Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love Them Wherever They Are

There's a lesson I've been learning over the last few years and recently I've had opportunity to share it with others. It's a difficult lesson to absorb in our American culture. It often goes against the very nature of our being. If you're a compassionate, loving helper who just wants to offer the same blessings that have been given to you, this may be a lesson you have to mentally fight against over and over again:

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

I've been in more than one conversation this winter where dreamers ask the obvious question:  What do we do to help the homeless get off the street? I respond audibly or in my mind (if voicing it wasn't appropriately timed) this phrase that is becoming my mantra for service and ministry:

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

As we have served dinner monthly at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky and in my mind I have begged the questions of my Abba, Where will these grandmothers go for the summer when the shelter is closed? Why is there no place for them? Why do they not have a friend to take them in? He has continued to reply: 

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

When helping out the Chaplain at Turfway Park with a chapel service, dropping off donations of clothing, fruit or just meeting with him to make arrangements for our End of Season Party we held last week, he echoed this same thought about the people who live and work at Turfway. Many of them are simply grateful to have a roof over their head, food to eat, and a job that pays enough for them to send some money back home to their families who are dependent upon them for provision.

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

We had a huge outpouring of help from the women in our Bible studies, but when I take my eyes off of what Jesus has called me to do, I can easily become discouraged by the ones who express no interest, who don't want more information about how to help or asked to be removed from the email list once we started asking for volunteers. I was once again reminded...

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

As the End of Season Party effortlessly unfolded, as the donations came pouring in, as women who signed up to arrive at 11:30 a.m. were so excited that they asked if they could come early and set up, I saw grace, acceptance, compassion, mercy, understanding, new awareness of our fellow man and Love on display. The Holy Spirit affirmed in me, this it what happens when you...

Love people right where they are...not where you want them to be.

Jesus never said, Go into all the world and give everyone a three bedroom, two bath home, indoor plumbing and a down comforter to sleep under. But He did say that whatever we do to the "least of these", we do to Him. (see Matthew 25:31-46) I think there is a miraculous, divine transference of grace when we serve and love others that are marginalized in our world. I almost think that's what Jesus was talking about. I believe that's why I heard women promising to help next year at Turfway, why I saw smile after smile on the served and serving alike, why I walked away thinking about those who missed out on this blessing, that I will emphatically call out to so they won't miss it again, and why I feel compelled to cry out to the comfy American church that if they are not actively engaged in serving "the least of these", they are not fulfilling their God-given destiny.

But mostly, I want to serve and Love on anyone who will allow me to because God...

Loved Angela right where she was...not where He wanted her to be.