A few weeks ago, in the thick of thinking and praying about my talk at Hope Spoken, I was smacked in the face with this verse. Isn't this what it's all about? Really loving people. Not pretending.
I get tripped up now and then by my love (or lack thereof) for the people at the edges of my life. Sometimes it's hard to help them. Sometimes I want to say no, and people delight in telling me I should be better at saying no. I should protect myself, my family, my sanity. My response to that: These people are my family.
Still, I find myself pretending sometimes. I find myself going through the motions, then doubting myself, wishing I were above it all.
I had no idea how this verse would tie into my talk, or if it even would, but I sent an SOS text to my friend Katy, and she made this print just for me and my session ladies. I gave her nothing but the verse, and she did this. I love that she created it in black and white, because isn't that mostly what real love is? The love I want for my family/my neighbor/my people is black and white. It either exists, or it doesn't.
Leading up to my trip, I was angsty. I wasn't sure how to spend my 30 minutes. I struggled to focus on what mattered most. I'm always afraid I'll come across as judgmental or pushy or proud. But I believe in the beauty of living small. I believe God invites us into his story when he'd do just fine without us. He uses us in our lack. He uses our low places to bring himself fame. It's never about us.
While I stewed around, God began speaking. Satan began attacking. It was hard to imagine the enemy was concerned about what I would have to say in Dallas. I didn't even know what I'd be saying or how my words would fall in the room.
And on top of all this, I signed up to be a small group leader. I said yes because it seemed pretty crappy to say no. My heart wasn't super in it. I worried my loyalties would be divided, or that I wouldn't get enough time with my friends, the ones I'd waited years to meet.
The first night we met, I was jangled edges and keyed-up nerves. The circle was wide and ten sets of eyes looked back at me as though I should know something, as though I could lead them. I prayed, asking our hands to be opened, that the weekend be all God's, to do with as he chose.
I loved them almost immediately.
And as the hours and days went on, in an atmosphere dripping grace and truth, I felt a pull to them and a handful of others, people who had been strangers to me just one day before. I had wonderful moments with some of my closest internet friends. They were graciously aware of my packed schedule and having too much fun to worry about me. But over and over, I was drawn to these new faces and their honest, breaking hearts.
Each time we met, our circled closed in. Each time we met, our words were stripped bare.
We are hurting people. We're broken and doubting. We're in pain. We're lost in our churches, where no one knows how to deal. We're lost in the world, where we're expected to be something we can never accomplish.
This is why we need each other.
This is why I loved my time at Hope Spoken and I loved my lady friends.
I wasn't there for them. I was there because I needed them.
They trusted me with their pain, and I trusted them back.
They didn't care who I was, what I do or how many people are watching me.
I'm left believing that sometimes, we can't wait for our emotions to catch up with our jobs. I have to think it's okay when our humanity balks and we err on the side of obedience. We're not naturally good at loving well. Reminders of this serve a real purpose. This is why we need Jesus.
He rights our wrongs as the circle closes in.
We're connected by so many things, but pain and failure top the list.
They reel us in, wrap us up.
We share our hurts and we're healed.
We have got to get better at getting real, guys. We have to do better than making everyone else in the room secretly believe they're alone in their mess.
We have to get better at being human together.
This is what is good.
This is how we stop pretending.
This is how we really love.
*You can order your Really Love Them print right here.