She sat down next to me, leaned in, and smiled wide. Behind black-rimmed glasses, her eyes showed kindness and welcome. Her outfit was simple but chic, cozy, and effortlessly cute — a lightweight sweater over black leggings. Five minutes passed quickly as we caught up on life, diving right in and skipping past the casual chit-chat.
And then just like that, she was gone, walking up to the front in her black and white tennis shoes, preparing to lead us in worship.
I turned to my right, locked eyes with another friend, and honestly answered her question of “How are you?” with “It’s been a really difficult week.”
She listened intently, gently encouraging me simply by making room for an answer other than “I’m fine.”
The music began, we sang the Doxology, and I knew there was freedom to sit or stand, to sing or cry, to kneel or dance.
She stood beside me, hands lifted high, bare feet tap-tapping on the carpet. Wearing a tee and athletic shorts, with her hair pulled back in a messy bun, she sang along as the band played. When the music ended, she rested her head on my shoulder, told me to text if I needed anything, slipped her feet into her sandals, and set out on the short walk home.
I mention their outfits for one reason: if you look closely, you’ll find that they were both wearing the same thing.
Earlier that afternoon, hours before walking up the stairs and into the loft where voices rang out in worship on a humid summer night, I read these verses:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
The Message version says it this way:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Two women. Two totally different outfits. Two unique backgrounds. One common theme of love and kindness.
They have no idea I’m writing about them, and they’d likely laugh and say “It was nothing!” if they saw these words. After all, each woman was simply being a friend. But isn’t that what love looks like when it puts on skin and walks around?
We can give it a name, call it something fancy like the “Ministry of Putting on Love,” but when it comes down to it, it’s actually rather ordinary and simple.
It’s a hand stretched out, a friendly face, a listening ear. It’s asking “How are you?” and waiting for the response. It’s the freedom to be yourself and the reminder that you’re welcome just as you are. It’s a seat at the table, an encouraging text message, a hug.
Sometimes love looks like a grand gesture. Sometimes it’s extremely expensive, a sacrifice of time or money. But that night, love looked like a welcoming smile and a listening ear. It cost very little, yet made an impact, rippling out wider and wider all the way to your computer screen today.
I wonder if we make it too complicated some days, forgetting that as we slip on our shoes and head out the door, we’re bringing Love with us.
This is my prayer for you and for me, for all of us learning what it looks like to love much and love well:
Dear God, remind me today that You are always and ever with me. Wherever I go, I carry Love, and so I ask that You give me eyes to see each person I encounter as Your child. When I slip into familiar patterns of pride or impatience, help me reach instead for humility and kindness. Show me how to wear love in every season. When I over-complicate things and focus on the big and grand, bring me back to the small and simple. Thank You for loving me so well. May I be an extension of Your love to those around me today. Amen.