I had a neighbor I struggled to love. We had a brief friendship, then a fall-out. Over what, I have no idea. My discomfort around her was palpable. Instead of trying, my strategy became avoidance. My kids would ask to go out front to ride bikes and I wouldn’t answer until I looked out the window. My neighbor’s presence became the deciding factor: no, we can play out back. Only when I noticed she was not home would we venture out front to ride bikes, write with chalk and play with the other neighborhood kids.
Maybe you can relate? Have you ever met someone who stirred some not-so-pleasant feelings in your heart? Someone you purposely avoided in order to keep the peace?
Jesus commands us: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)
As a Bible study hoarder, this is a Scripture familiar to me. It has been underlined in my Bibles. I knew it, but I didn’t apply it to everyone. I gave away bits of love as treasured gifts, not freely but to those closest to me. They earned the right to receive my love.
The priest spoke about John 13:34 at my beloved mother in law’s funeral Mass. In the days prior to her funeral, we gathered as a family to share memories with the priest. All of us agreed “loving” best described Lorrie. She fiercely loved her grandkids. She welcomed me as a daughter. She loved her sons as only a mother can love. She loved her husband of nearly 45 years. She loved her mother, talking to her twice a day every day. She loved her friends.
But her love didn’t end with her inner circle.
She exemplified loving others.
In the days and weeks after she passed away, her love legacy taught me more about applying Jesus’ love than any Bible study.
- Make Others Feel Special
We heard so many people tell us stories about the ways Lorrie made them feel special. One of her closest friends shared with me how Lorrie always wrote personalized notes in her Christmas cards. She spoke to strangers and listened to their stories. She smiled. She greeted people kindly.
It does not take much to make another person feel special. I tend to avoid eye contact with people because talking to strangers makes me uncomfortable. What if, instead of being comfortable, I got uncomfortable to make someone else feel Christ’s love? What a difference it could make.
2. Extend Grace
Lorrie extended grace to her family and friends. If too much time passed between conversations, she never begrudged us. She simply welcomed the text, phone call or visit. Grace feels good. Jesus extends grace to us, and in turn we need to extend grace to others.
I shudder to think how many times I pass judgment on other people. Instead of extending grace to my neighbor, I internally criticized her decisions. I never took the time to ask how she was doing and really listen. I didn’t extend her grace.
We often don’t know the battles others face.
3. Don’t Rush
One of my sweet friends confided to me that she shed tears over the absence of my mother in law this past Halloween. Her son attends preschool in the same area as Lorrie worked. Every Halloween, the preschool kids trick or treat at the neighboring businesses. She explained Lorrie always took the time to speak to her and ask about her children by name. Another friend confirmed Lorrie did the same with her and her children when they would see each other out and about. This simple gesture extended Christ’s love.
It is easy to feel rushed and interrupted during the day. Always on the go, I find myself frustrated at times by unexpected interruptions. My facial expressions can never hide my true feelings. God puts every single person we encounter each day in our path for a reason. What opportunities am I missing to extend Christ’s love when I rush through the interruptions each day?
How I wish I could go back in time and redo the interactions with my neighbor. I would set aside my own agenda and simply show Christ’s love. I would allow myself to get uncomfortable in order to make her feel loved and special.
Love is the legacy I want to leave with this world.