And This Is Love

We recently did a pretty crazy thing in Peringer household. We opened up our home to a dear family. We invited two other adults, two toddlers, and a puppy to join our family that is comprised of three under the age of four, myself and my husband, and a rambunctiously, sweet six month old black lab. Now before you start to assume that we must have a guest house in the back, a finished basement, or at least a large guest suite, let me shoot down all of those assumptions: Nope! No, we don’t. We have none of that. Our basement is half finished, we have one bathroom between us, AND our home is 960 square feet. Yup. We crazy.

We came into this knowing that when the time came to tell our friends and family members, we might expect some push-back, some skepticism, and some deep concern to whether or not we were falling off the deep end. We understood because we weren’t unaware of how insane this decision was. We knew it was going to be hard. We knew it was going to be inconvenient. We knew it was going to be exhausting. But we did it anyway. We did it because we had once been loved the same way.

I won’t go into all the details of how challenging the year 2018 was for our family, but to summarize it: in the early spring we discovered our rental was infested with toxic mold, and that discovery explained our children’s mysterious, devastating decline in health over the many months we had been living there. It had been hell on earth. Horrible. Neither my husband, Patrick, or I slept more than two hours each night on a consistent basis for twelve months. Twelve months. At the end of that year our faith was stronger than ever, but our bodies and hearts were destroyed; emotionally exhausted, financially not in a great place, we were in need, deeply.

It was at that time when a family from our then current church heeded our cry for help and agreed to allow us to live in their finished basement for five months. They. Were. A. Blessing. It wasn’t easy, but it was good. It was exactly what our weary family needed to rest and to regain the strength that had been so sapped from us. Because this family opened their home to us without asking anything of us financially, we were able to save and pay off debts. And it is because of their generosity that I am sitting here on my couch, in my living room, in my darling, tiny house; in the home that we bought in January of this year. It is because this family had experienced the love of God. It is because a family chose to walk into the deep waters of true, kingdom furthering, crazy love. 

 “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Here at Relevant Community Church we hear the word “transformation” a lot, and that’s intentional. Because when you encounter the love of Christ you can’t help but be changed and be changed forever. The truth that the Son of God, perfect in every way, saw a world that was broken and ravaged by sin, and out of an overwhelming love desired reconciliation so much that he was willing and did die a terrible death; that truth, that love changes people. It’s changed me. Because I didn’t deserve grace. I didn’t deserve forgiveness. Patrick and I didn’t deserve free housing for five months. But that’s what love is. That we would lay down our lives for our brothers. It’s not about being presentable enough to deserve a favor. A gift. It’s about being utterly devastated and God still loving you.

You know what is easy? It’s easy to self-protect. It’s easy to ignore the man standing on the corner at the intersection. It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s not the right time to serve. It’s not the right time to give. We will when things settle down. We’re saving for retirement right now.” 

There is a very trendy concept going around in our culture right now. It’s the concept of Self Care. Now before you start to get in a tizzy thinking I’m going to start telling you to lay off the manicures and put back your pumpkin spice creamer and cancel your day at the golf course, hear me out. I’m not saying that at all! I deeply appreciate and celebrate the concept of taking time out to enjoy the gifts that the Lord has provided in this life and that we far too often neglect our needs. But I have noticed some things about this trend that have burdened my heart. I have noticed that if we aren’t careful our Self Care regimen which is further fueled with the “treat yo’self” mentality can become a veil we hide behind and can allow us to retreat back from the kind of love that God calls us to. Self Care can quickly turn into self protection. We can begin to hide behind this. We find ourselves saying things like this: “Well, I can’t go to that homeless shelter with the church this weekend because it’s on Saturday and I need to take care of me. I’ve had a hard week…” “I can’t engage with my roommate who is angry with me about the banana I ate last week without permission because that’s crazy and I just don’t need that kind of drama in my life. #selfcare!”

Hear me, I am not advocating burn out. It is not okay to give and give and give till you have nothing left. But where is the balance between loving others in the kind of “dying to self” way that God calls us to but also stewarding our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health well? I think the example Christ set for us is the best answer to this. Christ often went away to be alone. He often retreated from the incessant needs of those around him to go spend time with His father. God was the answer always. He is who Christ ran to for refreshment. Jesus took time away, but He always came back.

Patrick and I expected pushback when we invited our friends to come live in our home. We were not unaware of the craziness of it. But I was sad with what many Godly, Christ-following people said. “Are you sure you want to do this?” “Y’all must like stress.” “Well, I could never do that.” I was discouraged and disheartened, but I can’t say I was shocked. Sadly, this kind of love is not common. If it was, everyone would be doing it! I know some of y’all aren’t living in 960 square feet homes! Many people don’t love like this because this love isn’t easy. But Jesus calls His followers to a different standard. We are called to love not just in word but in deed. So we don’t get to avoid the difficult, heartbreaking calls of love on our life because it’s going to exhaust us. It absolutely will. One. Hundred. Percent. But it isn’t all a beatdown. It’s also incredibly fruitful. 

We were able to buy a home, a dream we have had for years and never thought was possible. We saved. Paid off debt. Our children saw self-sacrifice beautifully exemplified. We experienced something so powerful and transformative that when the Lord called us to return the favor, we said yes. We said yes, absolutely. So let me ask you. Are you ready? Are you ready to experience a love that will change your life and the lives of those around you forever? Are you ready to say yes? To trust Jesus with the scary and inconvenient and difficult? Because that kind of love is crazy and it will change you in amazing ways.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-20