. 

He was dying, with mere days to live, but the interaction with people and the constant care have made a difference. His life has been prolonged. No doubt about it.

We were made for relationship, and Sam's living proof that we can die without it. He nearly did. A daily visit and two or three phone calls a day would be enough for me, I think, but not for Sam. He's an extrovert who needs lots of interaction. 

I'm an introvert who needs lots of alone time. Sam's need has collided with my own. I've sacrificed my need for his, because that's what we're supposed to do.

Here's how the Message explains it:

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care - then do me a favor...Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand." Philippians 2:3

"Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand."

I'm forgetting myself for a while and lending a helping hand, in the name of Jesus, just as Scripture tells us to do. 

This is supposed to be the default behavior for Christians. We're all supposed to be doing something with this same degree of love.

One day, we'll have the opportunity to explain to Jesus why we did or didn't love like this. I'll explain why I delayed so long. "Sam didn't want to move," won't be the real reason. "I wanted to keep my space to myself," will be. 

I've repented of my selfishness more than once. I've been forgiven. I'm pressing on. 

I don't think I'll have to explain how hard it is, how many tears I've cried, how I can't begin to comprehend how much better Sam is after a simple change of location. 

I'll say one thing with certainty. The Spirit of God helped me through. Just like Jesus said He would. This is a hard kind of love, and we never have to do it alone. 

This love, my friends, is unstoppable. We can change the world with it, if we will. So let's get started today. There are more than enough Sam's to go around. 

Don't merely read about love. Ask God who's waiting for your love, then give it. 

Love big. Love hard. Stun the world with the love of Jesus. It's difficult, but worth it. 

"This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."  John 15:12 nasb
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