There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13
This is one of those scriptures that sounds lovely, but may be easier said than done when it comes to execution. When called upon to put aside my plans, wants and desires to “show up” for friends and family, do I? And if so, am I gladly doing it or grudgingly?
Scripture says, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another…” (See Romans 13:8) Does that mean it’s enough to just call and say, “I love you”? I’ve often heard that love is not a feeling, but an action. So how do I put my love in action when my friends and family are hurting? And will my choice of action satisfy my debt of love?
The first quarter of 2017 has gotten quite personal for me, and not in a good way. All around me there has been some form of stress, anxiety, disappointment, illness, injury and death. Each of these things has touched someone near and dear to me which touches me too. My heart strings have been tugged to the point that there’s a constant ache in my chest. There are so many people in my life going through right now that I have found myself mentally juggling them and my own self-care to the point I feel like I’ve dropped the ball at times. Do you also have a list of folks that it seems imperative that you show up for or check in on that is growing? I’ve juggled during this period to the point of dropping balls for those closest to me. Not good. Prioritizing and adjusting have taken on new meaning for me.
When I can’t gauge the expectations of what it looks like to “show up” for someone, I must ASK. James wrote that, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (See James 4:2) I’m not a mind reader. Therefore, I must ask my loved ones what they need from me. Love in action varies by individual. So I have to ask them, “What do you need me to do?” “What may I do to help you?” I also have to determine whether their request is workable with my other responsibilities. Guilt is real. I’ve had to learn that an honest “no” is better than a begrudgingly dishonest “yes”. Those who love me will understand my limitations and still love me.
Gary Chapman simplifies love in action by identifying the five love languages by which people feel loved as – Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I probably tend to show love the way I want to receive it. Most of us probably do. However, it takes effort to learn the love language of others and express love to each individual in their preferred language. This requires intimate knowledge of them. Have I taken the time to get to know the love language of those closest to me? If not, I need to ask them.
Also, I need to learn to let myself off the hook. I’m my own worst critic. So even though I may have shown up with my best intentions, I still expect more of myself. I’ve had to pray about this, and now write about it as a way of healing the part of me that feels that I’m not enough or have not done enough. My friends and family may be well taken care of by a network of other supportive ministering angels and I’m picking my effort apart as if I’m all they have. I need to let that thought go and embrace the reality that if I’ve prayed for them, physically shown up even if just present (when I can’t find the words to encourage)… Even when I’m not enough, GOD IS. This is why Jesus emphasized the importance of prayer and faith in achieving what seems impossible or insurmountable odds. (See Mark 9:24 and Matthew 17:20)
At this time, I’ve had to admit, just like the afflicted boy’s father admitted, “I trust. Help my lack of trust.” So I trust that just as He’s helping my loved ones at this time, through the Holy Spirit and loved ones, He’s helping me cope as well. ❤