"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."- 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Perhaps it is the emotions of having a newly weaned baby and having weaned earlier than I had wished due to my own body’s inability to produce the milk he needed, but these verses have been strongly on my heart for the past several weeks.
It has been a long and hard year here, and a discouraging one in many ways, and a year where I’ve vividly seen and felt the brokenness and sin that has consumed this country where I live. As I’ve meditated on this verse, God has renewed that tender love for the people here that He loves and has created. His heart is affectionately desirous of them, and though I feel like I’ve felt the aggression and harshness of those around me, God has refreshed an affectionate desire that they would know our loving God who can change even this broken place that has a way of urging everyone toward bitterness. My heart breaks for these people.
The part of this passage that has struck me in a new and profound way is the part that says that “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” As I’ve nursed and cared for our fourth child, my sweet baby Jude, I have felt what it feels like to literally give myself. In the midst of this year full of trials, illness, discouragement, a traveling husband, and many other challenges, I’ve had this sweet baby boy who needs me, literally needs my own body, in order to be nourished. First, he grew within me receiving from me every nutrient that God would use to knit his little body together, and then even once he was outside he was nourished for 10 months from food that my own body made for him. Nursing has sometimes been very easy for me, with hardly a thought that I’d need to do a thing to help make this nourishing food, but this time around, literally from day one I’ve had to work so hard to sleep enough, eat enough, take the right vitamins, drink enough water, drink special teas, sit down often enough even in the midst of busy daily life to let my baby boy nurse to try to keep the supply of food coming, and so on. I have been constantly aware that I am giving myself to him, and yet I so desire his well-being that I want to do all that I can and give all that I can to him.
As I think of this hard but lovingly desirous experience of nursing, I am encouraged again with a vision for what I want my life of ministry to be. God gives us the love and desire for the hearts and souls of people, and he calls us to give of ourselves sacrificially and personally out of that love. I desire to think of my life in ministry in this personal nursing-mother sort of a way rather than with the sometimes cold-sounding name called occupational ministry. I pray that God will make me, and you too, so affectionately desirous of the people that we serve that we will lovingly, joyfully, and willingly give of our own selves for their spiritual well-being.
How is your heart toward the people that you are ministering to right now? Is this a season where affectionate desire comes freely and easily, or perhaps are you in a season where you’ve been hurt by those that you are ministering to and struggle with that desire? Let’s pray for one another in this as self-sacrifice can be so very hard and desirous affection is something that I believe at times can only come from the Lord.