The old man was out of control and out of order. His wife was taken to the operating room 30 minutes before she was scheduled and we were not there in time to pray with her before the surgery. Now his angry words echoed through the hospital waiting room for all to hear: “you’re the worst preacher ever. How much do we pay you anyway? Whatever it is, it’s too much.” As I was about to defend my boss and put the old man in his place, Ron reached over and waved me back. He knew that the man was in pain and that his outburst was not about us, but about his fears.
A few minutes later the elderly gentleman broke down and began to cry. Ron consoled him as he asked for forgiveness almost immediately. I was 21 years old and I was in my first year of ministry, but I have replayed that scene back in my mind so many times. That day I came to grips with the fact people in crisis, in pain, or in fear, might push me back or reject my help, but they desperately need my love.
The experience at the hospital waiting room has had a profound impact on me over the years. As I make my way to my church today, I know that hurting people will struggle to make their way to a church service, if they make it there at all. One of them could even sit next to me or you. They might not be friendly or engaging, and might be operating out of anger or fear, but like the rest of us, they all need hope.
For the past few months I have made a commitment to be intentional in seeking out a person I’ve never met and to introduce myself to them at the end of the service. It’s amazing how many broken hearts are all around us. Sometimes the walls are up and they don’t even make eye contact. Other times the smiles hide the disappointment that lives within. But no matter the reaction, I’ve learned long ago that my job is to reach out and just love.
What ways are you being intentional about loving others?