Our family is on the road again, transitioning from our time at the seminary to my husband’s call and a life in western New York. Transitions with three small children are messy. There are abnormal bedtimes and meals, toys packed into boxes and onto a truck despite the protests of a four year old, and lots of emotions. The simple reality is that saying good-bye is sad and saying hello can be scary. About a week ago now, after being shipped off to grandma’s house so my husband and I could finish packing, load a truck, and clean our apartment, my daughter said to a family friend whom she hadn’t seen in sometime, “My heart missed you. I’m so lucky I get to love people in lots of spots. Some people only love people in one spot.”
It’s the gift of moving four times in four years: people in lots of spots.
When my friend sent me a text with my daughter’s words, I couldn’t help but immediately think of John chapter 13. Well, truthfully, the first thing I did was tear up a little bit, but after that, I thought of John chapter 13. The chapter begins with the washing of the disciples’ feet. It is the chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus predicts Judas’s betrayal and foretells Peter’s denial. But nestled right in between those two predictions is another section that our Bibles today title “A New Commandment.” Jesus tells His disciples, “Where I am going you cannot come. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (vv. 33–35). Jesus talked about this another time in Matthew chapter 22, a well-known verse. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39).
Embrace the people in your life
Earlier this year, I traveled to California to visit an aunt and uncle and my grandma. I had never been to California and haven’t flown on an airplane by myself in years. I didn’t see any of the tourist spots but was instead given the gift of watching my aunt live her day-to-day life. As we drove around each day—running errands, grabbing coffee, going to church, eating at her favorite breakfast spot—she would tell me about the people in each of her spots. She told me the name and story of the man who replaces her watch battery. She explained to me why she prefers to go to the coffee shop inside the grocery store instead of the drive-thru right next door. The reason? People. She has established a relationship with the people in the grocery store coffee shop. She has a person she knows at the post office, and both of their faces light up when they see each other. It’s beautiful and simple. My aunt doesn’t take the spots to which she is called lightly, no matter how small they may seem. She sees the people in each of the places she goes as people, people whom Jesus deeply loves and people to whom she is called to love.
For the past few years, our family’s spots have been big, and we have lived in each one for a fairly short amount of time: Michigan, St. Louis, New York. But encased in each of those large spots, we had a lot of small spots: our grocery store, the local farm where we would occasionally buy eggs, our favorite diner, our post office, our neighbors, our church. The words my daughter said to our family friend were wise, well beyond her six years of age, but she had one thing wrong. Nobody loves people in only one spot. Each of us has a lot of spots to which we are sent, spots where we are called to love others. After years of settling in and quickly uprooting again, I am looking forward to nestling into our smaller spots in western New York, taking the words of Jesus and the example of my aunt, and learning to deeply love the people to whom we have been uniquely sent.
Have you ever wondered if you are on the path God wants you to be on? Check out Wherever Love May Lead.