When I was a young mother, Ken and I took our first trip with a baby. Clay was a newborn and we decided to visit a college friend. We packed up all the essentials and took off to a small town in east Texas, where we were invited to stay with our friend’s mother. What a sweet experience it was! Mrs. Turlington was in her late 70’s (at the time I thought that was old, ha!). She greeted us at the door and invited us into the house where she had lived and raised her children for many years. I felt so welcome and at home the minute we walked in. The preparations she had made were obvious as she showed us to the room we would be staying in and later shared with us the menu for the evening’s meal. As we talked, she smiled and showed us the remainder of her home and generally made us feel loved. That afternoon, Ken and Jimmy went out and Mrs. T and I had a sweet conversation in the living room. We talked about many things, but I especially recall her encouraging words about babies and the many responsibilities that come with them. I remember her telling me that they did not have formula when her children were born, so if you did not breastfeed, you gave the babies diluted canned milk. She was so interested and caring as we talked and made me feel I had known her forever. That evening she brought out a delicious meal with ease, all along laughing and telling little jokes that she enjoyed as much as we did. Later, when it was time for bed, we retired to the guest room to find crisp sheets folded down for us with the little lamp on at the bedside. I have reflected on this experience many times and appreciated the wonderful example she was to us. That Sunday morning as we left, Mrs. T was on her way to church and had invited us to go, too. I’ll never forget her sweet spirit, or her hospitality springing from such a kind and loving heart.
Over the many years of my life, I have had similar experiences encountering people who reflected God’s love in their everyday lives and showed His kindness that was almost palpable. The privilege and responsibility we Christians are given to live in such a way is one Philip Yancey explains in Fearfully and Wonderfully. He writes: “As the body of Christ we are the visible presence of God in the world. Where we go, God goes. Jesus turned over the entire mission, a transfer that occurred at the Last Supper. Jesus said, ‘I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me’ (Luke 22:29).” Yancey further explains that when Jesus departed this earth, “He left a visible community to embody Him and represent God to the world. The seminal metaphor, Body of Christ, could only arise after Jesus Christ had left the earth. We form God’s presence through the indwelling of God’s Spirit.” Yancey describes this transferal as a “heavy burden” for followers of Christ, but I would also have to call it a precious one.
I was changed that weekend as I observed Mrs. T’s example of the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control–all poured out so selflessly. It inspired me for the entire rest of my life to share the same Christlike graciousness in both word and deed with others. Teresa of Avila, a saint who lived in the 1500s, used these words to beautifully express the calling to live out our faith in this world in practical ways:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Do you feel far still from being the hands and feet and eyes of Christ that your heart longs to be? Take encouragement from the hope Paul gives us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and know that your growth is a certainty if you belong to the Lord.
We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18, HCSB).
Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for seeking to re-train and improve my old self-life. Please help me grow more like the Lord Jesus as I seek to walk in spirit and truth. Transform my new life in Christ to become more and more like Jesus with every passing hour; may He increasingly be seen in me.
In His dear name I pray, AMEN.