Recently, I met with someone whom I was counseling with on the difficulty of ‘Hard Love’.
You know, the kind of love that your heart knows you’re to engage in, but your flesh fights it with all resilience. It’s that kind of love that only Jesus talks about. The kind of love that makes you serve your enemy, turn your cheek, and be Jesus despite the screaming of all your emotions to run as fast as you can the other way! Come on, I know you know what I’m talking about…
In our conversation, I began to share about an experience that my husband and I had several years back.
It’s kinda crazy how it all began….
Kay and her husband were what some Docs in the ER call ‘Frequent Flyers”. My husband (Joel) had been the Doc on call in the local ER many a times, Kay and her husband Gerald, had flown in for their mileage check with their many ailments.
But despite their frequency, Joel had a lot of compassion for them and graciously tried to care for them the best he knew how. He even took them home several times when they had no other way home from a long stay in the emergency room. They were very poor, backwoods, Hills of Kentucky type people. Their bodies were worn from hard lives and their age much younger than our eyes would suspect.
I remember my husband describing their living conditions to me after he took them home the first time. Kerosene heaters were lit while Kay and her husband cuddled around them with heavy dirty blankets. Their floors were caving in and the stench of animal waste was everywhere. The cold breeze from the broken doors and open holes would take your breath away. It was almost unbearable.
In the middle of winter they often came to the ER and would be admitted for pneumonia or other sicknesses. The staff knew if they were to go home, surely death would be there awaiting them.
I remember the day when my husband got the call. He had given the couple his personal cell number so we could bring them food or other things when they needed it. On this day, Kay was on the other side of the phone crying uncontrollably. As Joel tried to calm her down, I heard Kay say, “Gerald is dead.”
Kay was calling because she needed a ride to his graveside funeral. She did not have any family to take her. She and Gerald didn’t have a car. They had saved enough money to buy a little scooter they would drive around town, but Kay didn’t know how to drive it, only Gerald. This winter in particular had been a bad one. Their house had became so cold they could not stay in it. In fact, it had been condemned.
They had used their little social security to stay in a local motel. But with Gerald’s death, Kay did not have the money to stay in the motel and would be homeless.
My husband and I picked up Kay and took her to the graveside funeral. We weren’t surprised that there were just a handful of people. This was our first pauper’s funeral. If you’ve never been to a pauper’s funeral, it’s one of the saddest funerals you could ever attend. It’s a funeral funded by the local council and is termed a ‘Public Health Funeral’. There is normally no Minister, no flowers, no music and typically no family. The city picks the time and date and often few even know it’s happening. The atmosphere is filled with hopelessness and it’s…. just empty and very sad.
I turned to my husband and asked, “Who is going to conduct the funeral service?” We looked around and asked the grave diggers if they knew and they said no one. They said they were there to wait for people to leave and then they would bury the body.
So, my husband mustered up all his courage and without a moment of prep preached his first funeral that day. I was so proud of him. He stood up, humbly loved on the people, preached the gospel, and prayed for everyone.
When we were done, Kay wanted a few selfies with Gerald in the casket 😲 and then we proceeded to go home. The only problem, Kay didn’t have a home to go to anymore. We asked her where she wanted us to take her? She answered; “I don’t know?” Joel and I looked at each other and decided to take her back to our house.
Now Kay was quite the character. She didn’t have any teeth, she had a small beard, she couldn’t walk very well, and she was very difficult to understand. She was as country and back woods as they came.
Kay stayed in our house on our living room couch for several months. She was very demanding, difficult to live with and my kids were scared of her beard😳! But amazingly enough, eventually we all came to love Kay, we even missed her when she was gone.
What Kay taught me about hard love and loving the unlovable was invaluable.
You see, my husband and I have been in ministry our whole marriage. We have travelled and ministered to outcasts in Afghanistan, refugees in Algeria, and orphans in Africa. When we were done getting our hands dirty among so many forgotten we would come home and remember their suffering.
But….with Kay, her suffering and hardship came into our home. Her damaged past affected our conversations, her teethless speech impacted our dinner choices (though she could down a whopper like the best of them!) Her disabilities and demanding mentality affected our living area and our idea of ‘cleanliness is next to godliness!’Even her awkward differences affected relationships with others that we loved dearly.
Loving Kay showed me how Jesus loves me…..
How He loves me no matter what I say or how I act;
How His love surpasses my filtered Instagram image or my brutally honest brokenness;
How He loves me through my mangled bondage and into my God designed freedom.
He never limits His love based on my lovability, but, by His unwavering desire to shower me with what is best.
You see, the truth is, how we love others, shows “Who We Love Most.”
So let me challenge you a little today….
Who has God brought into your path to love without conditions? Who is your Kay, that God is asking you to love well?
Loving Kay was hard at first, but the more I chose to practice love that was not my own, the more my heart learned to love through Christ, first.
I’m so thankful for all the Kay’s God has continually brought in my life.
Hard Love, is always the path to learning True Love:
I think Jesus said it best, ” This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)