Year B, Fifth Week of Easter; 1 John 4:7-21; Lectionary reading for May 2, 2021
When my kids were 6 and 8, we unexpectedly took in a 5-year-old foster son. A little boy in my kindergarten classroom could no longer stay with his current foster family and was going to spend Christmas at an emergency care home 2 hours away. I reached out to his social worker to see if he could spend Christmas vacation with us so he wouldn’t be with strangers, and he stayed with us for 8 months. It was wonderful, heartbreaking, hard, and we needed to do it for one of ‘the least of these.’
Big D had the warmest smile and was born to cuddle. He loved listening to stories as long as he could wiggle, and could dribble a basketball like nobody’s business. He was always on the move, but put a kitten in his lap, and he’d stroke her fur long enough for us to get supper on the table. He had a hard time remembering things like how to spell his name or count to 5, but he memorized our family prayers within days of moving in. He was easy to love.
But Big D was also a handful. He needed constant close supervision because his behaviour was so unpredictable. He told so many lies it was hard to tell when he was being truthful. He stole things. A lot of things. Thankfully, he always hid them in the same place! Despite the best supervision we could provide, he still stole a friend’s iPod, a lighter from the hardware store, and $100 from the hot lunch cash box at school, along with countless small, shiny things from around the house that we’d find under his pillow each day. He was hard to love.
I needed to remind myself daily of this passage from 1 John. Christ lived in that little boy, and I had to love Big D no matter how tough it was. Abiding in Christ wasn’t just a theoretical experience during those 8 months; it was a daily necessity. While I have spent many years cultivating a loving, positive outlook and manner, loving Big D the way John commands every day felt impossible. By leaning on God, I succeeded more days than I failed.
I found this little book a couple months after Big D came to live with us, and I have complete faith the Holy Spirit put it in my hands. At first, I thought it would be a great book to read to my son Tim, who struggled with jealousy. He had a hard time believing I could love another kid without me loving him any less. I think it helped Tim, but mostly, when I picked this book at bedtime, I was reading it for me.
God loves us so completely he sent us Jesus. God loves us no matter how many of us crowd onto the planet; God loves us even if we eat fast food and watch too much Netflix. God loves us so that we can learn to love like God does. Just as it doesn’t matter how many children are in a family, a parent’s love expands to fit them all, we all have an infinite supply of love when we abide in Christ.
Ok, ok, I’ve made this post way too personal and if I keep going I’ll likely cry, so to wrap up: the kids in your ministry need to know that God will always give them more love than they can ever give away, and the adults in your ministry? They need to hear the same message.
Questions to ask before you read:
- Who gets more love: a kid with no siblings or a kid with lots of siblings?
- Does God love you when you are naughty?
- Does your family love you when you are naughty?
Questions to ask after you read:
- Is it always easy to love the people in your family?
- Can you love someone you’ve never met?
- How do you show love to someone you don’t know very well?
I am morally obligated to inform you of my little money-making scheme with Amazon, the one where you click on a book and I earn a 5% commission, but since no one ever actually does, these extra words are just for fun. This book is less than $10 though, so if… let’s see… carry the 1… if 154 people bought this book, I could pay for my domain name this year!
Docherty, Helen. You Can Never Run Out of Love. Scholastic, Inc. 2017.