As I mentioned last week, looking ahead to the new year to plan the whole year overwhelms me. Last week I talked about the externals—the actions I will regularly do to care for and be more of the true me.
This week I felt God nudging me to cooperate with the work He will do in me. One by one God has been laying out before me pieces of what He wants to work in me. Each one resonates in my spirit. Yes, the time seems right.
When I put the individual pieces together I see a picture of love—how it will look in my life and how I will live it out more fully. God is challenging me to love others better—to give more fully of myself to my family and friends, to love strangers with actions. This will be a work in and on my heart, parts of which will be too personal to share.
Before you get all crazy and think I am not loving or don’t love others, stop. I love God, my family, friends like crazy. I love others as well. But God knows there is work to be done in me. He knows I can do better. I know I can too.
My picture of love is composed of these pieces:
Listen—“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”* This famous quote from David Augsburger speaks to the heart of what we all need—to be heard. I will make a point to listen first and long, before I offer any thoughts.
Questions—This one will be a challenge for me because it’s rooted in listening. I love asking questions to get to know someone better, but first I must listen to hear what they are saying in order to ask thoughtful questions.
Empathy—Again, not my strong suit, maybe because I am not a natural listener. In his book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, Danny Meyer (CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, restaurateur, and entrepreneur) defines empathy, “Empathy is not just an awareness of what others are experiencing; it’s being aware of, being sensitive to, and caring about how one’s own behavior affects others.”**
Sometimes I can be the picture of empathy; but often I allow my agenda, not God’s, to rule my day. When this happens I am not living empathetically. I need God’s help to keep me in tune with His plan for my day. I need his insights on how my “own behavior affects others” and how to make the change to let the other person I know care.
Serve—As a wife and mom of over thirty years, serving others is my job description. It’s what wives and moms do. And I do it with pleasure. But when God brought serve to my attention, it took on a deeper meaning. I became aware of how serving others makes an investment in them. It shows them they are valuable to me, that they matter, and they are special to me.
Service is the evidence I am living out the other pieces. Because I love others, I serve them. When I listen and ask questions, I better understand them and can be empathetic to them. Through empathy God shows me how I can best serve them—not taking on all their problems, but doing my part. In all of this, they know they are loved.
My inspiration to love others better is also my strength to do so—the love of Jesus for me. He held nothing back to show His love for me.
I trust you hear my heart. I know God has lots of work to do in me. In the wee hours of 2018, God tells me, “Let’s work on love this year.” This blog is me responding, “Yes, let’s.”
**Setting the Table; The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, by Danny Meyer (Harper Collins, pages 143, 145).
***photo courtesy of Rawpixel.com, Stocksnap.io
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.