It was after church one Sunday when she slipped quietly into the seat behind me. I sensed that she needed to speak, and to be heard, so I excused myself from conversation with others around me.
She began with an apology for missing Bible study the previous week. She’d planned to let me know before our group met, but her courage and energy were at such a low ebb she simply didn’t know how to say that she was too exhausted to come. To her, it didn’t seem like a legitimate reason, but this mum with young children had come to the end of her resources. She had nothing left to give.
When I reassured her that we didn’t question her commitment to the group, I added what I’d often thought but had never said: that I am genuinely encouraged by her determination and desire to join us each week. In spite of the many hurdles she encounters just to get there, let alone concentrate or participate in the group, she consistently makes every effort to come.
It was a simple statement of truth, but for her it granted permission to weep tears of tired relief and it gave me a glimpse into her troubled and tender heart. Although I’m long past this season of motherhood, the memories still run deep, especially the aching fatigue and the weary fragility once the limits of endurance have been reached. It wasn’t hard to empathise.
I don’t recall much of what I said that Sunday, but somehow just the fact that I listened seemed to communicate understanding and acceptance—two things my friend seemed to need most just then. I couldn’t fix anything for her, but as we prayed together afterwards, I rejoiced inwardly knowing that we were bringing her troubles before the One who already knew them and who would give whatever she needed to persevere.
It can be so easy to keep everyday conversations comfortable and undemanding, skating smoothly over the surface of life and allowing subtle signs of distress and fleeting hints of sadness to go by unrecognised, unremarked. But this brief encounter reminded me that when I choose to love others with a glad and generous heart and give the gift of my full attention, our faithful Father never fails to use this for good.
It grieves me, however, that too often I lack love and do not make every effort to care deeply for others. And sometimes when I do try, it feels as if I also lack sensitivity. But I’m convinced that no matter how infrequent, clumsy or imperfect the attempt, to obey Jesus’ command to love one another is to reap a harvest of blessing and enjoy the undeserved fruit of God’s grace, kindness and love.
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