Excerpt from a letter I wrote to a loved one tonight:
...Allyson is vital part of what I consider my biggest ministry: visiting the nursing home. At first that was a chore, but it's turned into an enjoyable time that I actually look forward to. I was patting myself on the back about that, but recently I was humbled.
I'm doing a Bible study on the book of James. It's all about putting your faith into action by doing what God does: showing mercy. A couple of Sundays ago, I was reading about how we shouldn't show favoritism:
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?When I read that I thought I'd finally found a passage in James that didn't apply to me. "I don't give special treatment to the rich," I thought. But then I read on in my lesson and saw that we can show favoritism based on anything we value: intelligence, beauty, spiritual depth, influence, etc.
"Hmm," I thought. "What is it that I value?" I decided I like people who are most like me, people I feel comfortable talking to--because I am such a talker.
I thought of Jackee at the nursing home. "She's not like me. She can hardly even speak." I congratulated myself for pushing past the discomfort and building a friendship. Nope, favoritism was not a problem for me.
And then I clearly heard a quiet but authoritative voice in my head. "But what about those other patients that you walk past and pretend you don't see? The ones who can't speak, can't understand, can't keep from drooling?"
"Oh, yes," I thought. No argument there. "Please forgive me," I whispered.
I read on. One question had me list words describing how people feel when they are overlooked and neglected. "Unloved," I wrote. "Invisible. Alone. Worthless. Forgotten." As the list grew, my heart was pierced at the thought of those old folks lining the walls in their wheelchairs. Surely they could feel the loneliness and rejection even if they couldn't put it into words. And surely they needed a smile and a kind word more than anyone.
"Forgive me for not loving them," I said aloud, tears spilling down. "Help me see them as you do. Love them through me."
That day after church, Allyson and I drove to the nursing home. I told her what God had laid on my heart, and then we prayed that God would help us love everyone he put in our path. We agreed that we would be kind to all of them even if they couldn't talk back to us.
It was the most amazing experience! For that one hour, I felt God's love flowing out of me, and it gave me such joy. I could see the joy on Allyson's face too as she told everyone about her new hamster and gave out hugs all around.
We had the best conversations, including one with a woman who thought she was a little girl who needed to hurry home. The last man we saw was sitting in the hall in a wheelchair. I stooped over a bit and said hello. "What's your name?" I asked.
He smiled blankly.
"I'm Sarah," I said, "and this is Allyson. What's your name?"
He smiled and nodded. I smiled back and took his hand, which was soft and warm. "It's good to see you today," I said. I looked over at Allyson, and she stepped forward and wrapped him in a hug. His face was radiant, like the sun had come out in all its glory.
Tears sprang to my eyes. "We'll come visit you again," I promised.
On the way home, I told Allyson how proud I was of her. "We made that man happy, didn't we?" she asked. "And it was so easy."
Yes, it was easy. And to think we'd been missing out on that blessing all this time, just because I was afraid to talk to people who were different from me--people who reminded me of my mortality.
I'd like to say I've continued to pour out God's love on everyone I meet, but the truth is that it's sporadic at best. But my eyes have been opened. I am learning to yield my will to God's.
I ended my letter with a prayer request that I will pass on to you: Please pray for God to show me areas of my life where I haven't yielded. Pray that I will be saturated in his Holy Spirit. Pray that I will recognize the opportunities he gives me to share his love, and that I will love with actions, not just words.