At the hospital for one of Jamie's final chemo days!
Ten days until our wedding day and five days until chemo is over! Every card we've received, we cherish. The support of friends and family, cheering us on to the finish line for chemo and the starting line for a life-long marriage is of immeasurable worth. Fast approaches the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I pray that this chapter leading up to marriage has taught us some of the deep and gritty lessons of loving well through thick and thin, highs and lows, health and sickness, and all the rest. A few days ago we read a card from my sweet friend, Vanessa. It was a beautiful card (have you ever noticed that wedding cards are often covered with sparkles? I do hope our marriage has sparkling moments that brighten our hearts as we share life together!) Vanessa's words were touching and encouraging, as she always is, but one line struck me. She quoted Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables.
"To love another person is to see the face of God."
I couldn't stop thinking upon those words. Jamie and I shared a beautiful night in January with family and friends when we went to see Les Miserables on stage at a local theatre after a dinner out. Our friend, Nancy, was there- my sweet "brain buddy" who cheered me on all year and made me brave because of her faith in Christ and eternal hope upon the Rock of our Savior. She went home to be with Jesus just a few weeks ago, and so our Les Mis night is forever now an even sweeter memory as we look back and think of her impact upon our lives. The acting and the voices on stage that winter night were extraordinary- I enjoyed it even more than when I saw it on Broadway years ago. The message of redemption was so visibly strong in every face and expression and line, every note sung and every word spoken.
Remembering that night, and re-reading this Victor Hugo quote, I ask myself, "What does it mean to see the face of God when we love someone else?" I dare say, this is not the making of the other person to be a god in our life- that would be idolatry and a lack of the one true God as first in our hearts. No, I have a feeling it is to love the Lord our God so strongly with all our hearts, minds, and souls, because He first loved us and gave Himself up for us, that the love overflows to our neighbor, our brother, our parents, our children, our spouse, and even the stranger in the elevator or on the street. And in the daily living out of this love for another, we recognize the image of the Living God- we see it in the faces we encounter, we see it in their eyes, in their suffering, in their glory, in their dignity as a person created by and for the One True God. C. S. Lewis once wrote, "Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else." I think that is what it comes down to- looking for Christ in the other person, loving them with the love Christ has taught us and displayed for us, and out of that act of love, seeing so clearly God's glory in that person.
Matthew 25 is an interesting passage about encountering Jesus in those we are in contact with day by day here on earth. Verse 34-40 shares an interesting drama unfolding, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats...Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father...
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in.
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
There it is, brothers and sisters- that is how we see the face of God. We feed the hungry, we offer drink to the thirsty, we invite the stranger in, we clothe the naked, and we visit the prisoner. That is the recipe for the type of love which our Creator has set before us. This is the way Christ lived on earth, and when He died upon the cross at Calvary, it was messy. Love here is messy. And love is not really the emotion of happiness when we get what we want from another- love is laying down our lives daily for another- whether it be our spouse, our child, our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend, or even a stranger whom we really would rather not go out of our way to serve. Love does not always come natural to us, even when it is the people closest to us, whom we truly do care about. We are prone to selfishness and pride, seeking our own desires and comforts. But if we want to see the beauty of Christ, we must learn to truly love another person.
I can be honest and share with you that I have so much to learn about love and how to give of myself and lay down my own desires to serve those around me. I need help in this area, as most of us do. God doesn't expect perfection- there would be no need for a Savior if we were void of sin and selfishness...but He does call us to a different type of living- one of righteousness and service, that Christ came to teach us. He calls us to receive His mercy and grace and find His help in our time of need. Let's each take the opportunity this week to live with eyes wide open, looking for ways to serve another- even if it is uncomfortable or uncommon. Maybe there is someone in need that you are thinking of right now. Or maybe it is a family member you've been feuding with, whom you need to ask forgiveness. Or maybe there is a neighbor or friend who is going through a hard time and could just use a hot meal or some cookies and lemonade! The Holy Spirit will bring to mind exactly what it is for you to "see the face of God" this week in another...Let's start out September with a perspective that is other-oriented, and most of all, Christ-seeking.
Statue of Jesus at Johns Hopkins University Hospital