“So encourage each other and give each other strength” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV).
Yep! It is hard to love people who are hard to love. But they are the ones who need love most. I know. I am sometimes hard to love and I desperately need the love of those around me who can look past my flawed behavior to the hidden pain.
We once lived in South Florida where we experienced a couple of unlovable neighbors. In fact, they seemed to thrive on being unlovable … but our children were determined to love them anyway.
Jered and Danna made special Christmas cards for these neighbors, the Smiths, and wanted to deliver those cards in person. I suggested they wait until their dad came home so he could get in on the fun. I know. I am evil. Nope! Those cards had to be delivered immediately. I was clearly outnumbered.
As we headed out the door, Danna yelled, “Wait! I forgot the books!” Okay. I was clueless. Why in the world would we need books? With a sigh of exasperation, Danna said, “Because they might want to read to us, Mom!” She didn’t say it, but I could hear the silent “duh.”
Books and cards in hand, we once again headed out the door when Jered suggested, “Mom, we should take them some of the cookies we made.” Now that was asking too much! My sugar cookies are a must for every special holiday and considered by many to be scrumptious. And now my children wanted to waste some of those exquisite cookies on people who would probably toss them in the garbage.
However, the silent plea of Jered’s blue eyes persuaded me to add a Christmas tin of my delicious sugar cookies to our quickly growing stack of nice things to take to people who were definitely not nice. With every step, I prayed that the Smiths would not be home. I rang the doorbell and after a whole thirty seconds, turned to Jered and Danna and said, “Too bad! They are not home. We can come back later.” At that precise moment, Mr. Smith opened the door and barked, “What do you people want?” I could see the headline, “Pastor’s Wife Arrested in Neighborhood Disturbance.” It was one thing for someone to treat me like that, but when someone is mean to my kids – well, let’s just say it isn’t pretty.
As I counted to ten for the second time, Jered thrust the Christmas cards into the man’s hands and said, “We made you something. It’s free!” he said. No way! It was not possible! I thought I saw the beginning of a smile on Mr. Smith’s face. Danna chose that particular moment to hand Mr. Smith the cookies. “And these are for your mother,” she said, her big brown eyes sparkling with excitement. Great! With six words Danna had just aged Mrs. Smith by twenty years.
And then it happened.
Mr. Smith smiled, stepped back into the house and called, “Mother, we have company.”
For two hours, the Smiths read books, ate sugar cookies, and raved about the beautiful cards the kids had made. When we finally left, Mr. Smith said, “Such lovely children. You should have more!” Mrs. Smith hugged the kids and asked, “Why didn’t you bring the dog?”
I was speechless.
And I was ashamed.
My heart cried out to God, “Lord, I am so sorry for being totally blind to the needs of these people. Please forgive me.”
But that is not the end of the story.
The Smiths became friends and great neighbors. Weeks later, Mr. Smith had a heart attack and was hospitalized for several days. Dan was able to visit him and share Christ with a man who simply needed someone to recognize the deepest need of his life – and do something about it.
Our children led the way and taught me a powerful lesson about the depth and height of God’s stubborn love and what can happen when we are willing to love the unlovable.