Originally published Monday, 13 May 2013.
Getting to know someone is like walking into the ocean. You don't realize how how close you've come to its deepest part until you look up and suddenly realize you're in far into the fray, surrounded by nothing but a garden of blue.
The ground is flooded and the sky is the sea. The sun that first kissed the top of the water barely casts a shadow on your slow-moving feet.
A lot of times, it's on the floor of the deep, wide ocean where honesty is born in friendships. A word is spoken, a hurt in the past is revealed.
It's there that you can make a choice:
You can either power-blast outta there, Iron Man-style (seeyah!). Pop out of the ocean like a missile and ride the next wave into town. Hang out in the shallow end.
You can take closer steps. You can take a deep breath, look your people square in the eye and listen to their hurts and struggles. You can cry with them. You can hold them. You can bobble along on the floor of the ocean while holding their hands so hard your knuckles are white and spongy.
We're doing David Platt's Radical study in Sunday school, and today's discussion asked us what makes us feel compassionate toward people.
A young lady, a new friend I've only just met, talked about a homeless man named Leroy who she bumps into from time to time. She shows him love by listening to his story. She knows what bench at what street corner he sleeps on, and what kind of bag he carries on his back. That's love.
She takes closer steps toward a sort of man that the rest of the world would leave the ocean for.
Jesus did that, too. He sought out people who were hurting and struggling. What's more he touched them. He healed them. He didn't have a love language. He just did love.
He took closer steps.
A while back, about a year ago, a good friend shared some news with me. It was more of a confession. It was very hard to hear, and a little scary.
My mom was sitting beside me when I heard. She let me hang my head and cry for a moment. I thought the news meant that our friendship was over. I thought she was going to encourage me to dismember my relationship with this person. To skyrocket the heck out of that deep part of the ocean of knowing someone without taking one forlorn look back.
But. That's not the kind of mother she is. And that's not the way she loves.
She taught me that day that our God can redeem anything. And that if we really believe that, we have to decide to step closer to people. Even if it's scary. Even if it means getting uncomfortable and spongy while dwelling in the deep end for a while. Even if it's inconvenient, and people tell us it's not a good idea to do it.
That was the day that I learned my mom has love like an ocean in her soul. She loves others by taking closer steps toward them. She doesn't flee and fail to look when things get tough. And I know this because she has loved me like this since the day I was born.
When it was hard to love me, she stepped closer. When I went through my terrible pre-teen years, she stepped closer. When I had to be at ballet rehearsal at reckless times of morning, she stepped closer. When I was sick, when I spoke a word that was unkind, or was heartbroken, or ugly, or confused...
She stepped closer.
That's how I want to love people. I want to step closer toward them.
Happy Mother's day.