The first time I passed him, I hardly gave him a thought. He was just one of many at the gym that Wednesday, squeezing in a workout during the lunch hour. The only difference? He wore dress slacks and a dress shirt, and he must’ve been almost eighty years old.
I did my best to push any thoughts of him to the side. Earbuds in and music loud, I kept walking, circling the track like a woman on a mission. I had very little time, and I needed a workout. I didn’t have space for interruptions or diversions.
But then my heart twisted the second lap around. He sat on one of the many circuit training machines, eyes closed and hands in his lap. I couldn’t tell if he was napping. Or praying.
I feel ya, buddy, I thought as I passed him again.
It wasn’t until the third lap that I noticed the splint on his right arm, black velcro wrapped around wrist and thumb. I wondered if his workout included a bit of physical therapy, rehabilitating whatever he’d injured.
By lap four, five, and six, his presence pulled at my heart.
Okay, God. What’s up?
I’ve slowly learned to pay attention to these strange heart-tugs when they happen, even though I rarely know what to do with them.
As I circled the track, I waited for divine directive. I’m not sure what I expected — maybe a memo on the wall or God-talk through my headphones. I wanted specifics, something to convince me I wasn’t being dramatic. Instead, all I got was a vague pull toward an elderly man napping on a chest-press machine.
Help me out, God. I need more than that.
Rather than audible direction, I felt the same nebulous nudge:
Go talk to him.
That’s it. Go talk to him. This was madness.
But what if he’s offended at my boldness? What if he thinks I’m crazy or, worse, condescending? What if he’s put off by my attempt to be friendly? Maybe he wants to be left alone. Talking to him would be rude, right?
Excuses, every one. I was downright brilliant at coming up with reasons not to be uncomfortable, not to be inconvenienced. As if it even mattered if my kindness could be mistaken for rudeness.
What began as a tug of love toward another human quickly morphed into a tug to preserve myself. I was more committed to my own comfort than the possibility of offering a little bit to someone else, more concerned with maintaining my own position than to step into someone else’s.
You’d think I’d know better by now.
I wish this was the only time I’ve resisted a show of unconditional love because of my own agenda. I have tasks, to-dos, people to see, and places to go. With six children and a full-time job, my life is full, demanding, often more than I can handle.
But Jesus — the one who carried the weight of humankind on His shoulders — followed a different standard. He lived a short thirty-three years, and His mission weighed far more than mine.
And yet, no one was more interruptible and willing to be uncomfortable than He was. Everywhere He went, people pulled at Him. They interrupted His prayers, interfered with His meals, inconvenienced His calendar, challenged His words. Didn’t they know He had important work to do?
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 (NIV)
Real love is willing to die — not just to life, but also to self.
A Jesus-love is willing to be inconvenienced. It’s willing to lose face, lose time, lose comfort. And it’s willing to take a risk and rearrange a schedule for the possibly opportunity to show someone life-dying love.
Although it took me far too many laps around the gym track, I finally walked over and introduced myself.
“Hi there,” I said, mustering my biggest smile. “I noticed you working out. A-a-a-and just wanted to say, ‘Way to go!’ You’re doing great.”
Lame, I know. He chuckled and offered a big smile. We shook hands and shared names. And then, for a few sweet minutes, we chatted long enough for me to find out Bill was visiting with his bride from Florida. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
It’s now been a several weeks since our encounter. Bill is back in Florida, and I’m back to my to-dos. But I hope I’m not the same. I hope I’m less inclined to save face and more inclined to look into someone else’s. Even if it costs me time, convenience, comfort and a Wednesday workout.
Why? Because I want to look like the Undying Love that was willing to die. For you and for me.
A Jesus-love is willing to be inconvenienced. It’s willing to lose face, lose time, lose comfort. -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet