My mom died 11 years ago and what she left — memories of her looks and smell and other things we take for granted… I immediately, apparently, buried somewhere deep in my psyche. The morning after she died it was like that dream where you’re grasping for something but can’t reach it. I couldn’t remember what she looked like. Had to immediately look at a picture.
And I haven’t really delved into remembering those things but some stuff comes up sometimes.
Friends recommend lots of “How to look like Jesus” books to me. And in skimming them today I remember this about my mom: She could have written those books! But it would have undermined the whole point — which is to be so consumed with Jesus that you realize He is SO AWESOME and in comparison, I’m that much LESS AWESOME. It’s being like Jesus, quietly and in secret.
There’s this theme these days on Christian bookshelves. People writing about how edgy and cool they are because they do things they think Jesus would have done. I get it! I like those books sometimes! I have a blog about looking like Jesus. But the thing about those books is…people love to talk about how super cool and hip it is to live “like that” in theory(edgy and uncomfortable and below the poverty line or whatever the thing is). But there’s a whole huge group of people who have been living that way for centuries, including my mom, and guess what. People never thought my mom was cool. In fact, they made fun of her. A lot.
She was a revolutionary! And she didn’t even know it.
We had these girls living next door to us in our little (700 sq ft?) ghetto apartments with drug deals happening outside the windows at night. And these girls were in the worst of the worst of situations. Single drug-addicted mom, abusive absent dad, and all that goes with that.
But my mom! Those girls were over every single day to play with us. She provided who knows how many hundreds of lunches and snacks to them and we had them over for dinner at least four times a week. They came over bright and early at 7 every morning to play in the summer and didn’t go home until dark. And then they’d come back! They’d knock and knock and knock and when we answered they’d say in unison “Can we invite for dinner?”
How do you say no to that? Well when people are at your house every single day breaking your toys and eating your food, occasionally you do say no. But mostly you say YES. Even when it’s annoying. My mom hadn’t read any “how to be a cool Christian” books. She just knew Jesus always had room at the table for one more. Or two more. He always made room for kids. Even when there wasn’t enough food. Funny how so much in the Bible has to do with food. And how much of our life revolves around sharing our food with people.
And my mom bought them, every year, new school clothes. And she never said a word about how edgy she was. Because she didn’t know she was edgy. She was just being like Jesus.
We’d go to Target (didn’t have a Walmart :)) and she let them pick out some shoes and shirts and pants and underoos and even some little hair things or something. And we had “no money” but I’m guessing we had a credit card. Same thing happened when summer camp rolled around every year — new jammies, new swimsuits, new shorts and tanks and flips. Not a ton, but some.
And their family, such as it was, had us over a few times for coffee or whatever. We both lived in broken apartments, together.
When I say “every year” I’m talking like… seven years.
And then one day the call came. Oh that call! So hard not to laugh. So I’m just going to go ahead and laugh. HAHA. The Pastor’s Wife at our church called to inform my mom that this year, *she* would be taking the girls shopping, which was great! but here’s the punch line… she asked my mom, “when will the government reimburse me?”, or was there a credit card somewhere from Family Services she could use?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA.
See how hard I’m laughing?
We can’t duplicate what Jesus looks like. We can’t copy Him. We can’t scrum up a revolutionary lifestyle. We can’t read enough How To Books.
If we want to look like Jesus, He has to be in us. We can’t scratch up Authentic Love on our own. No matter how hard we try to copy him, if our heart’s not true, the more we will just look like ridiculous poseurs out for a reimbursement check.
Contradictorily, when He’s living in our hearts and changing us, we start to do weird things like make sacrifices for other people — things that don’t get a payback; things that don’t get a shout out or a dollar-for-dollar-return-on-investment.
We do weird things like come alongside two nearly abandoned girls and make an impact on their lives in any way we can, even when we have no money; even when there’s no reimbursement check, just because people are inherently valuable because they were made by God in His image. And usually, we can tell we are doing the right thing because other people are making fun of us.
It’s been 11 years since I lost my mom and I can’t remember a list of things about her but today I have a missing piece — an important piece. A lesson she never told me but I somehow learned from her. If I want to look like Jesus, it’s going to happen quietly, and probably no one will clap for me. And if we really want to change the world, we’d be wise to start with opening up our dinner tables.