The Labor of Love

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I was pondering something about my life today and pondering love.

When I was younger, I had a fairly “pretty” speaking voice. When I was 14, I took on a job care-taking and cleaning for a rather grumpy and bitter old woman next door to our farm. Her son hired me to give her a “last bit of independence”.

I could see the good in her but for months she was determined to prove to me she did not care for me at all. I was a stubborn teenager and determined to share God’s love with her in demonstration, for as long as it might take her to let me in. Meanwhile, she stubbornly pushed against my love, shouting grumpy complaints of my “lack of capable skill” to do such things as vacuum until the carpet was no more. She would intentionally blow thick cigarette smoke in my face while telling me her (exactly) 9 pillows, were not being arranged “just so”. I learned in time the pillows were for the permanent arm bruises caused by her previous abusive husband in years gone by. I learned her very particular standards were her way of coping with a painful past. I could be the friend who gave her a “coping fix” through upholding her silly standards, so she could have emotional energy to process deep griefs she’d long been afraid of. I also learned how to keep a beautiful indoor garden thriving and how to not waste anything – just like a proper woman of the Great Depression days could instill in a shape-able mind.

As months turned in to years, she finally wouldn’t yell when I would kindly ask her to resist blowing smoke in my face. Finally she started intentionally keeping the smoke trail out of my breathing path while “overseeing” my “improving skills”. But, the damage to my vocal cords had been done by then. My voice had become so raspy, that my school choir teacher actually pulled me aside and told me if I didn’t quit the job, he would have to request my dismissal from the choir as my voice was no longer up to clear singing. Don’t misunderstand, I didn’t sound like a chain smoker who breathed in 3 full packs a day like she did. I was sounding like my throat was always in need of clearing. My throat always felt extra dry too so I drank more water. She had become hugely dependent on my friendship by then and I was honored to be by her side as she privately navigated the joy of the beginning of being reunited with a daughter she had secretly given up for adoption at birth, to protect from that abusive husband.

Having given up that beautiful daughter, lets not even start on the story she let me in to, of her 4 boys who were kidnapped as children all at once, leaving her to raise just one of her six beautiful children she had given birth to. What tragedies she had endured. How deeply her heart grieved. It was no wonder she was grumpy and bitter and took months to let me even inquire about the pains of her past in an effort to love her. I still grieve the deep injustice of her boys and what may or may not have become of them. Why do I openly share her private pains here? She has been gone from this life many years and I keep her identity quiet so as to protect the beauty I saw in her life. But her story can move people in the lessons it provides. Hardships can leave people in need of those who will lay their lives down to love them well, until they feel safe to love anyone back again. We can and should love in this deep way.

I did have to give up that job and only visit from time to time, but not before I learned to deeply care for those who have little left to offer our world. Relationship can win more souls and heal more hearts than any passing prayer or comment. I may have a raspy voice which remains with me to this day. I may also still have a dry throat. But it paid off when she asked me to help her start a relationship with Jesus before she passed from this life we are in. I have the joy of knowing I will be reunited with her again.

My raspy voice daily reminds me that loving well is what we were made for. We must get in the trenches with people. Experience their griefs. Love them through hard times and laugh with them when joyful seasons come. This is what love is. It is a labor of love worth every pain it may cause. Any scars we carry from helping people heal enough to find the safe arms of Jesus — well those are the scars I would choose again any day.

What does love look like to you when demonstrated practically? Please tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂

You are loved. x

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