They arrived unannounced and uninvited. We were making preparations for Hurricane Irma. And then they just showed up. My first thought was to send them on their way to a hotel. I justified it by saying they would be more comfortable with their own space. We called every hotel, but with almost the entire state of Florida evacuating there were, of course, no vacancies.
It would have been far easier to pay for several nights in a hotel than to invite them into our home. I even considered sending them to our church’s shelter. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t the right thing to do. These two people weren’t close friends of ours or family members who we would welcome with open arms. They weren’t even casual acquaintances who we would have been happy to accommodate. A former employee of Ashley’s and his adult, handicapped daughter were in need. The older man announced that he prayed and asked God where to go, and The Holy Spirit told him to come here. Really, God? I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at God’s sense of humor.
They were different. They smelled different. They looked different. They were uncomfortable to be around. We carried their belongings inside and the stench of stale cigarettes filled my nose. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the next several days of being cooped inside our house with no power, three kids and these two guests. I knew the level of my love and compassion was not even close to where it would need to be. To be honest, I struggle most days just to be loving and kind to my own people. So, to say this was a stretch for me is putting it mildly.
Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself kneeling in the bathroom below this 57-year-old woman buckling her belt. That’s when God whispered. But it sounded more like the screeching howls of a hurricane. This is ministry. It is ugly. It is uncomfortable. It gets in your nostrils and smells of all that is unlovely. It is dirty. And the stench doesn’t leave your home even after they do. It is connection at the most uncomfortable levels.
I didn’t know the depths of what You wanted Your people to do. I thought it looked like a tithe check here, a children’s service there and maybe even an extra outreach with some cool matching T-shirts, but this? I mean. We aren’t in full-time ministry, so shouldn’t ministry just be something that we add to the calendar from time to time? But being a Christian should be more of a verb than an adjective. It gets woven into the very fibers of your comfortable life. It pulls the roots of our lives up and flips it all on its head. It can’t be separated and compartmentalized. It is all-encompassing.
The woman’s body is riddled with pain, handicaps and disability. Because of her constant pain, she wasn’t always a gracious guest like I thought she should have been. She complained it was too cold and then too hot. My meals gave her indigestion. And our kids were getting on their nerves. The man talked and told stories about odd topics, and my ears were tired. At 84 years old, his ears no longer heard. He was lonely and seeking a connection. I just wanted rest.
But you, Lord. Your arms reach right around them and hold them close. Mine want to push them away. Because in the natural, it is beyond me to love what isn’t pretty and clean and doesn’t look like me. The outward condition of their fleeting bodies humbles me, and it reveals the inward condition of my eternal heart.
I am undone by the uninvited. I fall short every single time. I am not enough. Yet, I am comforted in the fact that I don’t have to be enough. I just need to stay connected to the Lord. Thankfully it isn’t about me and my abilities or disabilities. It’s just about Jesus. These two people have revealed the very unlovely condition of my heart.
And now, I see two paths in which we can live our lives. One path is easy and comfortable. It has some earthly rewards along the way, but it is actually quite desolate and void of real meaning and substance. The other path isn’t pretty on the outside. It is difficult to traverse at times. You need constant connection with the Father to walk along this path. But the rewards are great. They are not always seen on this earthly side, however the eternal treasure is abundant. The fulfillment is a spring that never dries.
One large tree down, a yard full of limbs and no power was the extent of the damage Hurricane Irma left in our little part of the world. But this hurricane left a path of destruction in my heart that will have long-term effects. My love is so far from the mark of where God desires, and I am humbled. The surge of discomfort and winds of inconvenience turned my little world upside down. I am comforted in the fact that I don’t have to be loving enough or compassionate enough in my own strength and ability.
God is abundant in those areas. I just need to cling to Him. It seems the Christian life requires more of us than what I thought. The new terrain is making me feel unstable. I’m needing to lean into God even more. The effects of a life completely surrendered to Christ can actually be quite catastrophic. But in this case, total devastation is a good thing.
So, I pray the Lord devastates the pride and selfishness in the recesses of my heart. Devastate the judgmental spirit and fear that keeps me from loving. Devastate me, Lord for love’s sake.