“Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.” ― Mother Teresa
I got a tough phone call yesterday. It was from my cousin and she was calling to tell me that her mom, and also my favorite aunt, is quite ill. The doctors have said that she is full of cancer. I hate diagnoses. They don’t leave much room for hope, do they? Unless, of course, you realize that just because it’s said doesn’t make it so. There always has to be room for God to do His thing no matter what any man says.
Anyway, this shook me up a bit. Here’s why.
To say that my family was dysfunctional may just be the understatement of the year. On both my mother’s and my father’s side, there are a couple dozen messes. So much so that there were never family get-togethers to speak of, no one spent holidays together, or if they did, my immediate family was not involved.
Most on my mother’s side do not speak to each other and haven’t for as long as I can remember–that family is completely splintered. In short, if I had lived in Tennessee once upon a time, I may have been named Hatfield or McCoy.
My dad had four brothers. Put them together and they looked like they were mafia brothers.
(My dad (Ralph), Uncle Marv, Uncle Harry, Uncle Stan around 1981)
Simply the funniest people you’d ever meet. I loved them all dearly. Get those four together and the hysterical belly laughter could soften the hardest of hearts. Except my mother apparently. It never quite got said, but there is a reason that my dad began to be very isolated from the group, and I’m quite sure it had to do with her. We stopped having family Christmases with my dad’s side when I was probably three. And the times the brothers were together were few and far between from there.
(This is me and my Uncle Harry at one of the last Christmases our family spent with my dad’s side)
So, needless to say, some of my almost sheer panic when I first began attending the GIANT gatherings that my husband’s families held, may have been just because I had never experienced such a thing. To be surrounded by people who actually liked each other and so very many of them completely overwhelmed this girl!
Then, in the more recent past, add to the mix the fact that no one from either side really knew much at all of what I lived with in regards to my parents and the circumstances in which they died–well, let’s just say most of my parents’ families had no clue what to do with me, and several want nothing to do with me.
Except a certain few that I can count on one hand. And, boy, did they do their best to love me. My Aunt Doris and Uncle Harry began calling me and coming to visit me and making a sincere effort in my childrens’ lives. Aunt Doris staunchly defended me when it was necessary and her family showed their support as well. She would kiss me square on the mouth and tell me how much she had always loved me and say, “Honey, none of us will ever know what you went through, but I always knew something wasn’t right.” As an adult, I got to know an aunt that I never even knew I had.
She was one of the “gap-fillers” God has given me here and there just to show me what real love feels like.
A word has been on my mind lately.
PURPOSE—Noun: The reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists.
I was thinking about this word today as I prayed for my aunt and her family, and I realized something. I did not get the privilege to know my aunt or uncle, or any of my cousins, for that matter, very well when I was little. I don’t know what she accomplished or may be known for. I know she makes great baked beans and grilled cheese (she told me a couple of her secrets for their yumminess), but beyond that, all I know is how she makes me feel. She simply loves me. I have a feeling that if I asked her daughters and grandkids, they might say the very same thing. In her own special way, she just took care of everyone around her. She found purpose in taking an orphaned niece under her wing. When she gets to heaven, I know she will grasp how priceless that was to me.
Some times we know exactly what our purpose is. After I wrote this post about purpose, I spent time with a friend who is absolutely giddy because she knows that she knows exactly where God has placed her for such a time as this. I had to come back and write that in because there are times when purpose is very evident and exciting.
But, more often than not, I see people wrestle with knowing their purpose.
Think of a man age 50 and beyond who may not know where in the world he is supposed to lead and you will see exactly what I mean. I watched my dad slide downhill as soon as he thought he lost his value. I’ve seen it many, many times.
Listen to the cry of the heart of a stay-at-home momma who wonders if wiping bottoms and washing dishes is all she is good for.
The examples are truly endless. We all wrestle at some point or another with where we fit in. And if we know God has plans for us, many times we are desperately searching for meaning and purpose.
There is a big lie being sold to a starving market. It comes in a million shiny packages and whatever it looks like to one person, whatever bar they have set for themselves and labeled “SUCCESS” makes everything else look shabby and worthless.
This bar may be wealth, or accomplishment. It can come in the form of items or achievements. But whatever “it” is, it says that anything less is a failure.
What if success doesn’t look like a house or car or even a successful ministry? What if success cannot be defined by net worth or gained in any collegiate course?
What if it’s a simple as this: that at the end of the day, everyone you came into contact with felt loved?
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
We can run in circles our whole lives trying to look successful and find our grand purpose. Or we can follow in the footsteps of One Who spent His entire life pouring out love on everyone around Him–deserving or not.
He gave us each a certain area of effectiveness. The Bible calls them talents. The story is a good one and it is found in Matthew 25:14-30. Around here, we talk about this often. What are my “talents”? I don’t mean this literally, as in how am I talented, rather, what has God given me that I am responsible to take care of? How do I serve well with what I have been given so that I am found worthy of more?
More chances to love and to serve, not to acquire. More chances to honor the Giver of all good gifts by treating well the gifts I’ve been given.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
What if my purpose is just to pour out love? What if everyone God put into my life felt loved by me, and every day I listened carefully for the whisper of my Creator to put me in the path of someone who just needed to know what love felt like–wherever that should take me?
What if I was made just for that? It worked pretty well for Jesus, didn’t it?
It’s so simple, but is it enough? If my name was never up in lights for being the most and best of anything, did I fulfill my purpose? Was I a success?
I hope I get to tell my Aunt Doris what a success I think she has been. How she had a hand in shaping one, very grateful heart.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.–1 Corinthians 13:1-3
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather He will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
*All quotes by Mother Teresa