As a teenager, I thought being a Christian meant sharing my faith with others to convince them of its validity. And in failing to share it openly with my non-Christian peers at school, I became more and more disappointed and ashamed of myself. I felt I had to prove that God exists. Now, more than twenty years later, I am no longer driven by an urge to convince, but rather an urge to share the love God has gifted me with others and often, this doesn’t even involve talking of or about God.
This transformation in my thinking has come about in God opening me to receive His Love. The more He has turned me to the pain, the grief and the fears hidden deep within me, the more He has been teaching me to lean into His arms. And the more I lean into Him, the more I’m coming to really understand His proclamation that every single one of us is made in His image. Being made in His image, every single one of us is born with the gift of an insatiable desire for His Love: for His food, His clothing and His Presence.
So, when Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and visit the imprisoned and sick, I don’t think He really means what I always thought He did. Jesus namely also says that He is the Bread of Life, that if we live in Him we will never hunger or thirst. So, now what I see Him saying with that verse, is that when we abide in Him, when we receive His outstretched Love and Grace to us with open arms, then in leaning into Him, the Love of Christ within us pours out upon those around us, feeding and clothing them in His Love and Grace, and gifting them His Presence. And this love can take many forms, depending on the desires God whispers to us.
To me He’s whispered different desires at different times. In June last year, as I ran along a path, He placed a lady there on the side of the path, who I would normally have just run right past without even stopping. Instead as I ran praying to God to reveal Himself to me, He tugged at my heart as I ran past this woman. Despite my embarrassment and hesitation, I followed His nudgings, responding to the pain I felt within her. I went and sat down beside her to talk to her. God saw her great need for His Love and placed me there to shower it upon her.
Since then I’ve visited her and her family regularly, often with one or both of my girls. She turned out to be a refugee from Syria, who had only recently arrived in the county with her youngest, then 17 year old child and husband. Now, when I visit them, I see my Mum as a young mother serving as a missionary in Germany, far from friends and family, struggling with the language and to earth in a culture so very different from her own, when she first got there. I see my Mum’s German friend who came to start a new life in New Zealand after losing her husband to cancer, missing her family, language and culture. I see myself and my non-Dutch friends struggling to cope with a busy and overcrowded country, and sometimes polar-opposite ways of doing things. And I see God: I see His Love for us all and how He placed each one of us exactly where we needed to be to receive the gift of His Loving Presence in the hard and by allowing us to see Him at work, He gifted us the insight and knowledge to bless those in similar circumstances.
And then there’s my writing. If it was up to me I’d never have shared a word with anyone else and yet the more I felt His Love pour into me, the more my insatiable desire grew to share this Love, this Mighty God with others. And the more I write, the more I lean into Him, as I feel His Love take hold of my hands and shape the words that pour out onto the screen, words He can, has in the past and will continue using to clothe, feed and visit His hungry, poor, sick and imprisoned children with His Love and Grace. You see, it’s not me or my actions, but God’s Love within me pouring out of me.
So, if you, like I once did, feel guilty about your lack of feeding, clothing and visiting of others, consider this question: “Are you leaning into His arms? And are you filled with an insatiable desire to share His Love with others?” Then, dear visitor to my blog, know that He will and probably already is filling these desires in you. This sharing can take many forms: physically clothing, feeding and visiting, electronically clothing, feeding and visiting in the words published in a book or blog, artistically clothing, feeding or visiting through your paintings, etches, photography…The list is endless because each and every child of God is unique, created with unique needs and desires for love, His Love. So, lean into those whispers within you, step into them and shine brightly in the Light He clothes you in, whatever shape or form that takes and watch Him fill you with joy, as you see His Light enter those around you, fulfilling His great promise to Abraham so many years ago. Behold the starry night sky and behold the countless children of God in all their sparkling brilliance, filled as they are to overflowing with the Love, Light and Life of their Saviour.
(Many thanks to Carolina’s inspirational blog post on fulfilling the covenant through our writing. Her words made me see the Scripture about feeding, clothing and visiting in a new light.)