The bell on the door chimed as I entered the local florist shop to purchase a bouquet of flowers. The aroma of fresh cut stems filled the air and graced the floor in the area where arrangements were carefully put together by skilled hands. It was a time when many local small businesses were struggling to stay afloat, a side effect of the pandemic plaguing the world at large. Sadly, I knew it wasn’t the case for this shop. Instead, the local florists were bombarded with business. Daily orders of arrangements for funerals kept the shop afloat. The virus was still sweeping through the world, claiming lives, and stealing all sense of normalcy from us.
Trying to choose the perfect mix, I peered through the glass encasing the selection of fresh stems. An array of lovely roses, Gerber daisies, a rainbow of carnations, and pastel hydrangeas caught my eye. This was no ordinary bouquet I was choosing. It was for a co-worker celebrating a significant milestone in her life. Seven years of sobriety. Seven years on the other side of an addiction, that at one time, she couldn’t even go seven minutes without thinking about. It was a joyful day. A celebration of her life and recovery, unlike so many caught in the web of addiction, who likely wouldn’t make it out.
The road to addiction is long and winding, and it's often filled with heartbreak and setbacks. It can be brutal and wearisome for loved ones who are bystanders. Endless pleading in prayer, and begging for their loved one's strength to enter recovery. Longing for them to leave the addictive lifestyle behind, before it’s too late.
There are no lost causes when it comes to people. That can be difficult to believe. At times relationships can be messy and complicated. And let’s face it, people can be so hard to love, myself included. Anytime flawed human beings are involved (which is all the time), there will likely be some degree of difficulty in the interactions.
My husband declared something the other day that felt profound, and a lot like something Jesus would say. “Whenever we feel like pushing someone away, that is often the time to actually draw them near,” he said. This feels contrary to my emotions when encountering challenges in my various relationships. When dealing with the difficulties in my marriage. When a co-worker and I don’t communicate well, and there is silent tension at work. Or when a close friend starts to feel more like an acquaintance. In those moments, my natural inclination is often to withdraw.
Jesus does not withdraw. Jesus draws near. Even when Jesus is seen pulling away from the crowd for solitude and time with the Father, He is also seen drawing near to those who were pushed away by society. Jesus reached out and touched a man with leprosy in Matthew 8. He didn’t run from the man at the tombs who would cry out and cut himself with rocks (Mark 5). In Matthew 16, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, and proclaimed His identity over him. Jesus did this knowing Peter would later deny even knowing Him. And, even when Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, He shared a meal with the man (Matthew 26).
Jesus is committed to the slow work of investing in me and in all of us. Having the full knowledge and heart of the Father, Jesus is able to see the end from the beginning. The power to know the potential we all possess. He participated with God in pronouncing us good. Seeing where we are headed in our life, Jesus overcomes the short-sighted vision in which humans operate.
As people made in God's image, we are called to be light in a world of darkness. So I will continue to do the hard work of drawing near and loving those around me with the same love I have received.
There have been many times in my own life when I have wanted to give up on a relationship. Occasions when I desired to write someone off due to an offensive behavior. Been deluded by my own desire for self-protection. When thinking about the undeserving grace that has been given to me, I am reminded there are times I am difficult to love. Yet I am deserving of grace and forgiveness because the Father says so. So, I seek to be confident in my identity in Him. When that happens, I am better able to see and love others with the same love that has been bestowed upon me.
Father, thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for your commitment to the slow work that makes each of us worthy inside and out. By your spirit, equip me to love others through you, and to be patient. Help me to see others through the lens of your love. Amen.
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