Several weeks ago, Steve and I went to a local pizza shop to work on our book. While I was lost in my own writing “head space” I became aware of a family navigating the process of selecting pizza, drinks, and seating with an infant and several older children (I’ll call them the Jones). Since I love children, especially the tiny snuggly ones, and am particularly struck with the love of dads toward their children, this family caught my attention. There was a couple with them (I’ll call them the Smith’s)—and I could not easily understand how they fit into the family matrix. After everyone was seated, they asked another patron to take a picture of the group. The baby was so adorable, smiling as if he knew he would later captivate anyone who saw this picture. I was taken in by the whole scene.
Eventually, Mrs. Smith got up to get a straw and we exchanged glances. On the way past my table, she stopped and shared with me that this was a 1-year reunion for the two families. You see, last year at this time, the man who was the father of the young family had given a part of his liver to Mr. Smith. As Mrs. Smith shared more of the story, I felt a lump form in my throat and found myself holding back tears. Here’s how the story unfolded . . . The Smiths were attending a local church and Mr. Smith was in desperate need of a liver transplant. After a review of all friends and family, a suitable donor could not be found. The Smiths went to the pastor of their church—a multi-campus church—who put a request out across all campuses. Mr. Jones, who had never met the Smith’s, saw the request and started to pray, and God placed it on his heart to donate part of his liver. Now—this is not a simple surgery. It means that Mr. Jones would suffer, as would his family, for the gain of Mr. Smith. (Hopefully, you’re all with me – a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye). This is a love that defies logic, human nature, and the devastating self-centered culture of the world since the “fall”. It is the love that Jesus consistently demonstrated, that surrendered his own rights and self-interest, for the will of the Father. It is the very nature of God, the Agape love that is sacrificial, benevolent love.
As Mrs. Smith relayed the story, she stopped and said, “are you crying?” To which I freely answered—yes! My husband and I are here working on a book and I am writing a part on other-centered, sacrificial love and its power to transform us. It’s no coincidence that you were all here to share a story of how that love is played out in a tangible way. It’s just beautiful. When we see this love in action, it connects us to God’s heart and His love in such a powerful way. It is hard to not respond emotionally. What a beautiful depiction of sacrificial love you have just shared with me!
Probably what struck me most about this story—although I did not get to talk with Mr. Jones—is that Mr. Jones was likely more transformed through his actions than Mr. Smith. You see, the venom of sin that erodes our body needs a powerful antidote. That antidote is love. And there is no clearer path to receive that antidote than to posture ourselves (give up our own nature) to allow God’s love to move through us. We have no capacity to mimic Agape love due to our self-centeredness. We can only be conduits of that love, letting it pour through us as vessels, while God moves to impact others. But as a conduit, the broken vessel also receives healing and transformation. Maybe someday I will hear Mr. Jones side of the story . . . but I suspect he gained more than he gave which is one of the great ironies of walking in this type of love. Sacrificial Love.