Taking the gospel to the marketplace sounds like a good idea until you get to the practicality of it.
Exactly how are you supposed to get it done? Where does one even begin?
In my 1st year in the marketplace it was a question I posed to God.
What do You want me to do with these people?
His answer was surprisingly simple.
It was at that point I realized that there was probably a thing or two I needed to learn about this love that God considered to be of utmost importance.
What does love mean to You? Would You teach me to love like You do?
There was no verbal response from Him this time. Instead, He led me into a pivotal set of seasons in my life.
I would get home in tears almost every day due to the craziness at my then workplace and wonder what hell I’d gotten myself into. Answered prayers don’t need to feel good to work. I’m saying this out loud for anyone who thinks that all prayers are answered with rainbows and unicorns. God will give you what you need and it won’t always be what you want but it’ll always work for your good. Answered prayers don’t need to feel good to work. He was blowing to smithereens everything I thought love was and I’d be lying if I said any of it was enjoyable. But it created room for the new understanding He wanted to give me. The understanding I had prayed for.
Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that for God to love unconditionally, there was something He was seeing that I wasn’t. Because everything I was seeing made me not want to love.
Next thing I knew, I found myself in a matatu with a drunk guy near or next to me at least four or five days a week. First time it happened, no biggie. Second time, it happens. Third, fourth, fifth time? Lord, what are you up to?
It didn’t matter when I tried to be more thorough in my matatu and seating choices. Like clockwork, there would be a drunk guy within arm’s reach. There were times when I wanted to move but the Holy Spirit would insist that I stay put.
During those awkward rides, God would begin to show me what He felt for these men. A compassionate love that was starkly different from the side-eyes and uncomfortable glances they were getting from the rest of us.
I began to see them beyond the messy situation they were in and to the people God had created them to be. The purpose He still had for them and still held dear to Him despite the decisions that had gotten them to this point. Unlike their physical unsteadiness, God’s love for them hadn’t waned or wavered one bit.
I began to see that God doesn’t just see us the way we see each other – as we are in a given moment – at our best, worst or every day in between. He sees us from eternity – where our past, present and future all gel into one. He sees who we are and all we can be. He sees what we’ve done and what we’re capable of. Not setting a comparative yard stick to beat us down with and remind us how far we have yet to go. But as a beautiful reminder that truly there is nothing on earth or in the heavens that can keep us from His love.
The knowledge of God’s love that was in my head started growing into revelation in my heart. When you see people the way God sees them, you can’t help but love them. That’s how I know when my heart has shifted from God’s.
Loving people doesn’t require a 10-step program. It all comes down to the things you say/do or not each day. For me, it looks like stopping for the one, as Heidi Baker often contends.
It looks like getting more carried away by who a person is rather than who they are not.
It looks like being understanding when someone is having a rough day and acts uncharacteristically.
It looks like stopping to ask how they are and how I can help.
It looks like saying please and thank you and meaning it every time.
It looks like cracking jokes as we get the work done.
It looks like extending grace where it’s needed not just where it’s purportedly deserved.
It looks like being reliable in what someone entrusts me with – whether it’s work-related or personal – no matter how big or small.
It looks like being intentional with extending love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I’ve been truly fortunate to work with some incredible people over the years. Some of them don’t necessarily believe the same things that I do about God but it didn’t make them less human or wonderful. I see Jesus in them even when they’re not aware just how much they look like Him, how much they embody Him.
I’ve also had the divine challenge of dealing with a handful of difficult ones who inspire hair-pulling one strand at a time. These ones, I consider dear to my heart for making me more like Jesus. I like to call them my heart gym trainers. And truth be told, while I may heave a huge sigh of relief once I no longer have to deal with them, there are those who still remain in my heart. For beyond the rough exterior, I’ve seen what God sees – His Beloved.
As you get into this day with the people you’ll spend at least 40 hours of this week with, love them. Whatever that looks like, whatever that sounds like. Know that when you pour out your heart to them in earnest, God will meet you with a flood of His love to keep you going.
Because that’s the thing about God’s love – it always runs deep, it never ever runs dry. And it always changes everything.