The photo above is from February 28, 2016. This day marked the last day that our son would ever spend as an orphan. On that day, we went to his orphanage and brought soda, cookies and cake for all the children. Many of them danced, laughed and sang. We were celebrating that Mehte now had a family and he would be going home with us forever.
I have to admit, my emotions were a strange mix of joy and sadness. I loved watching Mehte dance and laugh with his friends, but as I watched the other children, my heart ached. This wasn’t their party – their days of being an orphan weren’t over. When the celebration ended, they would hug their friend one last time, and he would go with us and they would go back upstairs, to their beds with no families to love them the way we were so ready to love our son.
It felt as if there was a circle of love and they were on the outside of it.
There was an overwhelming feeling of sadness and guilt I carried as we watched Mehte hug his friends and say goodbye to the nuns, nannies and children who had been his family for the last 4 years.
As I went back through the photos later that night, I looked closely at the faces of these children. While I am sure that most of them felt a genuine happiness for Mehte, I am also sure they felt something else as well:
A sadness. A longing. A desire to have that kind of love for themselves.
I think every person who has ever walked the face of this earth possesses the same longing– to be loved.
And one of the reasons I am so drawn to Jesus is because of how he loved people.
He loved everyone and he was always widening the circle so that no one was on the outside.
The Samaritan woman, the leper, the harlot, the dying, the broken, the forgotten, the misunderstood, the unwanted…it didn’t matter to Jesus. He loved fully, completely and held nothing back.
No one knew this better than his disciples. I love these verses in John 13:1 (MSG)
“Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions (his disciples), he continued to love them right to the end.”
This verse is incredibly significant because Jesus is nearing his death. Surely he would have been justified to be preoccupied and demand some “alone time.” But no, that isn’t what he did. He looked at his disciples – this unruly, ragtag, ordinary group of friends– and his heart swelled with love for them. So much love, in fact, that he needed to demonstrate to them in a tangible way just how much he loved them.
And so he served. He lovingly kneeled before each of them and took their gnarled, dusty, dirty, grimy feet in his divine hands and he washed them. I can only imagine this scene – what the disciples were feeling, what they were thinking, how they were processing what has happening. They had no idea what was coming, no idea that after this outpouring of love from their master, most of them would bail when he needed them most.
But he knew.
He knew they would run, lie and hide yet, he served them anyway. He LOVED them anyway. I can’t even wrap my mind around that because so often my “love” comes with stipulations and expectations…which means it’s not really love in the first place.
In 1 Corinthians 13 (MSG), we see the awe-inspiring definition of true love:
“…love doesn’t strut..”
“…love doesn’t revel when others grovel…”
“…love cares more for others than for self…”
“…love never looks back but keeps going to the end…”
Compassionately loving others requires us to empty ourselves again and again and be filled with the presence of Jesus who alone enables us to love this way. It requires a daily surrender and dying to self. It means kneeling down and taking the messy, broken, dirty pieces of people’s lives into our hands and choosing to serve and love them anyway.
As I think back to Mehte’s last day in the orphanage, I still feel a deep sadness. I pray fervently that every orphan will one day have a home and a family who will love them to the end. But I also feel a sense of urgency, a desperation almost…for us as followers and servants of Jesus to be about his business, widening the circle of love wherever we go with whomever we encounter.
May it be said of us that we loved with abandon to the end.
Reflect on this…
- As I read through 1 Corinthians 13, where am I most challenged to love like Jesus?
- Have I ever experienced being “outside of the circle”? What was that like? How did that feel?
- How do I respond when loving others is messy and time-consuming?
- What does it look like for me to love like Jesus? Who do I need to bring into the circle?