Our minivan smelled like cigarettes and bourbon. It’s a smell that doesn’t wash out easily. Some smells can never be scrubbed clean. These are the scents that don’t just live in the cushion seams, but in my nostrils and stain my memory. When I was growing up, my mom would regularly pick up hitchhikers. The haggard hair of a homeless man or vacant eyes of a wanderer didn’t make her afraid, but compassionate. She would see a wayward person on Main Street, pull over, stretch her body across the passenger seat like a bendy straw, and barely reach the handle with the tips of her fingers. Then it came, that smell like a gust of wind. Smoke and alcohol.
Sometimes we would drive around for hours. She would tell the new member of our “van family” about Jesus. Between the train station and stop lights, she would listen, make eye contact, and ask questions. Sometimes it was a woman with her small children. Sometimes there were clothes stuffed into garbage bags. Sometimes there was silence from the stranger. But there was never a hesitation from my mom to drive miles out of the way to help a stranger.
Picking up people off the street never felt dangerous. The behavior and body language of the different passengers sitting shotgun were oftentimes striking to me, but I was never afraid. I sat in the backseat curious and confused, but not anxious.
As a parent now, I’m not sure I would give strangers a lift with my daughters in the backseat. But what my mom did has left a long-lasting imprint on me. I don’t want the scent of booze to be bleached out. I’d rather not erase it because it taught me something.
The way of Jesus is not just a mission trip or Sunday morning. His way can not be relegated to a to-do list or secret society for the wealthy, intelligent, or spiritual. A community service project downtown isn’t what will make me feel better about myself. But oftentimes I make following Jesus more complicated than it needs to be. I turn loving people into an agenda instead of a way of life. When I look at the ministry of Jesus, He loved those who were on His path. He was always walking towards the cross, but if I mapped out His journey it would look like He was directionally confused. But He wasn’t. He was moved by compassion by those who needed Him. He had mercy on the leper, the sick, the young, the hungry, the grieving, and the dead.
The way of Jesus is walking the way He leads you. The way of Jesus is becoming like Him. The way of Jesus requires seeing humans as humans. It is being with others.
But how do we — how do I — choose His way? It starts by acknowledging that I am always becoming something. My formation is always in process. My heart is always being shaped. Whether by mainstream media, society, science, community, or Scripture, I am always becoming formed. I am evolving and changing and growing. I am always going somewhere. The voices I listen to, the crowd I surround myself with, and the videos I watch are all a part of my formation. It may be in small ways or large ones, but formation is always occurring. Even in silence and stillness, my heart is being formed to trust in the goodness of God or to trust in other powers. I am always moving forward in either direction.
The question is — where am I going and who do I go with?
For me, the words “come beside her” have recently been rising and ringing inside of me. Come beside her. Don’t come down on others. Don’t preach over others. Don’t treat people like they are a project. Don’t flatline under the weight of holding others up, but come beside her.
There may be a day when I pick up a stranger off the street. But for now, I’m leaning into Christ’s invitation to come beside women. This looks like resting a hand on the back of the broken, offering a seat to the tired, encouraging women to take just one more step.
Where are you going today? Who are you going with? Pay attention to the path you are on and be awake to who God brings to you. Look at each other with eyes of compassion. True, deep, genuine, Jesus-loving compassion. We are being formed into the aroma of Christ. Sometimes that aroma smells like dirty diapers and cleaning detergent. Sometimes it smells like a garden with lilac bushes head high. And, sometimes, it smells like cigarettes and bourbon.
You were truly blessed by God giving you such a Jesus loving mother! I am sure that you make her proud! God bless you.
I am so blessed to have a mom who walks with Jesus.
Your words are profound insight especially on this 4th of July.
We all have a purpose, one that is God given and Christ inspired. It’s not just a matter of doing it’s a matter of being, being available, being ready, being willing, being the hands and feet of Christ.
Good bless you and many thanks for mothers like yours that live in real time what they profess to believe.
God bless you!
Ada Orie says
I enjoyed this devotional. I was reminded about the great commission yesterday. This devotional is a reminder of as we go to love people on our path. I like how you made this about everyone’s path being different and going beyond Sundays and community service. This was excellent and thank you for sharing.
Beautiful message with deep meaning. Thank you for sharing
You are welcome!
Carrie Bennett says
I’ve recently went through the Simple Difference but have fallen into old selfish patterns again. Thanks for the reminder to be looking for people around me to share God’s love with!
I love that book!
Excellent article…yes…we need to be more like Jesus… look out for others regardless of our own schedule. What a great Mom you had then.
Ruth Mills says
I recently read Robert J Conrad Jr’s book “John Fisher and Thomas More: Keeping Their Souls While Losing Their Heads” The reaction of each of these men when handed the sentence of death of grace & compassion toward those that falsely accused, & imprisoned them was a challenge to me. See others as souls needing the rescue of Jesus JUST LIKE ME, not an inconvenience, bother or something/someone to not acknowledge. But to pray that they too might be my heavenly sibling & greet them as if they already are. My approach toward strangers & difficult friends has improved immensely since reading that book and your post reinforces those truths. Thank you for sharing! Blessings!
It’s simply profound that sort of courage and compassion is possible, right?
Miriam F. R. Maneevone says
Anjuli- you write so well! Funny how it was so common to help others, I didn’t even notice it was anything but ordinary. Glad God used something so simple to make a difference in your life. God knows what simple things you do that will impact others. Thanks for sharing- blessed me- love you- Mom
Rachel Marie Kang says
“I don’t want the scent of booze to be bleached out. I’d rather not erase it because it taught me something.” So beautiful, dear friend. Love this.
Love you, Rachel!
Anna-Maria Kriel says
Thank you for this message this morning. We are in the process of moving out of our main house into the suite with the idea of paying off our mortgage sooner so that my husband can retire. So, we are looking for tenants for our house. I am very hesitant and judgmental with the inquiries and the possible candidates that came to look so far. The one family who really wants the house is a woman with her two children, boy 10, girl 17 and her 18 yr old boyfriend. Their lifestyle is clearly not that of Christians or our preference. There are some other “flags” that is going up, will they pay the rent? Will they be considerate towards the rest of us living in the house? No smoking and partying? Are these the kind of “smelly people” that your mom picked up? Do I see this as a mission field? Am I really able and strong enough to deal with all these challenges? I honestly cannot see myself and my husband (who is a very short tempered person) dealing with this. How much easier would it be if we get the “right” family? But for the “right” families that we met so far, the house did not offer everything they were looking for. Do I see this as a “sign” from God?
I am constantly before God and I must admit, this whole issue is consuming all of my thinking day and, yes, even most of the night. I cry out to God for wisdom and direction and although I feel He assures me everything will fall in place, the unsureness and confusion of the decisions I have to make is quite overwhelming. I feel I am wrestling with God for the right answers and at the same time I feel ashamed that I don’t trust Him enough for the outcome. Does God expect me to use my own (God given) judgment or does He expect me to take a leap of faith?
I do not expect and answer from you 😉 but just found your message very interesting in light of my own current circumstances and struggle. Your prayers would be very welcome though. 🙂
Thank you for your always encouraging messages.
Ruth Mills says
Dearest Heavenly Father, surround Anna-Maria with Your presence in such a way that she & her husband see Your pillar of light standing between them and the armies that follow bringing fear and uncertainty & doubts to them. Just as You parted the red sea as they were chased by the chariots of Egypt make the path clear for them that the exact tenants will be revealed. Use the tenants whether believers needing encouragement or non-believers needing to be introduced to You as their new mission field to honor & glorify You. Protect them from losing their sense of home & security as they make this change. Keep them from being anxious and enable them to patiently await Your timing on who is to be their tenants. All for Your glory & in Your name I pray Father, Son & Holly Spirit. Amen
Thank you Ruth. Your prayer and words bring much comfort. ❤
Anna-Maria Kriel says
Sorry for the long message. I did not realize it will be displayed publicly. Please feel free to delete.
I hope it’s okay that we keep your comment up. I know others wrestle and struggle with similar feelings. You aren’t alone. Praying that the Lord would give you wisdom and discernment and most of all, peace.
Thank you Anjuli. You’re very kind. ❤
Beth Williams says
The way of Jesus doesn’t discriminate by race, color, or creed. It is simply loving people & helping them any way we can. For me that looks like assisting the Loaves & Fishes Food Bank 1-2 days a week doing whatever needs to be done-from putting meals together, sorting canned goods, dishes, or handing out meals. Also I have aided them with their yard sales & fund raisers. Next Saturday I will make dessert for the volunteer dinner. Just my way of showing Christ’s love to others.
Another thing I do is pray for people. I overheard a co-worker talk about a big decision she is trying to make in her life. Without telling her I have been praying for God to give her the wisdom to make the right decision.
The way of Jesus is doing simple things to show Christ’s love to this sinful world.
Thank you for all the ways you serve!
Diane Bailey says
Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to live bravely wirh tge people and in the place God has positioned us.
Brenda M. Russell says
Oh my goodness, how true is this article. I know that we all are still in process of transformation. I may be wrong but I think it takes a lifetime for this spiritual transformation.
Jesus didn’t and does not or ever will look beyond broken people no matter what causes the pain. This is where we want to end up, where people hurt and need compassion, encouragement, love, forgiveness and kindness. Someone encouraged us along our journey. I admit that I really thought I could get to a point in my life where I would just keep growing up in the Lord. But I find that I regress sometimes and have to repent. Why is this true? We will constantly and continually need our Lord and Savior to teach us, correct us, comfort us, strengthen us, hold us, convict us and forgive us.
If that is true of us with our Lord and Savior, then it’s true one to another. We were created to live together, work together, govern together and worship together. I hate what the Pandemic is leaving along the way.
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones due to the Pandemic. I did contract the Covid-19 virus. I am thankful that it was very mild and I had help from my family to endure the minor discomfort it caused me.
Today is Independence Day and I pause to say, “Thank You Lord” for helping us. I know I can’t make it from day to day without the active Love of God in my life.
God bless Everyone.
Your Sister in Christ
Thank you, Brenda for your lovely words of encouragement and hope!
Thank you for this, I needed it! Jesus please take my hard, judgement prone ❤️,& break it up. You promise to to give me instead a ❤️ of flesh. I want a ❤️that seems others with Your Compassion & Grace! Amen
I echo your prayer. it is short and to the point. Thanks for your humility and faith.
Donna Burttschell says
I have suffered off and on in seasons of depression and anxiety for 10 years. I have been and am in the longest season ever…for over a year. It seems like it will never end, but I look to the Lord Jesus as my Savior, my Healer and my Strong Deliverer! I declare His word His promises over myself day and night. I would appreciate your prayers please. I feel so alone. Thank you and God bless you all!
Oh, friend. What a long journey you are on. It seems like you are still in the dark valley. I’m praying that today- maybe through fireworks or God’s creation- you might experience hope in a new way. You are loved. You are not forgotten.
I shared to my Facebook page. There is not one challenge here, but many. So glad you said we were all in the process of formation. We can relax. The formation of my character is not a “to do” list- but walking in harmony with the Shepherd of our souls.
So, so encouraged. Thanks Anjuli.