Three simple words. Words that were written on a torn piece of paper and placed into an envelope, unsigned. How was I to know that these words would reshape the way I served in ministry for the rest of my days?
As each woman arrived at the registration table for the event our ministry was hosting, she was asked to put her name on an oversized white envelope and affix it to the large glass windows around the room. There were envelopes everywhere, casting shadows between blazing sunbeams on the shiny tile floor.
As the conference progressed, the teacher instructed us to record notes of encouragement, instruction, prayer requests, or whatever the Lord led us to share. Then we were to go out and deposit our notes into the envelopes. The leadership made sure no envelope was left empty by writing some words of encouragement as well.
The event concluded with each person retrieving her envelope and taking it with her as she left. We all pitched in and cleaned up, and it wasn’t until later in the evening that I decided to read my notes. In addition to some “thank you” notes and a few people commenting on the temperature of the room (after all, no event is complete without a few “too hots” or “too colds”), there was one note that left me speechless. It simply read,
“love people more.”
Seconds turned into minutes as I stared at that note. Three simple words. Plainly written and clearly printed, there was no mistaking that the writer wanted me to receive her message. I wondered if she was one of the many visitors we had who was speaking only in generalities, you know, just “love people more,” or was this note personal, taking advantage of an anonymous opportunity to let me know that I needed to Love. People. More. ?? I simply didn’t know.
As my eyes began to fill with tears, I took my emotions to the Lord. “Father, have I failed to love them?” I knew God knew my heart—that I loved the women of my church and that I was trying so hard to serve Him and them well. What was I doing wrong? What was I missing?
In John 21, we read about Peter hurrying to be with the risen Christ after fishing. Here was Jesus, after the Resurrection, on the shoreline cooking breakfast! Once Peter arrived, he and Jesus began to talk. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and each time Peter said he did. Sadly, just a little while earlier, Peter had also said something else three times: he denied even knowing Jesus (as Jesus had said he would in John 18).
Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 about a new commandment—one to love one another. We are to love one another just as He loves us. And it is by this love that people will know we are His disciples.
Had I been doing that? Had I loved like Jesus? Was I loving in such a way that people would know that I am His? Had I been leading with love? It’s so easy to get in the habit of leading that we forget to actually love people.
I framed that note and have it on a shelf in a room where I write. I look at it often, and it serves as a reminder of how far short I fall in loving like the One who loved me first. Loving like Someone who would wash the feet of the very one who was to betray Him—Someone whose love would never cease, never be any more or any less than when He died for our sins. And because I am His, may I only and ever strive to love people more.