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We all can be hard to love sometimes, but I’ve found that people usually need love the most in those moments when they “deserve” love the least. This true story below changed my life and my thinking about love and I believe it could do the same for you.

My Aunt Laurie is one of the most lovable people you’ll ever meet. She has a contagious joy and her laughter fills the room from the moment she walks in the door. Even now, as I’m writing these words and thinking about her, I’m smiling. To know her is to love her, but she wasn’t always so lovable. In fact, there was a very dark time in her life when she was unrecognizable from the warm and joyful person she is today.

Decades ago, she was addicted to heroin, she was a convicted felon and she was involved in a string of dysfunctional relationships with some dangerous men. If you were to meet her back in that season of her life, you would have probably passed by on the other side of the street. You wouldn’t have wanted to get to close. You may have shaken your head in disapproval and labeled her as a “junkee” or a “criminal,” and on the surface, your judgment would have been correct, but there’s always more to the story than what we can see on the surface.

I’ll bet your perspective would change if you knew the rest of the story. She wasn’t always a “junkee.” In fact, the dark path that led her down that destructive road can be traced back to a single moment on a day that tragically changed her life forever. I was only five-years-old, but I remember the moment vividly. I remember it, because it was the first day I ever saw my father cry.

Aunt Laurie and her family were enjoying a beautiful summer day out on the lake. Her daughter, Tina, was leaning over the side of the boat to look at the water below when she slipped and fell in. Her Dad, my Uncle Dean, heard the splash and instinctively did what any father would do; he jumped in after his little girl. Neither of them knew how to swim. They both drowned that day.

A few days later was the kind of funeral you pray your family never has to experience. Dean and Tina were placed in the same coffin, and when my Aunt saw the body of her husband holding the body of her little girl, something inside her broke. It was the kind of pain no human heart could possibly endure. When she made the decision to put that needle into her arm for the first time, it wasn’t so that she could feel high; it was so she could feel numb.

Now, does her tragedy justify her sin? No. But knowing her story changes something. Doesn’t it?

It reminds us that hurting people in this world need our love, not our judgment. They need our support, not our condemnation. It was Mother Theresa who poignantly said, “It’s impossible to judge someone and love them at the same time.”

So, how does this apply to your life and relationships?

Here are a few principles to keep in mind when it comes to loving the “unlovable.” If you’ll apply these to your relationships, I believe you can be part of changing someone’s life in a moment when they may need it most:

1. Don’t treat people the way they treat you; treat people the way God treats you.

The character of God is to give love to unlovable people, and ALL of us have been unlovable people. His love makes makes all love possible. The more you love you love God, and the more you embrace His love and grace in your life, the more capacity you will have to give love and grace to others.

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