Motel 6 has a famous ad campaign that says, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” In Luke chapter 10, a young lawyer asks Jesus the definition of neighbor, and Jesus famously answers him with the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable is well-known by believers and many non-believers. Having grown up in church, I certainly knew the story well, but until this week, I had never considered the symbolism. The beaten man represents us, the broken sinners. The Samaritan represents Jesus, who perfectly cared for us. The inn is the Church. We, as the body of the Church, are supposed to “leave the light on” for our neighbors, anyone who needs us.
A few years ago, I led the life of a double-agent. During the day, I held it together, taught my class of 8 year-olds, and attended work meetings as asked. Then, I got in my car and slowly fell apart. By the time I made it home, I was in tears and spent most of each evening hiding in the bathroom. My world was framed in grief because in the course of a few short months all of my grandparents went home to be with the Lord. We were also building a new home, and I was in graduate school. I felt very alone.
One Wednesday evening, I put my littles into the car, and we drove to the church we were attending. After getting them to their classes, I walked down the hall to the women’s class. I desperately needed someone to listen. Feeling brave, I shared how lonely I was. One of the ladies in class said snidely, “Well, tell us how you really feel.” Honestly, if I could have left at that moment without losing it, I would have. I knew getting up would make a fuss, or worse, I would begin to cry. I needed the Church to listen to my pain, and I was passed by, just like the beaten man in the parable was repeatedly passed by.
Since moving to c|Life and being part of a couple of community groups (CGs), where real people connect with one another, I know that will never happen to me again. Each of my CGs has been a safe place where we talk about life’s many struggles and care for one another, mostly by listening. We have helped each other through the loss of loved ones and celebrated new jobs. We have spurred one another on to seek ways to help care for those outside of our group by fostering and taking part in mission trips. Community groups connect people to God and to one another by prompting us to take part in the pain and celebrations of our neighbors.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2
Being vulnerable is scary, and we are fulfilling the law when we bear the burdens of those around us by moving towards their pain. Once we as the Church make ourselves available to take part in the suffering of those around us, we must then remember to authentically care.
Authentic caring looks different in every situation, but our friend the Holy Spirit can help us understand what to do. I have found that I am rarely called to share about a similar time in my life. Usually, he has me cooking or cleaning or listening or babysitting or praying. I remember leaving school one day during my break to buy a new pair of shoes for a little friend in my class because his shoe had a hole and the weather had grown cold. At that moment, the Holy Spirit reminded me that my student was my neighbor. His warmth was more important than Starbucks for the next week. Opportunities to care present themselves around us every day, but we must begin to listen for them. The pain of this world is big, but at c|Life, we leave the light on!