Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
“Your house smells weird!" He dramatically shook his head and crinkled his nose.
I agreed. “Yea, it smells different than yours, huh?”
I didn’t rush to open a window or light a candle. He was right. My place doesn’t smell like his. In fact it’s so different, it must be “weird” to his eight-year old nose.
As I've lived and worked among various cultures, I have come to recognize the unique smell of each; we all tend to cook certain types of foods, use certain cleaning products, prefer certain fragrances over others, etc. It’s obvious. And, it’s apparent even to the children.
Although I think my house smells like home, to another, it’s just plain weird.
There was a moment last summer when I sat at my counter, exhausted. That day, I had been in and out of the homes here, held the babies, ate the food offered, played with the kids. After an emotional day of ups and downs, there at the counter I buried my head in my arms. And, on my skin I could smell the smell of the families here in my neighborhood.
But, it was no longer “weird.”
In fact, in some way, the scent seemed rightly placed, for finally there was outside evidence of what my heart was carrying.
And, I pictured Jesus, in the midst of a mob of people. They were pushing to get close to Him, wanting to touch Him. He drew them close, especially the children, and held them on His lap. He loved them up-close.
And, he must have carried their scent on His body.
Can love be any other way?
How I relish the idea of watching from my window some days; loving up-close brings pain untold. Yet, that day God reminded my tired heart that it’s not really love at all if it doesn’t change me, affect me, even linger on me.
Without love, it's just a charity project.
You can walk away from a project, or check it off your to-do list, or record its effectiveness in statistics. You can fall asleep at night without remembering the faces. You can talk about "making a difference" and "impacting lives" without realizing it is you who has been impacted and it is you who is different. In a charity project, you only see the lack, the poverty - for you must focus on the deficiency, or your service wouldn't be needed.
Love stays close. It walks through life hand-in-hand. It can’t be measured or photographed. It blurs the line between the giver and the receiver, until it’s just one circle. It puts an arm around another - not a hand out or a hand up. It’s not just a warm feeling. Love sees the worth, the contributions, and the value of every life. It leaves you grateful and humbled. And real love, the kind that lays down one's life for a friend, only comes from God; Jesus loved until it hurt.
I was comforted in that moment at my counter, with the sounds of kids playing on my porch, to know He knows. Jesus knows far better than I do about the beauty and the pain of being so close to other humans that you carry their essence with you - on your skin and in your heart.