Over a year ago, I jotted down a note from my Pastor’s sermon, “Love shows up when everyone else is leaving.” I haven’t been able to get that out of my mind since then. The quote has been set before me as a challenge to try to show up after the dust has settled in the midst of terribly hard circumstances to remind people that they are not forgotten and that they are loved. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have the world keep spinning while your own world is still in shambles, with few acknowledging that your pain can’t just be fixed once the funeral is over or a new source of income comes in or the I’m sorries or are said.
Through the years, the ones who have ministered to my heart the most have offered me the simple gift of remembrance inches and yards after the actual painful events have passed.
In my experience, when someone goes out of their way to reach out to my still very grieving soul, I have all the more reason to identify the love of God. His love has stayed planted in the living room of my heart while the world has continued to spin and swept me back into the expectations of being “normal” again.
When people have taken the time to offer that they recognize that my heart is still so very broken and that they are so sorry and that they are praying for me, my soul feels like it’s receiving something more powerful than morphine or anything like it to help alleviate the pain. It’s love. Just pure love. Love that has showed up when everyone else has left.
It’s not that the ones who moved to the perimeters of my crumbled world forgot my pain or about me. It’s just that the spinning earth has swept them on to the next thing, while I was left still to deal with the stormy voyage, despite unwritten expectations for normalcy.
But for those who take the opportunity to defy life’s gravitational pull for just a few moments and happen to look into the rubble that the Lord is methodically pulling me out of, and then step in to offer support, I’m assured of the only constant that can remain in places marked by devastation: love.
What does that support look like?
It’s the tremoring voice pulling me aside, recognizing that while she was praying for all the babies soon to be born in our small group that those swollen bellies must cause your deep pain and sadness that your belly isn’t swelling too anymore. It’s the tears that trickle down her face while she holds you close to let you know that she is praying earnestly for your heart as she prays for their bellies.
It’s the middle of the night text from the friend who says she’d run another 50 mile ultra marathon for you if she could because she believes so deeply that God has something amazing coming to the rest of your story.
It’s the FaceBook message from the young mother whose baby has had a slew of dangerous medical problems in her first year of life, who still finds time to reach out to you and ask how you’re faring and to remind you of her daily prayers.
It’s the friend who has walked in your shoes and tells you she is praying for you even right there in that place where you both are because she knows from experience how hard it is for you to be once again surrounded by everyone else’s kid stories or swollen bellies, while you silently grieve with nothing but loss and a little hopefulness to contribute to those dialogues.
It’s the conversations with the friend who sticks closer than a brother as she endures her own miscarriage and realizes the scab that has been opened as you grieve not only her loss deeply, but your own all over again. And it’s the fellowship in suffering that you both hoped you would never know, but use as a tool for helping build each other up out of the ruins.
It’s the recognition of your melancholy face from your best friend, who acknowledges how overwhelmed with grief you are from a hard week in addition to the long, winding road of healing you’re already on.
It’s the women in your Bible study who don’t judge you for bursting into tears when the speaker encourages you to get in groups of two or three to pray out loud for your miracle. They are those same women who cry with you and pray with you right then and there for your miracle. It’s their assurance that your tears are just liquid prayers pouring out to God.
It’s those who reach out to let you know they remember the date and the significance of the milestone you have come to. When the years pass and remembrances like that come, those hard days become a little less lonely.
That’s what happen when love comes to town (as Bono and B.B. King like to sing).
Even still, there are days where people forget our pain. There are days when no other feet cloaked in flesh move through the dust to reach us.
But even on those days, love abides either inside or outside of the walls of our hearts. Not our own love. But a love that pursues us in the good times and in the bad times.
For those of us who have not received such love, we want it. We want it so badly. We look for it everywhere. The wrong places. The right places. And everywhere in between. We want the kind of love that will not disappoint us or forget us. We want a love that never fails. Some open the doors to their heart and let other things just graze on past this one love that will never fail them. But others perk their ears up when they hear a knock on their hearts’ doors and welcome in the one who never gave up on them and relentlessly pursued them to cast out all loneliness.
For those of us who have received such love, we know deep down that even on the days when we feel alone and forgotten, we aren’t, because love is something of the spirit. And the Spirit that fuels perpetual love is actually love defined. We can’t always grasp the love of God because we can’t yet fully grasp Him. But His Spirit accompanies our own souls by living in us. We know the truth that God is love. We know the truth that we are His beloved and He is ours.
Friend, have you had that kind of love show up? I mean the real stuff. The stuff that never lets you down. The kind of love that whispers to you in your darkest moments to remind you that you are not alone?
I’ve had some pretty dark moments in my lifetime. But since I was 4 years old, none have ever been so dark that I couldn’t see the glimmer of hope that came from the Light of the World even when my own world has been all but obliterated.
Like my pastor said…
Love shows up when everyone else is leaving.
Are you in the lonely hearts club? You don’t have to be. It can’t truly even be a club if it’s lonely, now can it? But it can be a place you dwell and feed your own emptiness.
Love has come to town. Love has come to rescue you from your loneliness. Love has come to remind you that you are not alone. Love has come to redeem your pain. Love has come to be your friend. Love has come to never leave. Love has come to stay.
It’s not nearly as complicated as all the hurt you’ve been through. No, it’s quite simple.
God is love.
God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of love and sound mind.
Jesus loves you.