Looking Past The Outside
By Beth Mabe Gianopulos
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)
When my son was almost 12 years old, he traveled to Mexico City on his first international mission trip. My husband and I had traveled to Mexico City for years to work with our partner church and the Salvation Army Children’s Home, and we had developed deep bonds with the children and our extended “family” there. My children had heard us talk about the children we loved in Mexico often, and we were excited to see how this trip would impact our son.
When we decided to let our son go with us on the trip, I had ideas about what he would learn and experience. I thought that he would be struck by the poverty that he witnessed. I also believed that he would be heartbroken when he witnessed the loneliness of children without families. I hoped that he would return home with a deeper gratitude for all that he has.
I wanted my son to learn life lessons – I wanted him to see how much he has and how little others have. Instead, my son taught me a lesson about true love and an open heart.
When we were only one day into the trip, my son had made friends. Despite the language barrier, he had found ways to play football (American soccer), marbles, and other games with his new friends. He formed a deep friendship with one boy that continues to this day. I watched my son play, laugh, and love on a deeper level than I could have imagined.
When I asked my son about the trip later, he told me that it was the best trip he had ever taken. He decided that he would plan his year around returning to Mexico City to see his friends. When I asked probing questions about the lessons he had learned, he responded that he simply wanted to return to spend time with his friends.
I thought that my heart was open to love because I felt so much sympathy and empathy for the children. However, my son was experiencing a deeper, more authentic love. He didn’t look at the kids and feel sorry for them. Instead, he looked at the kids there and saw kids.
He didn’t see children that needed his pity, he saw children that were his equal. While I mistakenly thought that I was there to “rescue” the children, my son realized that he was there to simply love them.
In Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG), we learn that we are“not [to] compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.” If we want to fully experience God’s love and share it with the world, we have to get past our own prejudices and ideas about what love is.
I had mistakenly believed that allowing my heart to break for these children was the deepest love that I could feel for them. My son showed me that real love is not about pity, sympathy, or feelings. Real love is seeing past what is on the outside. Real love is looking into a child’s heart, and loving them where they are, without trying to “fix” them.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus is standing at the door, knocking. All that we have to do is hear his voice and open the door of our heart. When we open our hearts, Jesus will not be standing before us with pity or sympathy. He will instead consume us with love.
Jesus, Thank You for loving us so deeply that You never stop pursuing us. Show me how to love in a deeper, more authentic way. Remove any prejudices or false ideas I have about love. Help me spread Your love to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
© 2017 by Beth Mabe Gianopulos. All rights reserved.
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Originally published Tuesday, 07 February 2017.