Last night we made an unexpected trip to the WalMart, 10 miles away from home. My daughter and her “special friend” were with me. The original plan was to make a quick trip to the Bi-Mart in town to grab a few needed items, but because it was after 7:00 on a Sunday night, Bi-Mart was already closed. Oh the joys of living in a sleepy little town . . . I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
We drove to WalMart, listening and singing along to Pandora, picked up the needed items (plus a few extra, which is ALWAYS the case if WalMart is involved) and got in the car to drive back home. But this time, I sensed that it would be important to leave the music off and just chat. There was a bit of an awkward silence at first, until I asked my daughter to tell me a story. There’s nothing like a story to pave the way for good conversation.
My daughter’s reply was, “I can’t think of any. You tell us a story.” I thought for a minute and finally asked if she wanted to hear the story of her Dad and me. Although, she had heard most of it before, what kid doesn’t want to hear the story of their mom and dad? I proceeded, for the next 20+ minutes, to recount the details from 6th grade until our wedding day. My daughter and “special friend” were listening intently, making little comments here and there to show me they were engaged in the conversation. What started out as a simple story to pass time, became a teachable moment as I shared details and information that they could relate to.
One of the details that became apparent throughout my story is what a stinker I was in how I often treated my husband, before he was my husband. It was painful and hard for me to be vulnerable and admit that I was such a stinker, especially when my daughter would comment, “Mom, I can’t believe you!” I finished my story by sharing how my husband and I chose to honor God by waiting until we were married to have sex and how we honored my parents by waiting until after I graduated from college to get married. I graduated on May 10th and was married on May 27th (20 years ago this May!).
When the story was over, “special friend” said, “It’s hard for me to imagine you as such a stinker.” What a perfect opportunity to share how God’s love changes people . . . I told him that the difference between me then and me now is because of two people, Jesus and my husband. They both have shown me unconditional love. At that moment, I realized how blessed I have been to have not only Jesus’ unconditional love, but my husband’s as well. They both loved me when I was difficult to love. And because they did, I have been changed. That selfish, immature, self-centered, prideful, unloving girl has changed little by little into a woman who thinks of others and loves deeply. Only God can do that! But, He did it with a little help of a young man who was long-suffering in his love for me.
Now don’t miss the point of this story, it wasn’t my husband’s job to change me. And it isn’t your job to change someone else, such as your spouse, child, sibling, friend, co-worker, etc. . . Only God can do that! It wasn’t my husband’s intent to change me, just to love me. Love changes people, but they have to be willing to cooperate with the process. I am not responsible to change others, just to love them. It’s God’s job to change as they cooperate with Him. There may be people in your life that you have loved very well, yet they remain unchanged. That’s on them, not you. Commit them to God and pray that they will cooperate with Him and keep on loving in appropriate ways, even if that means loving from a distance.
But what about you . . .
- Are you allowing God’s love to soften your heart?
- Do you receive His unconditional love, whether you feel like you deserve it or not?
- Who do you love unconditionally?
- Are you trying to change them, or just loving them for love’s sake?
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! 1 John 4:7-12, The Message
Your Friend in Ministry,