My prayer over the past week, and really all the time, goes a little like this – “Give me your eyes, Jesus, and a heart like you.” To see this world and your people the way you see them. To love like you do, unconditionally, without reservation. Never expecting anything in return.
As I have been praying for the Lord to give me His eyes and His heart, He has been showing me how to see the beautiful people all around me the way He sees them. Each one a unique and beautiful creation. Each one with a capacity to love and a need to be loved. God will gladly give us His eyes and His heart, when we ask, so that we can be His hands and feet, His arms open wide to the hurting world and people around us.
Romans 12: 4-13 – “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speaking out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is to serve others, serve them well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift of showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
In my Jesus Calling devotional the other morning, it really struck me when the author wrote,
“Most of mankind’s misery stems from feeling unloved. In the midst of adverse circumstances, people tend to feel that love has been withdrawn and they have been forsaken. This feeling of abandonment is often worse than the adversity itself. Be assured that I never abandon any of My children, not even temporarily. I will never leave you or forsake you! My Presence watches over you continually. I have engraved you in the palms of My hands.”
Jeremiah 31:3 – “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Everyone needs love. Every single one of us. Every single one of my precious students. And every single person who crosses our paths – whether they seem receptive to it or not. It is a basic human need. And, just like God loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, we are called to do the same to others. Loving the people God places right in front of us, or halfway around the world (for a season), is being obedient, and following the greatest commandment of all – to love one another as Christ has loved us. Even when it is hard. Even when it costs you something. And even when it may not be reciprocated or even acknowledged.
In a devotional that my fiancé, Wesley, and I are reading together as we prepare for marriage, called Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes:
“Getting our hearts into this way of thinking is the hardest thing in marriage by far because all of us tend to love in order to get something in return. (You can tell when it’s not really love you’re giving because you begin to withhold it because you don’t think the response is good enough). Jesus calls us to a more selfless way, the way of the cross. His way calls us to love purely because it’s the right thing to do, because it honors Him and glorifies His Father. Jesus emptied himself in order to love imperfect responders. That’s real love.”
Yes, this devotional is intending to talk about love in terms of marriage. But, I believe, this is the same type of “real love” we should show to everyone – regardless of who they are or where they come from, and regardless of whether we really have anything in common with them.
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love music. And hardly go anywhere without playing it, as it always uplifts my spirits and brings me so much joy. My all-time favorite worship song is “Heart Like You,” by Love and the Outcome, and the lyrics remind me of this so beautifully:
In my life
Burn away the things
I hold tight
Eyes to see
The way You want it
What can be worth more than You
What do I have I wouldn’t lose
If it means You and I
Look more alike
That’s what I choose
I’d give up the world to find my soul
Pour out my life, give You control
I just want to be what You want me to be
I just want a heart that’s true
A heart like You
I just want a heart like You”
Yes, we are so very loved by our Father God. But out of the great love He has given us, we are called to share that love to those He puts along our path. Our cups should runneth over. God fills us up so that we can pour our lives out to others. Even when we may not always feel loved or accepted here on Earth, we can always remember that we are fully loved and accepted by Jesus Christ – who payed the greatest cost to show us His love for us, by dying on that cross.
Personally, there are days here in Uganda when I feel so loved and welcomed by the people around me, that my heart could literally explode. But, on other days (and in my mosquito netted top-bunk alone at night), it is easy to question why I am here and let the enemy convince me that I am all alone and forgotten over here – away from everyone I love and know back at home (which I know could not be farther from the truth). But Satan is the Father of lies, and can be really sneaky sometimes..especially when I am exhausted (mentally and physically) from pouring out all that I have, day in and day out. But, in the midst of this, I have to constantly remind myself of the most important truth: that I am not only loved and accepted by my Heavenly Father, but I am His daughter. His precious child. His beloved. And that He never leaves me or forsakes me. He can fill me back up…again and again. So that I can keep loving, keep pursuing others, and keep being His hands and feet here in Uganda.
So even on days when I want to give up, and I am too tired to tie another shoelace or comfort one of my students when they are sad or get a “wound” (which they call any small cut or scrape here), I press on. When I am exhausted from the noise in our classroom and my patience is running thin, I ask Jesus to help me be kind and gentle. When it is time for bathing and naps, and the kids are wild and crazily running around the room, I ask Jesus to help me be tender and soft. I rely on the love of my Heavenly Father in order to have His love to pour out to His little ones in my classroom and to the women I interact with daily at the James Place, who really just need a hug and a smile. Little ones who are longing for love, longing for acceptance, and longing to be noticed. Women who are longing to have a purpose, to be seen, to be noticed, and to be appreciated. Just like the rest of us.
Throughout our days in the classroom, Teacher Rebecca and I are constantly striving to make sure each of our students feels loved. That each one of them feels cared for. That each one of them feels noticed. Every single morning (and throughout the day), I am constantly bombarded with hugs by my students, sometimes so much so, that it is impossible to walk. Yes, I know they are showing me how much they love me, but at the same time, I think they are seeking affirmation and love that we all seek. To be seen. To be loved. To be cared for. To be known.
This week, we sang a new song in our class that goes like this:
“If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs a friend). If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs another friend). If you want to show you care, God’s love is good to share. If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs one another).”
And on a HEAL Ministries social media post the other day, the caption of the precious picture said,
“Holding hands gives a moment of safety to a child…to a friend…to a woman in need. It gives hope and a moment that says everything is going to be okay. We are often asked what we do. It’s a much bigger answer than teaching and empowering women to learn a business or trade that keeps their families together. It’s about relationships. It’s about holding hands and encouraging others. We love all the tiny moments that evolve into big transformation.”
I am learning, both inside and outside of the classroom, that love comes out in all different forms. Sometimes, love means a hug. Sometimes, love means listening. Sometimes, love means speaking truth. Sometimes, love means making silly poses (see the picture above – when we were demonstrating how the Lord is our strength). Sometimes, love means breaking out in a dance party to lift everyone’s spirits (which we often do in the classroom). All the time, though, love means being a friend – to whoever and whomever God places right in front of you. Love acts – it is not just enough to say you love someone – you must show it.
In the book I am currently reading, Daring to Hope, by Katie Davis Majors, she writes, “The more I asked my Father God to give me His eyes for the people He brought into our life and home, the more He confirmed that He did not view anyone as the next ministry project or person to be evangelized but as someone just like me who needed to be lavished with His undeserved, unmerited blessing, love, and favor. He was changing my vision, again giving me eyes to see that we most deeply experience His beauty when we walk with others in the darkness.”
As you can see in the picture below, the verse of the week in our classroom was written on our little whiteboard as a reminder to always show kindness and hospitality to others, even strangers, because in doing so, we may be showing hospitality to angels.
But most importantly, when we see others through God’s eyes and with His heart and choose to be the hands and feet of Christ to them (the way God calls us to), we are really serving Him.
Matthew 25:40 – “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I am learning how important it is to be right where you are – because you will never get that moment or opportunity back. God places us with a specific person in a certain moment for a particular reason. But we have a choice – will we love? …or will we turn away? We will never be perfect or able to save the world, but we can love. We can be present. We can meet the needs of others, to the best of our abilities. And that is being obedient to God.
Isn’t that how God treats us, though? He is always there, despite our feelings, and meets us right where we are. He wants us to do the same with others.
When I asked for Him to give me His eyes and a heart like Him, I realized that all I was really asking for was to better learn how to be present. To see people for who they are and what God specifically created them to do. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. To encourage and spur others on. We are all a beautiful creation of God, created to do great things. When we remember these truths, it helps us to love others the way we are called to do, and to meet people exactly where they are. Just like God does for each of us.
C.S. Lewis so beautifully wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
God will give us His eyes and His heart when we ask. But once He does, we must choose to be love. We must choose to love unconditionally. We must choose to put others before ourselves. Love is a choice. A daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, moment-by-moment choice. And something that matters so very greatly to our Heavenly Father! And, in doing so, you never know whose life or journey you are going to impact in taking those small steps of obedience, to do the Father’s will, and to be His hands and His feet. No matter where you are and no matter what you are doing, every little act of kindness and love matters and makes a difference.
God will give us His eyes and His heart so that we can be His hands and His feet.
2 Corinthians 1:4 – “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”