What do softball and turtles have in common you might wonder? Let me tell ya…
It was a hot summer day out at the ball fields in my hometown. I was more of a “social player”… the type of athlete who cared more about being on the team her friends were on rather than the actual game itself because FOMO. You know, the kind of player coaches dreamed about. Anyways, I was up to bat, and with one of the pitches my bat made contact with the ball and made that sweet sound that meant I got to run to first base. I don’t remember where the ball went or how many bases I got to run, but I do remember hearing one of my teammates dad’s in the bleachers. As I ran down the line, he not-so-discreetly commented that “a turtle could run the bases faster than her!”
I never prided myself on being a fast runner, but man, those words hurt. Any confidence I had in my softball skills was damaged after that, and that comment has literally stayed with me for over 14 years. I can laugh about it now, but I also still remember how badly those words hurt and how much I detested that father from then on.
Maybe you weren’t called a turtle in your middle school years, but there’s no doubt that you’ve also been hurt in your life. We’ve all encountered people who make it really hard to like them, let alone love them. My example was silly, but I know there are so many of us who have been deeply hurt by other’s actions or words, or situations we’ve had to go through because of someone else’s decisions. Right now, who is hard to love in your life? When I look back at every season of my life, there is always a person or two who I’ve struggled liking or getting along with. And the humbling thing is, I know I’ve been hard to love for many people in my lifetime.
Sooo why am I writing a post about hurt and love?
Because right now in my life, God is telling me that loving people is something I need to get better at, and this past week He rocked my world with conviction on the topic.
I’ve been journeying through the book of John with a couple of friends and a few days ago I opened up to John 13. If you grew up in church you’ve most likely heard the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. When I read it this morning, something stood out to me that never has before.
Jesus is with his 12 best friends, celebrating the biggest Jewish festival, about to eat dinner together. He knows that his time on earth is coming to an end and that these moments will be some of his last before he’s arrested and later crucified. He also knows that one of his closest disciples, Judas, is the one who is going to betray him in the coming hours.
Jesus continues to blow the disciples’ minds by telling them that he is going to wash their feet before they eat dinner. Washing dusty, dirty feet was a chore usually left for the servants, yet Jesus wanted to teach these men something that could change the world.
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord– and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.”
In his last moments, Jesus wanted these men to know how important it was for them to serve one another. He served them by cleaning their nasty feet as an example of what they were to do for others.
Now here is what stood out to me today that I’ve never thought about before. Sure, these guys had been with Jesus almost constantly over the past 3 years and he knew them super well. They were buddies. But among those 12 men was the man that was about to betray Jesus. There was also a man who was about to deny Jesus. And despite knowing these hurtful truths, Jesus did not leave them out of the blessed foot washing.
If you’ve been betrayed before, you can imagine how hard this would’ve been.
These men didn’t deserve to be served by Jesus, but it didn’t matter.
Jesus still loved them.
A little later, Jesus went on to say “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (vs. 34-35)
In his last moments, Jesus wanted to make sure that these guys understood that they were meant to serve and love others.
As I was reading this, the Lord showed me that I do not get to choose who I want to serve and who I want to love. I, as a follower of Jesus, am meant to serve and love EVERYONE. That means if I ever see the turtle-comment dad again, I’m meant to love him. When I hear about abuse or neglect or the many ways this world is not fair, I am to respond in love and service. This doesn’t mean I’m supposed to agree with sin or just accept the world for what it is, it means that I am to remember that I am also the worst of sinners, completely unworthy of the love I have been shown by my Heavenly Father.
Is loving people always easy? HECK NO. It’s one of the hardest things we are called to do. Yet, in doing so, we are known as the disciples of Jesus. When we love the unlovable, we get to give others a glimpse of their Creator who loves them beyond comprehension. Thankfully, we aren’t called to do this on our own, and the Holy Spirit is always ready to help us.
Just as I’ve been challenged today, I’d love to challenge you. Who in your life are you struggling to love? Who in your life do you need to forgive? Who in your life needs to experience the love of Jesus?
I know there is someone who comes to mind for you. Let’s join forces and strive to spread the love of Jesus in one relationship at a time. Ask Jesus for guidance and wisdom and strength, because he knows that he’s calling us to something hard and beyond ourselves.
Remember that YOU are loved. How can you spread that today?