Love Extended

Some days, life as an intern can get pretty hectic. Having no title means my position can assume many forms during any given workday. Interning with a nonprofit organization pushes the ambiguity of my position even more so. There is a lot of stop-and-go, and the mentality “hurry up and wait” is often put into play. Most days this leaves me wondering what each day will be like, if I am working too much, if I am not working enough, if I am wasting time, or if I’m trying to push things along too quickly. With this, these and other self-evaluative thoughts frequently cloud my mind.

An experience I had the other day was no exception. I started the day going to a neighborhood for an event, but then quickly found out it was cancelled. I thought to myself, “It’s fine, things happen.” Back at the office, we sat down to begin some training, but before we could even start, preparation for the next event needed to begin. Again I thought, “Oh well, we can do this another day! I just need to adjust.” This next event was centered around lunch, but, once more, my patience was tested when lunch was served an hour and a half late.

When multiple things don’t go my way or how they were previously planned, it tends to wear me down. I grow a little more impatient with each push back and change of schedule. Aside from the impatience, anger, irritability, and general lack of love that come as a result, pushing my own agenda tends to make me shortsighted of God’s plan for my life as well as the lives of the people around me. Thinking about the intentionality of my love with this perspective in mind, the radius of the love that I am able to give to others is enormously stunted when I constantly think about myself and my agenda. I am simply unable to extend love past the boundaries of myself. How can I love the person beside me if my mind is constantly on myself, my productivity, or trivial things like what I need to get done before the end of the workday? Going further, how can I think about or find hope in God’s eternal plan when my sights are so limited?

God convicted me of this in a big way when we went to the airport to welcome a Somalian family into Louisville that same day. Walking into the airport and awaiting the family’s arrival, I was already ready to go home, exasperated that I had not had time to rest the whole day. I did not speak much and gave the excuse, “I’m tired” to anyone who was nice enough to ask how I was doing. I did not want to be there nor did I choose to ponder why I was there and what I was about to witness. My thoughts were not only earthly, but they were below the ground and in the dirt, when God calls them to be heavenly (Colossians 3:2).

Before I knew what was happening, the Somalian family, decked in Islamic garb, came walking from the airplane portal and were suddenly in our midst. In the same moment they were hugging their families and meeting their Welcome Teams, God was revealing to me the privilege of being there and the extraordinary opportunity I have to know these people. What had been clouding my mind only a couple minutes ago vanished, and by God’s grace I was able to remember what was really important: extending my love past myself and to these people for the sake of eternity.

It’s nearly impossible to notice the opportunities God gives us to love others if our minds are self-focused. This is difficult because it’s natural for us as humans to be selfish with our time, our resources, and especially with our thoughts—but, God calls us to something higher. God challenges us to give up what we want not only for the sake of others in this moment, but for eternity. And this isn’t an obligation, but a life-fulfilling privilege, joy, and gift from God to be able to do.


John Barnett