When I was interviewed for my current position, I was challenged by my future boss to look through certain lenses when viewing our guests. "You need to realize that no one chooses to come here." He continued his sobering exhortation affirming the need for compassion, clarity, and kindness in all of my interactions with families who are understandably physically and emotionally weary.
Well into my 3rd year as an employee, I have learned just how prophetic those words were. As in any setting, when pushed to their limits, you do see the best and the worst of people.
Such was the case one recent day as our waiting room was filled with families. The atmosphere was charged with an understandable breadth of emotions: apprehension, anxiety, concern, sadness, fear, relief, gratitude, hope, and joy. As early evening approached, I began to clean the now mostly empty waiting room. While I picked up trash, straightened furniture, and sanitized the play area, I found myself replaying conversations and interactions with our guests. True to form, the day had been filled with the best and the worst of human behavior. However, this particular day, the latter had outweighed the former.
When I pulled into my driveway that evening, I realized that I had spent the entire commute home rehashing those encounters. Going to bed early, I prayed a simple prayer. "God, flush the commode of my brain." (Pardon my vivid imagery.)
The next morning as I drove back to work, I was reminded of a quote by Graham Cooke. "If all your thinking leads you to a place you don't like, have another thought." I felt prompted to put Philippians 4:8 into practice, focusing on things that were true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. As I prayed with thanksgiving, a sense of expectation displaced the heart-heaviness I had experienced the day before.
Pulling into the parking garage, fully expecting to make my usual eight-story descent, I was astonished to discover an empty spot just 3 spaces in on the ground level. On a Friday, no less! Putting my car into Park, I paused and thanked God for his generosity - particularly in light of the grumpy ingratitude with which I had departed this same garage the evening before. "That was extremely kind of You, God," I sighed, "Thank You for being so lavish and gracious. Three spaces in, ground level… that’s extraordinary." As I unbuckled my seatbelt, still a little stumped by this divine gesture, the Lord gently explained, "That is what I want you to do today. I want you to give people the 3rd space in, ground level. Hospitably offer them the gift of kindness, regardless of how they speak to you. Son, predispose yourself to grace.”
Eight hours later, I clocked out at the end of my shift with a full heart. God faithfully supplied the John 13:1 grace to, "love them to the end." I exited the building that evening as I had entered it that very morning, with prayers of thanksgiving. That was, until I spotted the person who, (let me say this graciously), provided the largest opportunity for me to implement the divine exhortation I had received early that morning. There they stood, talking "at" someone in the same manner that they had spoken to me.
As I passed by, the Lord gently nudged me saying, "I want you to pray for that individual and to bless them. Their overbearance is just their desperate attempt to control something over which they have no control. Pray that they would find their rest in Me.” In His gracious kindness, the Holy Spirit supplied authentic prayers of blessing that flowed freely and lightly. Joy bubbled over as I approached my car, prophetically parked 3rd space in, ground level.
Perhaps there are customers at work, students at school, or even people at church, (did I just say that?), who provide significant opportunity to extend unreciprocated loving kindness. If that is the case, may I share what I am learning?
There is nothing you can do that would make God love you more. And, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you less. God's love for you is not based on who you are nor on the quality of your behavior. It is based on His nature. I believe that God invites us to interact with people in the same manner. Instead of reacting based on how we are treated, we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can proactively predispose our hearts to love as we are loved.
As we abide in the nature of Christ, God loves people through us and draws them to Himself. That is, I believe, why Paul so bluntly exhorts, “…Those who live should no longer live self-absorbed lives but lives that are poured out for him [Christ] - the one who died for us and now lives again. So then, from now on, we have a new perspective that refuses to evaluate people merely by their outward appearances” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16 TPT). We don't assess people then decide if we love them. We predispose our heart love and then walk in the authority to speak into their lives that authentic love grants.
Let me take the risk of taking Pete Townshend's phrase and allowing God to simply and prophetically say to you, "Let My love open the door to their heart." For, "we are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips..." (2 Corinthians 5:20 TPT). That's why we are to, "...never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them" (Ephesians 4:29 TPT).
By the power of the Holy Spirit, receive fresh grace to live out John 13:34 right where God has placed you. "...Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways" (VOICE). Come on, give them the 3rd space - ground level, then watch and see what God will do.
Looking for creative ways to "let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others?
Check out 31 Days of Encouragement: devotionals strategically designed to inspire and to encourage.