There is someone in my life that I just do not understand. (It is no one in my immediate family).
The behavior mystifies me and I truly struggle at times to show Christ’s love.
However, I recently had a major breakthrough so I thought I would blog about it to help someone else who is dealing with what author Mary Southerland calls a “sandpaper person.”
One morning when I was going to be in the company of this person, I was literally on my knees, asking Jesus to pour His love for her into my heart, as He promises to do in Romans 5:5. In my flesh, I just did not have it in me.
He answered my prayer almost immediately in rapid-fire succession.
1) He showed me that I am as broken as she is.
After my prayers, I checked in with one of my favorite blogs and read these words (the author was writing about someone in her life who was hard to love): “…when logic said that I should be angry or might love her less, I couldn’t…and as I saw the extent of her brokenness and mine, I loved her even more.”
Those words stopped me dead in my tracks as I heard the voice of Christ speak to my heart through a Shaun Groves song called “No Better” :
When you throw your stone, aim it at the heart
Where every crime comes from, where every stumble starts
And save the next for me; muster all your skill
‘Cause sin in secrecy is the hardest kind to kill
Lay me down with the liars, brawlers, thieves, and backbiters
Lay me down with the others, cause I’m no better.
There’s no justice here; it’s just as well you know
We’ve all got hell to pay
And grace pays all we owe
Lay me down with the takers, politicians, cheats, and heartbreakers
Lay me down with the others, cause I’m no better.
Jesus used the words of Katie and Shaun to gently remind me that my sandpaper person and I are in the exact same boat. We were both born into sin, enemies of God, hopeless to save ourselves from the hell that we deserved.
The only difference is that Jesus has opened my eyes to the glorious fact that He took the punishment that I deserved in order to set me free.
She is still bound in her sin, still resisting the blazing, penetrating, loving, and convicting love of her Savior. She hasn’t yet accepted the fact that perfect divine justice and perfect divine love met at the Cross so that she could be forgiven and made new.
That very cross is the place where she can take her list of grievances, her hurts, her pain and find healing…but she is not willing.
I have been very bit as stubborn and prideful and hard-hearted as she is in my life.
It has been said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is only One who is lifted up there. Only One who holds the key to beautiful redemption. Only One who has the power to take our sins away and grant us forgiveness.
The choice is up to us.
At this point in time, she is saying no. She is refusing the precious gift that is offered to her.
My job is to love her right where she is, just as others loved me when I was in her place. This love (the love of Christ) is most often not a feeling; it is an action. It is a determination to love the unlovely, to pursue them even in their ugliness, to see with heaven-filled eyes of faith what they could be when they are redeemed by their Savior’s love.
His command to me in this instance is simple: Love the broken. Pray with all your strength. Watch Me work.
2) The lost have no redemptive revelation of God.
I am continually amazed at my sandpaper person’s insistence on reciting her personal woes. Not just once, but over and over again, like a dog fruitlessly chasing its tail or a broken record.
Her vision cannot seem to go beyond herself and her small, claustrophobic world.
“Look around you!” I practically want to shout, frustrated by the extreme self-centeredness. “There is so much more to life than you and your issues!”
Then Jesus showed me this verse: “Where there is no vision (no redemptive revelation of God) the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18, Amplified version).
Lost people can be quite incapable of seeing anything beyond themselves and their concerns.
As a Christian, I know that I am the created, that my small story is but a whisper of His huge story. I serve a limitless God who does “exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ever ask, think, or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). He is the Author of life itself. He teaches me to look outward. He calls me to go, to help, to serve, to invite, to invest. He commands me to die to self that I might really LIVE.
He has shown me what it means to look at all people and problems and situations redemptively.
My God makes all things new! Nothing is impossible with Him! He gives me eyes that see beyond the natural, giving me a thrilling glimpse of His redemptive work. Living life with Jesus is having a front row seat to watch the seemingly impossible become possible!
What a tremendous gift!
This dear one who I struggle to love has no such vision…because she doesn’t know the God who created her and longs to be known by her.
All she can see is her problems and her solutions (none of which ever work, leaving her more frustrated and depressed than ever). She thinks that it is up to her to fight her own battles, to defend herself, to set everything right, to figure it all out.
How exhausting. How sad. How hopeless.
She doesn’t know that there is One who promises to be her Shield, her Rock, her Protector, her Guide.
And right there, Jesus fills my heart with compassion that had run dry.
3) She is my mission field.
I began to listen to my new favorite song, “Sometimes” by David Crowder. I was singing along with David and as I sung the words, “Oh God send me!” it was as if Jesus physically materialized beside me and said, “Please stop thinking of that line so romantically. I am not sending you to Africa or China. Right now, I am sending you into this day minister to her. She is your mission field today.”
I listened to His Voice. I obeyed His command. I went forward into that day in His strength. And He was faithful to love her through me.
All the “sandpaper people” in our lives are our misson field, aren’t they?
There are no accidents with our God. Nothing is haphazard.
The sandpaper people have been placed very carefully and purposefully into our lives. If we will allow Him to, Jesus has much to teach us through them. They are actually gifts in disguise.
*They help us confront our own weaknesses.
*They teach us about the stubborn, pursuing and perfecting love of our Savior who never gives up.
*They remind us how lost we were until Jesus found us.
*They teach us to look at the world through the eyes of Christ, rather than simply human eyes.
*They show us how utterly bankrupt we are to love anybody more than we love ourselves.
*They help us learn to love, REALLY love in the true and pure biblical sense of the word.
Can you ask Jesus (as I did) to help you see your sandpaper person as His love gift in disguise? Can you thank Him for the opportunity to draw closer to Him as you agree to be His partner in the thrilling and exhilarating work of redemption?
My goal is that what is said of the Proverbs 31 woman in verse 20 would be true of me as I deal with sandpaper people, present and future:
“”She reaches out her filled hands to the needy (whether in body, mind, or spirit).
May it always be so from this day on…in His strength and power.