I went on a women’s retreat a few months ago at the beginning of a new season I’m my life that I wasn’t particularly fond of. We spent the weekend talking about Jesus, sharing our stories, eating nourishing meals, and connecting with one another. I didn’t know the majority of the women there, but it didn’t keep any of us from being open with one another. It was an unspoken assumption that it was a safe place.
Over coffee one morning, I sat and talked with Suzie- an adorably delightful woman from London. I think I could have talked to her for hours simply to listen to her endearing British accent and phrases that I could gobble up like macaroni. I learned she was married and had a little boy and that she was in culinary school. On paper, her life seemed to be completely different from mine- like there would be little we could relate to in this present day. But she started asking me questions, and not just for the sake of polite conversation. She wanted to hear what was on my heart. We talked for a while while I told her about everything from my love of travel to my fears of the future, to my uncertainties and my heartbreak. Every detail I shared prompted her to lean in closer- to ask more questions.
“You’re in need of an adventure.” she said in her charming British accent-and that sentence has stuck with me ever since. She started telling me about when she was single in her twenties and living back in London. How she had her heart broken. How she had longed for love and a family. She told me about how it was during this time she became friends with Jesus instead of just praying to him now and then- how they went to the cinema together and explored together. How she prayed for him to provide the things that she felt a lack in, and how he’d always come through.
I loved our conversation. I felt inspired listening to her story. We exchanged numbers upon leaving the retreat and said we should keep in touch.
A couple weeks passed, and Suzie texted me. She offered to cook dinner for me, and I gladly accepted. I arrived at her house a few nights later to an aroma of spices simmering and she whipped up a hot sauce she made from scratch. While dinner was being finished, her husband (who can make a mean cocktail) crafted a delicious gin and chartreuse concoction for me to enjoy. We shared a savory meal and I felt nurtured as I indulged in the Asian salmon and jasmine rice and spicy green beans that she had poured her time and energy and generosity into. I felt so spoiled, that this family had planned their evening around me- some stranger who was taking them up on a free meal. It was such a nice break from my bachelorette dinners of takeout or cheese and crackers. (I wish I was kidding when I said this is an actual picture of my refrigerator.)
After dinner, dad put baby to bed and left to meet some friends so Suzie and I could socialize. We ate too many slices of thick, decadent nutella brioche she had made (arguably one of the best desserts I’ve ever tried). We rambled on and on about travel- the most beautiful places we’ve seen, the places we hoped to go. She gushed about life back home in London and I listened on the edge of my chair, practically feeling like I was there.
She reminded me that Jesus is good. That failed plans are his specialty. She encouraged me to embrace the unknown. That someday I would look back on this time with sweetness and appreciation. She reminded me that there is a season for answers- for settling down and getting married and having a family and all of that, but that season will be much sweeter if you let God do it in his time. If you let him take you on an adventure first. If you fully embrace whatever season he has you in at that moment.
After hours of talking and laughing and overeating, it was late and time for me to leave. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together and was grateful she had welcomed me home so that I could be loved on for a night.
But the thing is, it hasn’t stopped there. I’m not just some charity project she cooked dinner for, patted herself on the back and went about her life. She’s followed up. She’s given me gifts. She's lent me books. I went over to her place again last night for another great meal and wonderful conversation. I’ve given her nothing (except for an “it’s the least I could do” bottle of wine) and she continues to lavish love on me.
You see, we become so guarded with our time. We give it to our jobs, our TV shows, our workout routines or our close circle of friends and acquaintances. We save our acts of extravagant love for those we deem most deserving: to the people that we know will return the favor for us.
The friends and family on my roster have shown me great love. They’ve supported me through hard times. I can recount every kind gesture they’ve each shown me in their unique way through this season, and I don’t take a single one of those acts of love or loyalty for granted for even a second. And I'm confident that I have and I will return the same love and loyalty to them in their time of need. I’m so thankful for what a beautiful thought that is: that we have a support system to walk alongside us no matter what life brings.
But it’s the kind of love that Suzie has shown me that has caught me off guard, because I’ve done nothing to deserve it. It so beautifully illustrates the kind of love that Jesus lavishes on us. It's extravagant. It’s completely unnecessary. It doesn’t stop. It makes you ask “But why me? What’s in this for you?"
It’s challenged me. It’s made me stop and ask myself why I’ve never done this before. Why I’ve never taken an opportunity to grab ahold of someone in their time of need and love them. Not just tell them I’ll be praying for them. Not just offer to take them to dinner one time. But really and truly make them feel like they’re important and they’re loved.
The thing is, I have a whole community of people who can love me well. I’m not a crazy cat lady with no one to keep me company- and Suzie knew this. She didn’t believe I was needy- but she knew that no human will ever not benefit from acts of generous love. That we all want to feel chosen, important, and worthy of people’s time or their sacrifice or their kindness. Anyone can hold a door open for a stranger or take a few extra seconds from their day, but when someone goes above and beyond to love you relentlessly for no reason at all? People notice. They notice, and they’re moved by it.
So thank you to my friend, Suzie. Thank you for lavishing love on me with mouth-watering meals, for appeasing my love of good conversation- especially about travel and Jesus. Thank you for encouraging me about my future and all the good that lies ahead- as unknown as it may be. Thank you for showing me the kind of extravagant love that I'm inspired to show others. It's touched me more than you know.