A funny thing happened to me while taking an Apologetics and Outreach class. I discovered that I didn’t love anybody.
No kidding. Not even me.
I spent several weeks with my jaw gaping open, staring in astonishment at what the Spirit was revealing about my own heart, and gazing with riveted attraction at the love of Jesus incarnated in my professor.
My heart was saying, “I want what he’s got. I want to be like him. I want to love people like that. “ One day, the Spirit answered my thoughts. “Your transformation will take time.”
I wasn’t one who was accustomed to hearing personal messages from God, but was quite sure I heard that. What I didn’t discern, however, was that God was about to begin His transformation process by tipping the first domino in a chain of losses that left me without a job, without a career, and without a clue as to what was coming next.
After a miserable season of unemployment, the first job I landed was a part-time, low-wage position in big box retail. It was a huge disappointment for me. I mean, it was all wrong.
I grumbled. “This is NOT an answer to my prayers.’
I stewed. “I don’t belong here.”
Then there came an answer to my complaining, “There are people here. Look at them.” (emphasis God’s)
Jesus had to walk me through this whole love thing. It might seem obvious to you, but I had to learn that the first step in loving someone is noticing them. The Spirit had to teach me that love first looks at another person, and then listens to them. I had to set aside my preoccupation with my own story long enough to hear the stories of other people.
So, I looked, and I listened.
And, to my surprise, I found that I liked them, I enjoyed them, I cared about them. I loved them.
Here’s a funny thing. When I stopped looking at me, and started looking at them, I ended up seeing myself in them. They were broken people, just like me. They had difficulties and painful trials. Their lives hadn’t turned out like they’d hoped. This wasn’t their dream job either. And what they needed was the same thing I needed—the love of God poured into their lives.
God was teaching me that a big part of loving others is seeing my job environment, not as the place that I hate, but as a context for relationships with people He loves.