Stretching our love muscles
Sid and I arrived in Florida a week ago and now that the bandaid of separation has been ripped off, we are truly enjoying our time here. It started off with a bang though since on the day we were to leave we were notified we had been exposed to Covid. Sid seemed just a little sniffly but decided to test and surprisingly was positive since he didn’t feel very sick. I wasn’t sick at all. So we decided to mask up, isolate in the RV, and take our quarantine time to our home here in Florida.
Sid stayed in the RV the whole trip, and since I thought I didn’t have it, we both masked the entire drive down, ate outdoors, slept separately, and were very self contained. The drive felt even longer than usual given constant masking and extra protocols. So as we pulled into our driveway after 20 plus hours on the road, I can’t say I was thrilled as I stepped out of the RV hearing my neighbor calling, “Diane! Diane!”
Her situation is so unfortunate. She and her husband are only in their 50s. Several years ago her husband retired after selling his company for megabucks. They traveled the world in a yacht and were living the life. That is, until he suffered a massive stroke. Since then she and her at home caregivers take care of his every need for he is bedridden with only minimal occasional arm movements. He just had all his teeth pulled last week. She had breast cancer last year. We really can’t even begin to imagine her daily life although when we visit we have glimpses.
So on that day, at that moment, I was concerned that she stay away from us given our Covid situation. I also felt annoyed since we had just arrived! I asked her to please not get close since Sid had Covid and we both were exposed. She kept her distance but wanted to chat which I did for awhile, but then, went to unpacking the RV since we only had about an hour before sundown. Even with her looking at us both masked, and knowing the fragility of her husband, we had to keep reminding her to please not come near us. The next day she brought us soup, arriving at our front door for a visit! We had to kindly ask her to please not come into our house.
What do all of these facts reveal? Her complete desperation for love, so much so, that she would be willing to do things she never would otherwise think of doing, so yearning to feel love. She is by nature extremely vigilant to protect her fragile husband. Yet she had been waiting with bated breath for our arrival, which explains her unusual behavior. Sid and I, on the other hand, had been focused on ourselves and our ability to make it here praying for God’s grace that neither of us would get too sick to complete the trip.
As the week has progressed I’ve taken note of my feelings. Upon arrival honestly I was vexed that she couldn’t even let us get to our house without wanting our attention. When she came to the door the next day to come inside I was perplexed and a bit annoyed, not just at our not having a moment to get settled, but also, at her making us worry about giving her and her husband (!) Covid. As Sid and I were able to catch our breath a bit, and as I chatted with her by phone and text over the next several days, she began to feel the love, and I began to be able to give it. As the days have gone on and we’re into a routine, my heart is overflowing with love toward her as we have been making regular plans for us to visit her and her husband and be a light in their lives.
Some of you may feel that my initial reactions were appropriate. After all, boundaries are important. Yet where we set our boundaries is typically determined by our own rather than the other person’s needs. The ability to communicate our limits is key, but so also is the willingness to listen to the needs of another. In finding the proper boundary what’s most important is listening to Him and doing our best to rise to the challenge.
As the week has gone on, clearly boundaries have been established that are appropriate. My neighbor and I had been texting before our arrival and she was in need upon our arrival, anticipating our arrival, seemingly desperately waiting. So her greatest need was to reconnect after such a long time away, for her to feel that we are back. Her need was greatest when I had the least to give. Isn’t that how it always seems to be? Perhaps those are the times that we are being taught the most.
It’s much easier to love another when our own circumstances are not challenging. My ability to give love to her greatly improved each day. Love is unconditional, and yet, we often pick the time, place, or recipient of our love. It’s not as hard to love a sweet puppy as it is to love a smelly skunk. How we coo over babies yet work harder to love a sweaty homeless person. Truthfully, all are the same to our Abba who loves each and every one of us, just as we are. Stretching our boundaries, our seeming capabilities, loving the unlovable, growing our love capacities is part of our journey. Did Yeshua have boundaries when He sacrificially loved us, died for us? Where would we be if He only loved us when it was convenient? Or when we deserved it? Or when He had time?
In retrospect, had my love muscles been stronger I would have been able to show my love to my neighbor a bit earlier. I would have been better able to transmit His Love to her. Perhaps I could have anticipated her desperation for love and been more understanding upon our arrival. I sensed her need but I put our needs first. As I have observed my feelings this week, from self centeredness to greater compassion for another, HaShem has shown me ways I can grow in my ability to love, our greatest mission here for Him.
He showed me that showing our love for another is not just when convenient for us, but rather, should be given when their need is the greatest, or really, when no need is expressed at all. Our love meters should be on full and ready all the time. That is true sacrificial love, as Yeshua gave us.
Coming to Florida for a season is definitely stretching my love muscles, for it is so hard to leave those I love back home, my family, friends, and community. Being here is also creating new opportunities to grow them even more deeply. I hope as this week unfolds you will be given opportunities to strengthen your love muscles, for when you do, you, and those you bless with love will feel His Love all the more.