By Kari Miller
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart. -1 Peter 1:22
We all long to be known. I mean really known. We long to invite someone else into the vulnerable place where our heart lives. We long for someone to notice our uniqueness, to notice the beauty God has created in our individuality. When we are in pain we long for someone to come along side us and hold us until the storms of life quiet down.
We long for someone to celebrate our blessings with us. We want the intimacy that comes from knowing someone deeply. When just one look speaks volumes and where we can be ourselvesno pretending, just two people living their real lives together in complete honesty. That kind of intimacy creates a safe environment where love can flourish and peace can reside.
I know my soul aches for that kind of deep intimacy, yet I often put barriers up around my heart keeping people at a distance, especially people different from me, not allowing them too close to my fragile inner self. There is just one problem: love and intimacy go hand in hand. These last few years I have been on a journey of love. I asked the Lord to show me how to love and be loved. I wanted to know how to love others deeply from the heart. This journey led me to Kampala, Uganda into the lives of the poorest of women.
When I first met these widows, I was so guarded. I wondered if it was even possible to have real friendships with women so completely different from me. What does an HIV positive woman in abject poverty have in common with a healthy woman from the most wealthy country on the planet? With a prejudice I didnt even know I had, I doubted that real friendships would ever be possible. After all, their needs were so enormous, I was sure they would only see me as a gateway to money. So, I was loving toward them. I was kind. I listened and prayed with them. I gave them money when I thought it was appropriate. I even expected them to share their deep places with me, but I never let them into mine.
I answered their attempts to know me with vague responses turning the questions back toward them. I was so sincereI really thought I was loving them and protecting myself. After all, the prejudice inside me told me that if I revealed too much they would press me for money. In fact, for many months I kept my phone number from them. I thought I would be bombarded with calls begging me for help. I had this misguided belief that somehow I was their only hope for a better future. When I think of the woman I was just a few months ago, I want to shake her.
Slowly, God began to open my eyes to the prejudice that had a choke hold on my heart. All of a sudden I saw how grotesque it was. The barriers I thought I set up to protect myself were actually blocking the love I so desperately wanted to experience. As I moved among the women, I saw them sitting in doorways together engaged in deep conversation. I saw them entering each others homes to clean the infected wounds of the dying. These women seemed so close, so deeply connected. It was then that I realized that the love they had for each other was always just out of my reach. I had blocked myself from having any real relationships with them, so I was at that point destined to remain an outside: a foreigner who had come to help the poor.
It was then that I decided to stop being a helper and start being a friend. Instead of vague answers, I shared my real thoughts. When they talked about the pain in their life, I also talked about mine. When they reminisced about their husband, I listened and laughed with them about the good times that had been. When my phone rang, I no longer braced myself for a call for help, but instead smiled as I saw the name of a friend flashing on the screen.
More often than not, the ladies call just to say hello or to ask me how Im doing. I now have several friends that call just to encourage me or to say that they are praying for me. The walls of my heart have now come down and I have laid myself open before these women and they have laid themselves open before me.. There is a depth to our relationship that wasnt there before. There is a love that is growing that is intimate and real.
This week my friend Joyce called. She told me that our friend Jane was suffering from a severe case of malaria. My friend Jane is HIV positive and is also being treated for TB, so I knew it was serious. My heart broke because I have come to love her. I started to cry and pray for my friend. Then I went to her house to see her. As I approached her small concrete home, I heard Joyce softly singing to Jane while she bathed her 90 pound body. Jane, Im here, I said outside the door. Joyce told me to come on in and get some juice ready for Jane to drink.
I know Janes house well. I have been there so many times and I had just spent the previous Sunday afternoon there having lunch, laughing and talking about just about everything under the sun. I poured the juice and readied her small bed for her. Joyce held Jane close as she walked her to her bed. Jane was shaking with fever. I gave her the juice and held her while Joyce got her medicine. While we sat there I prayed for her and told her that I loved her. I love you too, she said weakly.
Then we laid her down and I covered her with her blankets. While she slept, I knelt beside her bed and prayed for her healing. All I could think was my friend is sick, my friend is sick. Oh, Jesus, my friend is sick. Tears welled up in my eyes as I couldnt imagine loosing this woman I have come to know and love. The next day Joyce took her to the hospital where she received some other advanced treatment. I called her and she called me many times in the 48 hours she was there. Now she is finally back home and slowly feeling better. My friend is getting well and my heart is so relieved.
I can honestly say that I love Joyce and Jane as my friends. They dont depend on me–we depend on each other. They arent calling me begging for help, I am calling them offering to stand with them in their place of need. I am not making appointments to talk to the widowsI am going to visit my friends in their homes.
I am not loving at them anymore, instead I am just loving them. We are learning to intimately know each other. We show each other our strengths and weaknesses. We speak the truth to one another even when its hard. We encourage each other to trust that God is big enough to meet the needs we have. Most of all, we just like spending time together.
Jesus was right, when you love someone deeply from the heart intimacy comes and fills up your soul with a peace and joy you never thought imaginable.
If you liked this article, check out: Solidarity: What does it mean?
Kari is a 4th grade teacher who is passionate about loving Jesus and loving others. She longs to inspire others to love the least, the lost and the left out. She works closely with Dorcas Widows Ministry, an organization recently highli
ghted in Wrecked that works to provide for Ugandan women and children who have lost their husbands or fathers to HIV/AIDS, war, or general disease in Africa.