Love the One Right in Front of You

God’s been stitching a number of teachings together for me recently into this one:

Love the person I put right in front of you.

  • It’s is the answer to God’s purpose and plan for my life.
  • It’s the question Jesus will ask in my life review when my days are over.
  • It’s the example of a life cut short, a woman I know who did this so well that more than 2,000 people showed up at her funeral last week.

It took until I was almost 40 for me to move past my me phase — a lifestyle in which my family, my friends, my career and my family and even my faith took center stage — and raise my eyes a little bit higher to wonder what God wanted for my life.

At the time my view of ministry didn’t go beyond pastor or non-profit worker, and neither of those fit who God had made me to be. Days and years rolled by as I waited for a big reveal that never came.

Then as softly as the summer rain God began dropping simple ideas on my mind in a way that refreshed the meaning of things I’d been doing all my life.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord

Colossians 3:23

I love to write. I started to respond to God’s nudge by writing my children notes of encouragement.

Then came this blog; an answer to how I might carve out time in my week to use my passion for his glory.

The writing I did here grew in me a discipline of writing weekly, and gave me a deeper understanding of scripture.

Several years later God called me to write my first book. It was two years of early mornings spent with the Lord, praying over each day’s work, and surrendering to him to guide me through the journey.

But recently I’ve grown stale, feeling a bit under-utilized; until I read Imagine Heaven and God reminded of a dimension I’d been overlooking:

How do we know our unique purpose? It always starts with loving and seeking God, then following his lead to love the people closest to us, and then using the gifts and passions he’s put in us to serve humanity. 

There is a powerful story in this book about Howard Storm, an atheist who experienced a hellish near-death experience, until a childhood prayer effervesced from his heart and across his lips and delivered him into the arms of his Savior. Overjoyed and overwhelmed he asks the Lord, “What can I do? I want to build you a shrine.”(Interesting that Peter had the same reaction to seeing Jesus in his glory in Matthew 17.

Jesus declined Howard’s offer and simply instructed him to–you guessed it:

Love the person right in front of you.

But…

  • I want to do more.
  • You can’t possibly mean her!
  • I want to do something that matters.
  • I want to make your name great.

There are so many reasons for God’s direction and our response that it would take another post to unpack it all. Suffice to say our deceitful hearts constantly lead us to do the right things for the wrong reasons, our own glory and legacy.

It is as true for us as it was for Esther; God put each of us here for such a time as this — and those people right in front of you are not there by mistake.

So whether your life impacts one other life, 2,000 or 2 million, each one is infinitely precious in God’s eyes. If you are faithful in this seemingly small thing, he will equip you to do more.

With this in mind, go into this week with your eyes and hearts wide open to see and love the people right in front of you.

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