It’s often those big life shake ups that mold us into becoming a new person and give us a better definition of how we want life to unfold. They let us become hyper focused for a period of time on the things that really matter and give us new priorities, new outlooks, and new goals of transforming ourselves and our future.
We recently experienced a deep terrible loss in our extended family. One of those kinds that shocks and rocks you to the core. You question everything around you. You question your very existence, your purpose and your core values. And then as the grief begins to settle, you see yourself and everything else from a distance. You formulate a new outlook. Life is so much more fragile than you thought. The cries and disturbances of your beautiful precious children become welcoming sounds. That dirty sock in the corner is amazing because someone you loved wore it on their foot. The dishes in your sink might as well be bars of gold, because they meant you had a family meal together. You love every particle of hardened cheese on your carpet. Even the dust bunnies look like floating angels dancing across your wood floors. You yearn to do better. You promise yourself, you will do better. You will not take one second for granted. Not one hair on their head. Not one.
A Call to Give
It was in the middle of the heavy mourning that I repeatedly found myself in awe of the true community that came together and surrounded the grieving with love and support, a freezer full of food, wide open arms and couch conversations, deep embraces, and genuine, pure love. The hairs on my arms still stand straight up just thinking about it. Never have I known the depths of such great loss, but never have I known the depths of such great love. It was a spiritual awakening. And the call to give hit me hard.
As mothers we are nearly always putting our children and spouses first. We are used to pushing our own needs and desires aside for those we love. That’s nothing new. Housework, bills, school lunches, and soccer practices; a mother’s schedule is not her own. And for most of us, this is where our heart is. We gladly and lovingly give up our day and our desires for the happiness and health of our home and family. We give and give and give. And now I’m asking you to give more. Yep, that’s right, give some more.
And I know what you’re going to say…. “but I’m already to the edge, and any more giving will push me over.” This is not about pushing you to the brink of exhaustion. Or to the edge of your sanity. I’m asking you to give in a different way than you probably ever have before….I’m asking you to love your neighbor as yourself.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.
I was hit over the head with this commandment in church this past week. In the middle of all the grief, the man upstairs was clubbing me repeatedly with these heavy instructions. I saw first hand what this looked liked in a time of deep despair and I also knew I was falling way short in my everyday life. It’s easy to become complacent. To make excuses as to why we can’t fulfill this simple, yet strong handed commandment.
…There are far too many things to be done with my day and nap times have been too short lately
…That teething toddler is too clingy for me to make anything in the kitchen, let alone an extra meal to deliver.
…I can’t manage to make it to the store this week to pick anything up.
…I don’t have the time to make a call.
…I just can’t add anything else to my calendar this week.
I’m going to be blunt with myself and you. These are selfish excuses. I promise you the extra time and inconvenience the task of giving may burden you with will far be outweighed by the blessings bestowed to the person on the receiving on. You will reap all that you sow when it comes to giving.
The needs of others, of our neighbors, shouldn’t be so far removed from our daily thoughts that we only think of giving love, comfort, and support in times of great tragedy. It’s easy to give and to recognize needs in our communities and social circles when they are extra flashy, like when natural disasters strike or when something tragic happens. It’s more difficult for us to focus on others’ needs in the thick of the everyday “stuff.” But this is where I’m asking you to give from; give of your time and of yourself in the thick of everyday life.
Where to Start?
I resolved to change myself and my priorities. To carve out time and give intentionally. More friendship, more help, more expressions of love. I will pick up the phone and call the neighbor who has suggested she likes Chinese but has no one to dine with. I will invite her out to the best Chinese in town. I will genuinely listen to all her stories I’ve heard her tell a million times through the fence, and tell her I care about her and appreciate her warmth, and that we love having her right next door. I will give my time.
That friend that just posted about the horrible toddler meltdown at the grocery store… I will take it as a call for help. I will ring her up on the telephone and I will let her tell me all about the horrors of the Ring Pop tantrum. I will make her laugh and I will tell her, “I understand.” I will invite her over for chocolate and tea and I will push aside the pile of laundry for friendship. I will give support.
And that family that has been on lockdown with influenza of the worst kind, I will bake them some banana bread and some homemade chicken noodle soup. I will offer to run to the store for them, or take the kids out of the house while the weary parents get some rest. I will brave the germs and extend myself a bit. I will give comfort.
With hatred and division running through our country, our cities and our communities, we need to extend an open hand and an open heart more than ever before. Let’s turn the course. Open your door to your neighbor, your oven to an extra casserole and your day to the new mom down the street whose one desire is a warm smile between a set of listening ears…and maybe an extra shot of espresso. Let’s all target a mother, a neighbor and a family, and let’s extend a bit of ourselves to them. Let’s show them what pure, unsolicited love is. Let’s set an example for our children and show them what intentional giving means. Let’s push ourselves to do a bit more in the middle of everyday life. Let’s love our neighbors as ourselves.
How will you give of yourself this week?