I have a friend named Candiss. Let me tell you—this southern gal is gorgeous. I mean, Miss America ain’t got nothin’ on her. Right now she’s dying as she’s reading this. (Sorry, friend. Well, kind of…)
You want to know what I really love about my gorgeous friend? Her gorgeous heart. It sparkles.
She spends Wednesday nights and Sundays making sure kids from the shady parts of town have a way to get to church. I sometimes imagine her black hair flying out the window with her Mississippi drawl belting out VBS songs as the bus bounces through the streets of her town.
If she’s not taking inner city kids to church, Candiss is hosting every neighborhood kid in her front yard or at her dinner table. She does this all the time.
I often wonder how she loves that wildly—doors flung open and arms stretched across broken children ready to bring them close. Ready to show them Jesus-love. I wonder how she does it because I seem to shrink back from those opportunities.
Last night was no exception.
We have this neighbor—this sweet little boy living across the street. He wears his desperation for attention like skin. You know children like him. Not abused. Not neglected. But not loved with the same passion your own flesh and blood are loved.
Let’s just say his home isn’t always a sanctuary. Not that mine is, but I think you understand.
He’s attached himself to my two kids and is their constant shadow when the weather begs for the shouts of young voices and bikes. Weekends ring with the sound of our doorbell and our neighbor’s hopes of playmates.
He’s greedy for love. Needs it like air—never being quite filled up with it like the rest of us.
There he stood at my door yesterday evening, wondering if Ella and Caleb were home. They weren’t. I told him even when they got home we would be eating dinner and getting ready for bed.
And that’s when he asked, “Can I eat dinner with y’all?”
His black eyes lifted in hope.
The question pressed at me, squeezed me. Yet, I said, “Not tonight.”
What? Even as the words escaped my lips I couldn’t believe I was saying them. I mean—Prince Charming was picking up pizza on the way home. Seriously? How could I say no?
But I did, and I shut the door. I wish I could say I opened it back up and yelled, “Come on in!”
I didn’t. To my complete shame and regret.
Instead, I went to my sink full of dirt and grease. Washing cups clean with the hot water running, I felt the weight of my little neighbor boy’s crushed spirit bare down. I knew I made a mistake. Missed an opportunity.
Love your neighbor.
Words whispered in my heart again and again as I stood with suds breaking through grime.
Love your neighbor.
Over and over my Creator God, the Holy One, reminded me what love looks like. What walking out ministry requires. What bringing Jesus to the world demands.
Acts of selflessness.
Ignoring the exhaustion at day’s end. Realizing there are more important things in life than a peaceful evening. Knowing what really matters is living out my faith in the daily.
But family time’s important you might say. I might say too. Yet? What could be more beautiful than teaching my children the sacrifice love often asks of us? Teaching my own darlings a true picture of what it means to love their neighbor.
Because it can be easy to write a check. Donate clothes. Take groceries to the food bank. Compose a blog. But it can be down right demanding to love the face standing at your door. His face asks for a commitment. For an investment. For time.
I left the water running and went to the window. Hoping. Wishing I would see my neighbor playing in his yard. I wanted to be able to yell, “Absolutely you can come have dinner!”
He wasn’t there. I missed my chance to act out love last night.
But I’m praying hard now. Praying I don’t miss it next time.
Praying I learn all it means to love my neighbor.