Hurricane Irma and the Uninvited Guests

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BD4B63BF-16F4-4CD0-9CA7-1E0FF671C992By Lindsey Bailey | Twitter: @linzeebaylee

They arrived unannounced and uninvited. We were making preparations for hurricane Irma. And then they just showed up.

“We have nowhere to go,” they said.

They weren’t close friends or family members. They weren’t even casual acquaintances we would have been happy to accommodate. A former employee of my husband’s and his adult, physically challenged daughter were in need. The older man announced that he prayed and asked God where to go, and the Holy Spirit told him to come here.

Really, God? I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at God’s sense of humor.

My first thought was to send them on their way to a hotel. I justified it by saying they would be more comfortable with their own space. We called every hotel, but with almost the entire state of Florida evacuating there were, of course, no vacancies. Ugh. You’ve got to be kidding me. No other options? It would have been far easier to pay for several nights in a hotel than to invite them into our home. I even considered sending them to our church’s shelter. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t the right thing to do. Sigh. I felt backed into a corner.

They were different. We carried their belongings inside and the stench of stale cigarettes filled my nose. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the next several days cooped up inside our house with no power, three kids and these two guests. I knew the level of my love and compassion was not even close to where it would need to be. To be honest, I struggle most days just to love and be kind to my own people, so to say this was a stretch was putting it mildly.

Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself kneeling in the bathroom below the 57-year-old woman, buckling her belt. That’s when God whispered.

THIS! This is ministry.

THIS! It is ugly. It is uncomfortable. It gets in your nostrils and smells of all that is unlovely. It is dirty. And the stench doesn’t leave your home even after they have left. It is connection at the most uncomfortable levels. “I” reside in connection.

Oh God, I didn’t know the depths of what You wanted Your people to do. I thought it looked like a tithe check here, a children’s service there and maybe even an extra outreach with some cool matching T-shirts, but this? I mean. We aren’t in full-time ministry, so shouldn’t ministry just be something we add to the calendar from time to time? But being a Christian should be more of a verb than an adjective. It gets woven into the very fibers of your comfortable life. It pulls the roots of our lives up and flips it all on its head. It can’t be separated and compartmentalized. It is all-encompassing.

Her body was riddled with pain and disability. Because of her constant pain, she wasn’t always a gracious guest like I thought she should have been. She complained it was too cold and then too hot. My meals gave her indigestion. And our kids were getting on their nerves. The man told stories about odd topics, and my ears were tired. At 84, his ears no longer heard. He was lonely and seeking a connection.

I just wanted rest. I wanted to push them away, but God’s arms reached right around them and held them close. In the natural, it is beyond me to love what isn’t pretty and clean and doesn’t look like me. The outward condition of their fleeting bodies humbled me and revealed the inward condition of my eternal heart. Deaf. Dumb. Blind. I was undone by the uninvited Jesus.

I prayed, “Baptize me in YOUR love. I fall short every single time. I am not enough. Yet I am comforted in the fact that I don’t have to be enough. I just need to stay connected to You, Lord. You have more than enough love. I can’t serve apart from you. I give you an offering of obedience and step into your grace. I feel so inadequate. Thankfully it isn’t about me and my abilities or disabilities. It’s just about Jesus. These two unlovely people have revealed the very unlovely condition of my heart.”

Now I see two paths in which we can live our lives. One path is easy and comfortable. It has some earthly rewards along the way, but it is actually quite desolate and void of real meaning and substance. The other path isn’t pretty on the outside. It is hard and difficult to traverse at times. You need constant connection with the Father to walk along this path, but the rewards are great. They are not always seen on this earthly side, however the eternal treasure is abundant.

One large tree down, a yard full of limbs and no power was the extent of the damage Hurricane Irma left in our little part of the world. But this hurricane left a path of destruction in my heart that will have long-term effects. My love is so far from the mark of where God desires, and I am humbled. The surge of discomfort and winds of inconvenience turned my little world upside down. I am comforted in the fact that I don’t have to be loving enough or compassionate enough in my own strength and ability. God is abundant in those areas.

It seems the Christian life requires more of me than what I thought. The new terrain is making me feel unstable. The effects of a life completely surrendered to Christ can actually be quite catastrophic. But, in this case, total devastation is a good thing. So, I pray the Lord devastates the pride and selfishness in the recesses of my heart.

Devastate the judgmental spirit and fear that keeps me from loving.

Devastate me, Lord—for Love’s sake.

Devastate me.

_____________

About Lindsey:
Lindsey BaileyLindsey Bailey resides in Quitman, Georgia, where she and her dairy-farming husband navigate small town life, farm living, and raising three young children ages 2, 4 and 6. She is inspired by the lovely and unlovely, the quirky and beautiful and enjoys photographing and writing about God’s lessons along the way. Find her blog here.

 

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  • In the car, in the dark, a friend and I had a conversation recently that centered around this very topic: “In the natural, it is beyond me to love what isn’t pretty and clean and doesn’t look like me.”
    I live in an area where poverty and ignorance run rampant, and it would be so easy to avert my eyes. After all, I’m pretty busy with “ministry,” right? I appreciate your sharing your honest and real cringe factor and the way God gave you grace and strength to serve.

    • Lindsey DeMoisey Bailey

      Michele, I can relate to your situation as well. I think just knowing we fall short and need God’s perfect love instead of our own is a huge step in the right direction. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Roos Woller

    Hi Lindsey, thank you for being so authentic and real in this post. I have been wrestling lately with similar things and this is such a powerful piece and reminder that ministry isn’t pretty, clean or comfortable.

    Thank you.

    • Lindsey DeMoisey Bailey

      Thank you. It’s good to know we are not alone in our struggles.

  • Heather

    I am wrecked, this is such a beautiful picture of Christ’s love and our struggle to love like he does! Thank you!

    • Lindsey DeMoisey Bailey

      Thank you so much.