This isn’t a sappy post about a romantic Valentine’s dinner out. It’s not about romantic love. Not even about sex. (Sorry.)
Let me introduce you to my new friend, Chelsea.
I showed up to Chelsea’s apartment building on Tuesday night, frazzled and lost. A mutual friend of ours had invited me to this dinner, a special get-together for Chelsea’s single friends that included a nice dinner, gooey dessert, and some much needed girl time.
I am married, so clearly I wouldn’t exactly fit in, except that Chelsea is married, too. Her husband, an accountant, had to work that night. I was in a part of town I had never been in. The freeways getting to her place were jammed, a mix of work commuters and happy couples anxious for an evening out. As I had turned onto her street, the gas light in my truck went on; I would have to get gas later at a dingy little gas station on the street corner in this unfamiliar neighborhood. Why hadn’t I gotten gas earlier?
Chelsea found me on the sidewalk outside her place, a frustrated mess. She introduced herself with a hug, and assured me that everyone who ever came to visit them encountered this issue of where in the mass of the apartment complex their little abode was hiding.
She guided me up candle-lit stairs with messages written in chalk: “You are loved,” “You are beautiful,” and more colorful letters. I walked into a cozy dwelling where candles burned and soft music played. Two women – my friend, Jessica, and a beautiful girl I would soon come to know as Priscilla – sat sipping wine and soaking their feet in tubs of warm water.
A plate of fancy cheese and crackers awaited me beneath the flickering light. I took it, and sat down next to Jessica. Chelsea had scurried back into the kitchen to check on dinner – salmon, rosemary sweet potatoes, garlic bread, asparagus – and soon re-emerged into the living room, where she took a seat on the floor.
I watched this take place and thought of Jesus. How he washed his disciples’ feet despite the fact that He was a king, despite the fact that his disciples were sinners and would betray him, despite the fact that He would soon be in the highest and most holy place.
Jesus showed love by humbling himself. Chelsea was doing it, too.
We overstuffed our bellies with excellent food and sat around the small dinner table, talking about racism and cabins in the woods and Justin Bieber. (Jessica works with middle school kids.) Chelsea cleared our plates and ushered us back to the living room, where more wine and heartfelt conversation would ensue.
She would wash the dishes later.
I got quiet as the conversation continued to unfold around me, because I was knocked over by this display of love, and how these women responded to it. I started thinking about the relationships in my own life – how scattered they are, because we have moved around so much – and how I wanted to love people more like Chelsea does. More like Jesus does.
I was sent away with a bouquet of flowers, a dark chocolate bar, a card that said I was loved and precious, and, thanks to Jessica, a balloon twisted into the shape of a yellow flower. (Balloons is another story – a very cool one about my friend’s new talent.) And I was sent away with the most humbling warmth in my heart.
For a while now, I have been praying for God to help me see others as He sees us. I thought this might be like the patience prayer: You pray for patience, and instead of getting patience, you find yourself in all of these situations where your patience – your character – is being tested. Surely by praying for compassion, I was asking for situations in which my own show of compassion would be challenged and scrutinized.
But on Valentine’s Day, Jesus answered my prayer differently. He placed someone in my life who demonstrated love as He loves. I not only got to see it in action; I got to be a recipient of it.
I was loved that night in a way that continues to trigger tears when I think about it. I returned home to my husband and son, who were both asleep, and heard the dishwasher humming noisily in the kitchen. All of the dishes were washed. The living room was picked up.
Happy Valentine’s Day to me.
I felt so full of love. And now, I want to pay it forward.
*What “little things” or acts of service make you feel completely and wholly loved?