Isn’t it beautiful when two hearts connect without barriers, and without shame, offering their very best to each other? Wouldn’t it be life-changing if every single one of our relationships could be that fulfilling? If we could just be open, raw, and real with others? Being able to simply love God and love people?
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to move abroad with my husband who works for a Christian NGO. When we arrived in West Africa, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew this would be a learning experience, but I could not possibly imagine that God would work in my life the way He did.
The Airport Lady
“You can’t stay here,” she said. I answered, “Ma’am, please. I’m not going anywhere. We have a family situation, and I am waiting here for my husband.” I answered. But the airport security officer wouldn’t have it. “Move over,” she added. “Fine.” I added, brooding.
In Senegal, if you are not traveling, you cannot go inside the airport. Even if it is to accompany your loved ones. On that day, my husband was traveling to his birth country, following the passing of a close relative. I was waiting for him by the door while he was checking in.
Our plan was solid. I was to just wait for him there, and once he was done, he would come back and we would spend a few more minutes together before he leaves. But then the security lady came along, and argued for me to leave the airport entry grounds.
She escorted me away from the door, and by the time I was on the sidewalk, I had taken a deep breath, and could calmly tell her what was happening and why it would be important if the airport would allow more flexibility. Her simple answer took me by surprise, “you could have just said so. I would have understood.”
Wait, what? When I left the airport that day after a few more words, tears, kisses and prayers exchanged with my husband before he left, I returned home with much to think about.
This encounter alone gave me a better understanding of the Senegalese culture. It is far more focused on relationships than anything else. Often unlike North America. I know in certain places in Canada and the US, it’s normal to greet people, but Senegalese people do more than that.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been invited to eat by random strangers. You see, in Senegal they generally eat from one large bowl placed on the ground with people sitting around it. I’ll never forget taking communion in a small village church and being the last to drink from the one and only communal cup.
How often do we invite God to sit at the table of our hearts? Furthermore, how often do we invite people to share the cup of salvation? When we kick out gossip, criticism, bitterness, etc., we make room for the King at the table. When we love people unconditionally, they are opened to taking a sip out of our cup.
Back to our airport lady, all she wanted was to connect with me, to experience mutual care. She may have even done something to help. I thought about it for a while after it all happened. And then, it hit me. “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27–28, NLT) THIS is at the heart of everything else.
Love God, Love People
In the following weeks, God showed me that life boils down to relationships. Our relationship with God first, and then our relationships with others. Our vertical relationship, and then, our horizontal relationships.
Everything we do should aim at having better relationships with God and others. We must ask ourselves, does my job help my relationship with God and with people? Do I invest enough time in my relationships? Etc.
In my experience, the more I know God, the more I love God. The more I experience His amazing grace, and love for me, the more I can love people. Before I knew the Lord, I was carrying the heavy baggage of an inner-city child who grew up in a broken home. I did not think I was worthy of anyone’s love. That was obviously displayed in my relationships. I could not love properly, nor truly accept love. I was lonely and miserable.
When I came to Jesus, He started showing me how deep His love for us is, and how much He cares for little ol’ me. The day I started accepting this truth was the day I started genuinely loving on others. I am a work in progress, and I must be renewed in the knowledge of God’s love for me and for others daily. Then, and only then, can I love on them, be open, raw and real with them. I know the risks, but love is worth it. “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT)
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