“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
We are well into the season of Lent, where our theme has been “Quiet.” It has been a time of solitude, of intentional silence – to experience the presence and receive the grace of our Lord. A time of receiving, of being loved. And what, then, is our response to this gift of grace? John said it best, “We love…” “We love because he first loved us.” Or to flip the sequence –
“Because we first are loved, we go out to be loving.
Because we first are blessed, we go out to be a blessing.
Because we first receive grace, we go out to be more gracious.
Because we first are served, we go out – on this Great Day – to be of service.
In her recent novel, Karen Russell writes, “It is a special kind of homelessness… to be evicted from your dreams.”
Many of us today will go out to serve those who have received just such an eviction. She had dared to dream, and she dreamed big. She was going to be the first in her family to go to college. “I’m going to make something of myself,” she said. She wanted to be a nurse. You may meet her today. She had a dream. But that dream collided with the reality of poverty, bad breaks and poor choices… and she finds herself, broken and defeated, a single parent with no job, no high school diploma living at one of the agencies we are going to serve today. She is trying to survive and to sort out where to go from here without a dream to guide her.
“It is a special kind of homelessness… to be evicted from your dreams.”
This young woman, and countless others, need us today. They need our support, our kindness. We will also be doing some digging and planting and painting – and they will appreciate that. But what will touch their hearts is our support, our caring, a word of encouragement.
They have suffered, along with the loss of their dreams, the loss of self-respect and self-confidence. So much of one’s self-identity is from what they see mirrored in the eyes of others. And being treated with dignity and respect are virtually absent from their daily lives. They have known indignities and disrespect we can only imagine.
But that will change today.
They will look into a different mirror in your eyes. They will hear a different tone in your voice. From you they will know loving-kindness and compassion. From you they will hear a tone of respect that can make all the difference in helping them begin to feel worthy and worthwhile.
It may even start some on the path to reclaiming their self-respect,
maybe even their dreams.
I have a friend who is a physician in South Carolina. His name is John. He is retired from his practice and consults with hospitals in the region. One morning an oncologist invited John to join him for rounds with his residents. They went into a woman’s room who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. The doctor and his residents did what they do in describing the diagnosis, the prognosis, upcoming treatment, then the back and forth with questions.
Throughout all of this, this dear woman, feeling so terribly awkward and exposed, was nervously fidgeting and wringing her hands. Finally, they were finished, and as they were about to leave her room the physician asked John if he would like to add anything. He stepped up to the side of her bed, looked at her with the kindest eyes, and said, “Christina, you have the busiest hands I’ve ever seen. May I hold them?”
There, in front of God and everybody, this doctor she had never laid eyes on sat on the edge of her bed and held her hands. There they talked like old friends as if there were no one else in the room. They talked about her cancer, the treatment, playfully talked about her upcoming wig, and even where she went to church. The conversation concluded, he patted her hands, said “goodbye,” and they all left her room.
The following day, as she was about to be discharged, her physician came by to see her. He said he hoped she had been treated well during her stay. She assured him she had, listing all those who had been so kind. Then she added, “You know, that doctor who came with you? When he sat on my bed, held my hands, and we talked, that’s when I knew I could deal with this.”
John was later to add, “She wasn’t healed, but she was made whole.”
In your respect and compassion with those you meet today, you, too, in your own way, will take their hands and – though their struggles will not disappear – by your loving-kindness their hearts will be touched and by the grace of God they will be made whole.