For over 20 years I’ve been blessed to know Susan Hunt, author, speaker, friend. I’ve benefited from her Bible studies, her writing, her wisdom and her gentle yet firm guidance when it comes to truth and the need to obey God. She is and has been a spiritual mother to me and countless other women.
Of the many Biblical doctrines I’ve learned from Susan, one that resonates most deeply for me is that of being a life-giver instead of a life-taker. Moment by moment, as we go about our daily activities, interacting with others, we have opportunities to give or take life, to build up or tear down, to encourage or criticize.
This precept has become one of my guiding principles.
On an early November day two years ago, I was on the receiving end of life-taking and life-giving actions. The events I’m about to describe occurred one after the other, providing a vivid contrast between the two . . .
When I arrived at a local place of interest for a tour I’d signed up for, I approached the organizer of the event. Instead of greeting me, she turned away. Any benefit of the doubt I tried to grant her regarding the possibility she hadn’t seen me or was having a bad day was quickly erased when she cheerfully welcomed another attendee. Indeed, she spent the next almost-two hours happily interacting with others in attendance without speaking to me or acknowledging my presence in any way. Although I conversed with other participants, the icy treatment I received was difficult to endure. If I hadn’t been concerned about offending the person leading the tour, I would have disappeared somewhere along the way. In many ways I already felt invisible.
I made my way back home in tears, depleted physically as well as emotionally. As I drove into my cul-de-sac, I realized there was a car in my driveway, my daughter’s car. My gaze shifted to the front door where she and my then-two-year-old grandson stood. In an instant, I knew God had sent me a much-needed gift. As I got out of the car Joshua trotted toward me enthusiastically, clutching a bag of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies he and Mary had made. The sticky note on the bag said, “Hi, Grammie! We love you!” I felt life flowing from these two dear ones, warming my heart that had been so badly bruised by the unkindness of the morning. By the time we shared a picnic and I watched Joshua frolic on the playground in my neighborhood, my well-being had been restored. (I would be remiss not to mention my house was Mary and Joshua’s second stop. Their first? A life-giving cookie delivery to a long-time family friend who’d lost his wife to cancer a couple of weeks earlier.)
Admittedly, these actions may seem relatively small in the overall scheme of life – dismissive behavior and a cookie delivery – but isn’t that the point? As I write about them two years later, both still have the power to bring tears to my eyes albeit for very different reasons. I can feel the pain inflicted by life-taking silence; the healing wrought by life-giving inclusion.
Jesus himself essentially instructed us to be life-givers when He said, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Likewise, He refers to the command to love your neighbor as yourself as second only to the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Mighty affirmations of our calling to be life-givers; important reminders of the profound impact our words and actions can have on others . . . for good and for harm.
As we enter this Advent season, when to do lists are long and patience is short, when distractions abound and expectations are high, let us make an extra effort to be life-givers in our homes and our communities. In so doing we’ll honor the One who came that we might have life and have it abundantly.