A few years back, I had a sudden change of calling. My church-based ministry of over a decade shifted into a do-life-as-it-happens kind of season. Our local shopping centre became my regular focus for serving others. As I walked around doing my weekly shopping, I prayed for strangers, throwing a prayer coverlet around them. I listened to sales people and checkout girls, opening my heart to them. That was how I met Dina (not her real name).
Dina is a courageous hard working single mum who does all she can to care for her lovely young daughter. I believed God asked me to look out for her, to mother her and to share His love with her. Soon Dina and I became friends. We caught up during the school holidays, chatted when she served me and communicated via text messages. Dina had a difficult life. I wished so much that I could help her in more concrete ways.
This past Christmas, when chatting to Dina I found that she’d experienced a tough year financially. It’s been a stressful season for us too with our house matters and I was exhausted. If I ever felt God’s nudge to reach out to someone, I’d do it, but didn’t have the luxury of time and energy to reflect on my actions. One day, I received a text from Dina, asking me to come to her shop to collect something from her on a certain day. I smiled, sure she had a gift for me as she’s done in the past. I wrapped gifts for her and her daughter, enclosing a part of my Christmas money in her card, asking God to multiply it.
When I reached the shop she works in, Dina was not to be found. She ignored my texts and calls so I kept going back to her shop to honour her request. Finally ... on my fourth attempt I found her. What a relief! I was very tired but it would all be worth it. I waited patiently as she served a customer. Then … Dina looked back and glared at me. With shock I realised that I was out of favour with her. I hadn’t a clue why. During a lull in her work, I was able to go up to her to give her my gift. She refused to accept it. I said “Please take it Dina”, smiled and left it for her. She in turn shoved an envelope at me. I took the envelope and left, not knowing why I was being treated that way.
Dina’s scrawled words on the envelope revealed all. I’d sent her a small portion of my birthday money as a Christmas gift—I confess I had no memory of it because life had been such a blur of late. Sadly, Dina was deeply offended. She’d written that she didn’t want any handouts. She was angry. My cash gift was returned in the envelope. A text message I sent to explain that it was a little gift given with love elicited an angry response with hurtful words. I couldn’t believe how a small caring act of friendship could be so badly misunderstood. She requested my postal address so she could post my gifts back to me. What really shocked me was that she also ended our friendship. Just like that. Whew!
Quite early on in our friendship I’d become aware that Dina is sensitive about receiving help from others. Unfortunately, this year my life has been on a crazy roller coaster ride so I was exhausted and time-poor, unable to think clearly. Small wonder then that I’d forgotten that fact. I love receiving cash gifts and offered it to Dina in the same spirit I receive similar tokens of love from family and friends. Unfortunately Dina saw it as an unforgivable insult. Oh no!
I was too shocked to even tell my husband—it took me a week to recover and before I was ready to unload my sadness into his empathetic listening ears and heart, and he encouraged me. Bless him. That day however, I simply let my tears fall, asking God for comfort, searching my heart. On further reflection I was still sure that my act was prompted by love. I had no hidden agenda—I simply sought to bless my friend. I’ve often felt that God wanted Dina to know how much He loves her—this gift was tell her so.
It was then that God spoke to my heart.
“This is how I feel Nushi—when you reject me or think wrongly of me!’
I gasped, understanding flooding me, a bright light reaching a dark corner. As Dina hurt me that day, I have hurt God. Countless times! I’ve forgotten to thank Him for blessings He daily showers on me. I’ve misunderstood His motivations. When He’s given me a present wrapped in unusual gift-wrap, I’ve got mad at Him and said things I’ve regretted. I have ignored Him or been too busy. I’ve placed him at the bottom of my To-do list. I’ve not listened to His whispers of love. I've hurt my Daddy God.
Forgive me Lord. Forgive me. I am so sorry!
His loving forgiveness wrapped itself around me like a soft cloak. I was comforted. I also felt I'd moved one step closer to understanding God's heart.
Richard Foster in his brilliant book, ‘Prayer’ shares a truth that you and I need to take seriously:
“Today the heart of God is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence.”
God's heart is an open wound of love! When you and I are too busy to spend time with Him, God mourns. Every time we fill our calendars with mundane moments instead of asking Him what He requires of us, He grieves. When we cram our hours with pleasures that don’t satisfy, rather than turn to Him, the Author of Life, He is saddened.
This New year as we make time for family and friends, for work and recreation, for service and good deeds, let’s not forget what it is that God really asks of us. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her Jesus responded with these words:
"There is only one thing worth being concerned about.
Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:42 NLT
Over the past 10 years, God’s been wooing my heart. A lot of His wooing occurred through difficult moments and tough seasons. On occasion, I have been rude to Him, misunderstanding His perfect love which was behind it all - just as my friend Dina misconstrued my own act of friendship. But oh what joy God gave me through those very gifts that I was tempted to reject. Intimacy with God is EVERYTHING and my life is rich and full through all He has given me of Himself.
This New Year, let’s feast on His goodness and His love, His grace and His mercy. Let’s spend time with Jesus, the Lover of our souls. Let’s delight in Him and respond to His love.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone, hears my voice and opens
the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.