On the heels of Christmas, one fire destroyed my cousin’s house and all of their belongings. Nothing is left. All the new things just gifted and opened are gone. All of the previous Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, and every day momentos are gone.
But… they are alive and unharmed. All eight of them.
And then it began. I saw love.
I watched it spark on Friday, grow on Saturday and crescendo this morning where I had my own personal lightbulb moment. And I cried. Love is overwhelming, especially when you get to watch it in action and unfold with a post, a link, a share, a comment, a donation and a photo of a child smiling. I saw the best of the church this weekend. I saw the best of my family this weekend. I saw friends of friends of friends give to a family they’ve never met.
Whether you call it a lightbulb moment, or an ah-ha moment, it’s simply a point in time where otherwise seemingly unconnected variables smash together to spark an idea. At my job we call this associative thinking. Personally, I think it’s God pointing out what is obvious to him, but I’ve been too preoccupied or distracted to see. In the midst of this tragedy a not so random string of events came together.
- I resolved that 2016 will be the year I listen to God more and follow his lead more.
- Then my cold turned into a sinus infection, which led to more time I could spend with God (since he’s the only one I can’t get sick with my presence).
- Followed by an iPhone notification that my cousin started a 7 day devotional, and it asks me to join. Since I decided to follow God more in 2016, I join.
- I find out later that day, the same cousin had a house fire. The entire house and all belongings destroyed. All 8 people are alive and unharmed. They have nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
- That night Facebook posts begin to roll from our family, their church family, their bible study small group and friends. Immediate needs are shared, kids clothing sizes, adult clothing sizes, and yes even a free place to live.
- The next morning a fundraising page goes up, photo album account is opened to start replacing the irreplaceable, and countless Facebook posts, prayers and shares continue.
- That afternoon my aunt and uncle’s house fills up with physical donations from church, family, friends and yes even strangers connected only by the love of others.
- In 24 hours the fundraising exceeded all prayers. This is an understatement.
I saw love at the same time I was exposed to a multitude of other things. Some people call that coincidence. But this world is too intentionally complex, intricate and at the same time beautiful, for coincidence. As these events unfolded, God kept trying to show me something and tell me something.
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing.” ~1 Corinthians 13:2
This verse popped up yesterday in my daily reading. It may be familiar to some people, wedged at the beginning of an often read piece at weddings that ends with faith, hope and love. But I had never really read this one piece of the verse on its own. And in the context of my cousin’s loss, and the love poured out to fill that hole, it hit me.
Loves reaches out.
From behind the books, behind the knowledge, behind the excuses.
No matter how smart, or successful, or talented any of us are… that helps nothing unless we reach out in love. It does not matter what diplomas, designations, and certifications I have. It doesn’t matter how many languages I can speak, my knowledge of politics or music or reality TV stars. It does not matter how much money I make or the assets I possess. It does not matter if I can sing or dance or build a deck (nope to all three). It doesn’t matter unless… I use it for the glory of God. Unless… I use those things, those talents to actively reach out and love others.
1 Corinthians is a letter. It is a letter to a first century Jesus following church filled with smart, gifted, talented people. It is a letter reminding them, among other things, that what they “have” is not for them. That they, as followers of Jesus, are called to reach out in love, because God first (and unconditionally) loves us.
I cried because I saw that. I saw people reach out in love. I saw it unfold over the last three days in front of me. I cried because I realized after the house burned down and they walked out unharmed with nothing, they had the most important things of all: faith, hope and love.
Going forward I want to live a life (not just a year) of significance. A life where I reach out, go out and love out.
- Reach out. To family, friends, church, and my community.
- Go out. In person with words and with actions and with a hand that helps without excuses.
- Love out. I will not keep God’s love to myself, but share it selflessly however I can.
Reach out with me.