Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How will they know Me?

Today, I am going to let you in on an issue God and I have been "working" on. This isn't going to be flattering to me. Rarely are my issues flattering to me. But, for the love of authenticity here goes:

I have been a walking, seeking, Christ-follower for 16 years. I have learned many hard lessons and walked many rough miles with the Lord. He has shaped me and molded me, at times gently, and other times ruthlessly. So, to be fair, I do have some lessons filed under "nailed it".

But this simple, elementary, YEAR ONE, basic Christian lesson, I have quietly and secretly filed under "inept".

And here it is: Love others.

Let me explain. People can drive me crazy. People can be idiots and I should not be required to LOVE them. They can be flat out dangerous. People inflict pain and heartache so I learned how to keep myself safe from people.

Turns out, I am a master wall builder. I can build a wall fast enough to make your head spin. And they are thick. They are impervious to all forms of attack. They can keep out ANYONE. So, instead of trusting people, I built walls. It kept me safely inside and potential sneak attackers outside. 

Years of keeping people at an arms length, safely outside the walls, had me a master at people avoidance. People getting too close to me physically or emotionally left me very uncomfortable. I've mastered the duck and sneak down grocery isles when seeing someone I knew. I found it easier to avoid than engage. If I avoided people or at least deep conversations or deep relationships, I couldn't be hurt. This had just been a lifelong skill that I developed. It brought me comfort and I had made peace with it. 

But about 6 months ago I felt my heart de-rail. I sat down to talk with the Lord and I heard a very still and very quiet, "Tara, if you love Me, you love My people." I sat there thinking about all the people I love. Tim. My kids. My family. And a few people in my church. And smiled. I answered, "I know Lord. I love them."

End scene.

Isn't it just oh-so-precious how we think we can end a conversation with GOD the Almighty, Creator and Master of the entire universe?

Every single time I sat down to read my bible, pray, listen to worship music, cook, shower, sleep,  I heard, "If you love Me, you love My people."

GAH!! I know! I know Lord!

In one of my more mature moments I replied to GOD, "Yes, Lord, I LLLOOOVEEEE Your people. I serve many of them at church. I lead a bible study. I feed them. I clean up after they come over to eat. SEEEEEE??? LOVE LOVE LOVE. Lord, You know me, THAT IS HOW I LOVE."

Close bible, say amen, turn off worship music. done.

And still I heard, "If you love ME, Tara, you love My people."

I opened a new book I'd picked up and the first chapter broke out John 21 and the whole "Peter, if you love Me, feed my sheep..."  More wisdom oozed forth as I said, "Lord, I love the people you put close to me. But if you are talking about loving the FRINGE sheep, the ones with RABIES... those sheep BITE, Lord. Surely You don't want me loving the rabid sheep."

I began to talk to Tim about how I felt the Lord wanted us to go find the homeless and lost and marginalized and serve them. I shared what God was saying over and over to me and I told Tim I had come to the conclusion we needed to serve in a homeless ministry or feed them a Thanksgiving meal or SOMETHING, because God wasn't going to let this go anytime soon.

Thanksgiving was approaching so we packed up the car and headed to my childhood home in Tyler. And this is where things got interesting. The Lord had an object lesson for me. I pray one of these days, I will not need the object lessons. But I am thick-headed so here we go:

On the day after thanksgiving as I packed my car, and was saying goodbye to family, I heard God tell me, "Hug them".


This is not something I normally do, (I am universally known in my family as the non-hugger-people-phobic) but being a bit broken and off-center, I obeyed. I hugged them. And I heard God say, "Don't let go until I tell you."

Let's just say some of those hugs were LONG. My recently adopted 5 yr old niece, Emmy, started with an awkward obligatory hug that turned into a baby clinging on for dear life. I wept and felt my heart physically move in my chest to get closer to her heart. I felt her grip soften, I felt her melt. And my heart broke. The dam released. And God moved in. I felt my boundaries dissolving and God saying, "If you love Me, you love My people".

I looked at this crew of a family. 
 I saw a sister turned young mom forced to grow up too early, a cousin fiercely loving two adopted, hurting babies, a newly widowed wife, an exhausted brand-new mom. And I saw the Redeemed.  My heart wanted to hug them and never let go. This was a wall coming down.

We got into the car and I began reading from a biblestudy book out loud to Tim.  I was crying and reading aloud from this book about how to love and serve the homeless and the marginalized. We were crying and praying together. 

Then I heard a squall from my 2 yr old. She had to pee and she had to pee RIGHT THEN. I hollered for Tim to pull over. Anywhere. He said there was NO WHERE to stop. 

Then he spotted a burned out gas station. I said, "Great! pull over and she can squat" (two seconds into screams and I'm going straight heathen-raised-by-apes)  He pulled over and then spotted an actually working gas station behind the burned gas station. Awesome. We are in business.

With tunnel vision I grabbed Cora and ran for the station. I didn't look around. I didn't take in my surroundings (have I mentioned we are awesome in crisis?!?).  I ran for the building and plunged on in. I saw the sign for the restroom and like a bull in a china shop I crashed in. Then as I grabbed Cora to hold her on the potty my tunnel vision faded and I saw blood and matter ALL over the restroom. As I froze, Cora began to pee in her pants. I held her over the horrific toilet and not letting the door close me in this murder scene?!? I freaked. I said, "Hurry! Hurry! Cora!!" and when she finished, I didn't even pull her pants up. I spun to leave and ran smack dab into my ash-faced son. 

He said, "Mom! I can't go in there!" He pointed to the boys room. He said, "There were cuss words written in poop on the walls." 

I said between clinched teeth, "Go to the car!" I pushed him towards the door and as we tried to pry open the door to leave my husband was on the other side.

I looked at Tim and said, "Go!" He looked at my face and although I was giving him the Holy-Crap-Eyes he said, "We can't go. The prostitutes outside are being vulgar and I don't want the boys to see."

I said, "I'll take prostitutes over blood and feces. GO!"

He grabbed my sons by their faces and we ran. We threw the kids in the car and got out of there. 

And not a word was spoken for miles. From anyone. And I heard, "If you love Me, you love My people."

I saw two completely different worlds that day. Are we to serve and love the lost, the homeless, the prostitutes and the desperate? ABSOLUTELY YES. This is not optional but a command of Christ's disciples. If we are attempting to model our lives after Christ then there is no question that He went after the very lost, the tax-collectors (in Roman society these were not IRS style tax collectors but stealing-to-fund-the-Roman-goverment's-murder-of-men-women-and-children type of tax-collectors) the sinners (the outcasts, homeless of Roman society) and His own flock (His disciples).

And perhaps the ones I struggle with loving the most? The ones in my very own flock. The ones sitting beside me in church. These are the very ones I built walls to keep out. Loving people means being vulnerable and getting bruised and beaten occasionally. I had only learned that keeping them at arms length kept me from getting bitten by some rabid sheep. But really, it keeps me from learning to love others.

Am I willing to risk bruises and sorrow and hurt in the call of obedience? Yes. Am I willing to do what He asks of me even when it scares the daylights out of me to take down protective walls? Yes. Is this hard for me? HECKS YES.

But because His radical, unconditional, sacrificial love for me was given when I was in the crowd spitting on Him I'll do whatever He asks. 

And I am marinating on this verse to help me love others when I want to run or scream or cry or vaccinate the rabid. 
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Why God walks us through the lessons He does at the times and ways He does I do not know. But I share this so that if you get an awkward hug, a weirdly placed, "I love you" or a bizarre ANYTHING from me, it's because we are working. God's leading me. He's teaching. He's whispering to me and I am listening.


scootingranny said...

Sitting here at the John Wayne Airport, reading this with tears running down my face while laughing at the same time.
Thank you Tara for such a wonderful post. love you...

joy said...

How previous a gift to see my great Gods spirit in you.

Darce said...

Tara, tomorrow when your mail arrives you will know, as I know now after reading your post, why you have been so much in my thoughts. I am so glad that I listened to His voice to get in touch even before I knew why.