As some of you know, I have a little baby cousin named Erick, with a lot of health concerns. He is deaf, blind, and has seizures, among other things. (If you want to learn more about his story, click on his Caring Bridge site.) It’s unsure how long he will live, and what exactly his life will look like in the future.
As some of you also know, I’m a Research Assistant for a professor who is studying the coping mechanisms of parents who have babies like little Erick. One aspect of coping that we talk about and are trying to analyze, is how willing parents are to allow themselves to get attached to their baby. This research work has got me thinking about the ways that I and my family interact with this little guy.
A couple weeks ago, I went to the beach to catch up with my Discipleship Group leader from this past school year. As we caught up about the beginning of my summer, and the start of Project, I mentioned to her that sometimes I wonder how much I should let myself get attached to Erick. From the perspective of my studies, this seemed like a completely reasonable question. Although I’m not his parent, the looming uncertainty of the future affects how I interact with him. She gently pointed out, though, that from a biblical perspective, there is a clear answer for how attached I should become.
She told me that I am called to love Erick in a way that reflects how God loves me; with reckless abandon. If I hold Erick at arm’s length and put up walls in my heart because I’m afraid of being hurt in the future, I’m denying him an opportunity to experience God’s love because I’m selfishly protecting myself.
I’ve been thinking about how this truth applies to my interactions with others as well. The strange thing about this summer is that I am surrounded by a community of 100 other students. I have a job at Walmart for the 2 months I’m here. I often wonder how attached I should let myself get to these people. After all, it’s almost certain that I’ll never see my coworkers again. How much will I keep in contact with those on my team, or in my room when I go back to school? I’m hopeful that these will be ongoing friendships, but at the same time, I realize that I won’t keep up with everyone here. So how deep should I be willing to go?
If were to react out of fear, I would close myself off, and not let anyone into what God is doing in my heart. But I’ve experienced the transforming love of my Savior, and I’m called to reflect this love to everyone I encounter, for however long I’m in their lives. It doesn’t mean I need to be vulnerable and deep with everyone I meet, but I should look for ways to reflect God’s love to them in whatever capacity the relationship allows. I should open myself to finding a way to communicate my love to a baby who can’t hear or see me. I should be willing to press in and ask hard questions of the girls in my room this summer. I should be welcoming to Walmart customers and look for ways to care for my coworkers well.
I’ve been praying lately that God would grow the fruits of the Spirit in my heart this summer, and they would be evident in my interactions.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!