It also means I don't meet too many people on the path and I can focus on praying as my feet pound the pavement. I don't like running. I don't do enough of it. But I love the feeling of focus it gives, the way I discover new places in my neighbourhood as I explore new streets I haven't run before, the wrestling God and I do when I'm out there, and the endorphines afterward :)
Tonight on the way back there was a man on my path sort of coming at me right down the centre. I'm not terribly skiddish but the way he didn't give over made me a little nervous and I tightened my grip on my mobile phone in my hand (because an attacker will surely give me time to phone a friend for help...!) as I jogged on toward him. The closer I got the more unsteady I saw his steps were. As I passed I smelled the unmistakable odor of alcohol, and noticed the long-neck bottle in his hand. His figure cut such a skinny, scrawny, hungry form against the tree-lined sky. And he tugged on my heartstrings there, the whiskey doing the work to warm him that his inadequate clothing surely wasn't doing.
I wish I could go on to tell a grand tale of inviting him somewhere warm and seeing him well-fed, talking to him about Jesus, praying with him...
But I can't. My interaction with him ended there as soon as I'd jogged past.
Obviously, one mustn't be silly and young girls on their own at night shouldn't invite drunk men off the street to hang out.... But it stirred me nonetheless. He represents to me the hopeless state of humanity, like a stumbling drunkard on a cold Swedish street, desperately trying to numb our aches, to warm our hearts in whatever way we can find.
And it points me to His heart, so alive with love and compassion for us, the hopeless, stumbling drunkard, that it burns like an all-consuming fire. To a heart so consumed that it stepped into stride alongside stumbling, fumbling humanity, stripped of its royal robes to a not-nearly-warm-enough pair of jeans and loose-fitting coat, and walked along with us in a pair of worn-out shoes, throwing an arm around our shoulders to help ward off the cold and to meet a hunger that goes deeper than our emptiness.
It makes me think of how safe and secure we are in our "everything's alright", middle-class churches, where a man like this one would hardly feel welcome, let's face it, and where we're generally too busy organizing our perfectly-timed, all-planned-out-and-put-together Sunday services to go out to the street to find him. Or, like me, too frightened to throw am arm around his shoulders even if we did cross paths...
And then again I see His love-- arms wide open, eyes beckoning, welcoming ALL. Regardless of the lifestyle we're starting from or how much we wreak from our heart-numbing drug of choice...
And I'm challenged again to not just preach this love, but to practice it.
For me that probably doesn't mean hugging every drunk guy I meet on the street :) But it does mean looking on him with love and compassion-- and being so connected with the Spirit of God that I'm ready and willing should the occaision for conversation arise!
What it does mean is pushing through the discomfort and annoyance of loving the difficult ones. A few people come to mind instantly for me. A transvestite who visits Rescue Mission and seeks me out to talk about what he's been shopping for lately in a fake high-pitched voice and insists on getting a hug from me despite my probably obvious discomfort (and I hate that I feel so uncomfortable!!) comes to mind... Or even harder, people close to me who hurt and take advantage of me. Talk about difficult... Can you think of your "difficult ones"? I challenge you to pray for Him to "pour out His love into your heart" for those people.
His love defines Him, so our love defines us as His-- firstly our love of Him, and out of that our love for everyone He places in our path...
I can't help but think that we prioritize so much over being passionate about being loving.
Yet, ultimately, it's the only thing that counts.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
-- Matt 22:35-40
-- Matt 22:35-40
And these 3 remain: Faith, Hope & Love. And the greatest of these is Love.
-- 1 Cor. 13:13
-- 1 Cor. 13:13