Love Showed up: Love Means You Keep Showing Up

Today we continue our series “Love Showed Up (link to series explanation here)” in which many dear friends from across the globe and internet are sharing their stories of God’s love showing up through his people in the darkest of days. So let’s sit down and soak in this story from Tanya Marlow. Tanya and I are new friends, but it’s a friendship I truly hope deepens. You can just tell she is one of those brave and beautiful souls that make the your world lovelier simply by bringing their true selves into it.

It wasn’t like it was the hugest of tragedies. No one had died. It wasn’t even as though it were completely unexpected: there was always a chance that my pre-existent autoimmune illness (ME) might be made worse by the physical strain of childbirth – we just didn’t know how much worse till we were home with a week-old baby. My body was broken: I could no longer walk more than ten paces and I had to lie in bed for 23 hours a day.

It was a strange time, navigating the new waters of parenthood at the same time as we were facing my new disability; a time of deep joy and tears of the unknown.  Jon is a church minister, and we had just moved to a new church one month previously – we had barely begun to get to know this new church family, when suddenly I was plucked from it, spending my days in just one room.

Our church loved us.

used via flick creative commons, user wordridden

used via flick creative commons, user wordridden

This wasn’t about reciprocation: we hadn’t yet done anything to earn their love or respect. They simply loved us because they were our family. However new we were to them, we were blood relatives because we all stood under the cross and called Jesus our friend.  

We were kin to them, flesh and blood to them, because of Jesus’ flesh and blood.

****

I was too ill to speak to anyone, so they could not love through words or presence.

Our church loved us with food and ironed clothes. 

So many asked us what they could do for us, but we were at a loss of how to reply – how can you fix what was so obviously unfixable? The most helpful were those who boldly told us, “this is what I will do for you, if that is okay by you”, while we were still staring wide-eyed into the middle distance, so that we didn’t have to try to train our sea-battered brains into problem-solving mode.

They showed up – our new family – they showed up with cooked meals and ironed clothes and thoughtful emails, while we got our hands on the tiller and slowly began to regain our balance.

****

And they kept showing up.

The most remarkable thing about this whole period was how long they did it for. Our problems were complex: they did not disappear after the customary 1-2 weeks of charity and consideration.  Most people find it difficult to continue to be generous for an undefined time period. We can do generosity for a crisis, we are good at doing the acute, the emergencies – but what of the chronic? What of the single parents, for whom it is always a juggling act to get food on the table each day? What of the cancer patients not just during chemo, but the weeks afterwards, when the disabling fatigue hits unexpectedly?

It is much harder to keep giving to a needy person or family when they don’t seem to ever emerge from that needy position, when you can never say that you have ‘fixed’ them, when your contribution will always be needed or appreciated. It is harder to keep on giving when there is no fixed end point.

Our church family, they kept on giving, as the days stretched into weeks and then months.

We had cooked meals and ironed clothes for months afterwards, and those significant acts of love and service for us just helped us to keep afloat. More than that, it showed us the enduring nature of the love of God at a time when so much else was uncertain. 

****

This is love: to do what you can, even when you don’t know the person well, even when their problems are ongoing and unfixable and there is no clear end in sight.

This is love: to think beyond just the crisis point to those situations which are chronic and unabating.

This is love: to show up, and keep showing up.

photo Tanya Marlow was in Christian ministry for a decade and a lecturer in Biblical Theology. Now she reads Bible stories to her little boy as she learns what it means to housebound with a severe autoimmune illness. She likes answering the tricky questions of faith that most avoid, and writing honestly about suffering and searching for God.  She blogs at Thorns and Gold http://tanyamarlow.com.

Find her on Twitter @Tanya_Marlow or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TanyaMarlowThornsAndGold )

To learn more about Tanya and her story, check out this post: “Why you should care about M.E.”  We have to educate ourselves on this disease and then stand up to do something about it.

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series, There are so many amazing stories and writers lined up to share with us.  Use the box below to ensure every post is delivered right into your inbox.

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  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    “It is much harder to keep giving to a needy person or family when they
    don’t seem to ever emerge from that needy position, when you can never
    say that you have ‘fixed’ them, when your contribution will always be
    needed or appreciated. It is harder to keep on giving when there is no
    fixed end point.”

    I’ve been on both sides of this. On the receiving end in my struggles with depression, when it seems that my friends want to say a quick prayer and then disappear. But also on the other side as its easy for me to take a meal to a new mom, but harder for me to see the more long term needs.

    And it really dovetails nicely with our pastor’s sermon yesterday on being present in our friendships and what it means to become a church family that is involved in each other’s lives. So I’m feeling challenged to look around me for more ways to be ‘love showing up’ in the new year.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Tanya.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Yes – I too have been on both sides (receiving people’s ongoing love, but also feeling overwhelmed when it comes to loving others well). Writing this has been such a reminder to me of the gift that a church community can be, and the power that it has. Hoping that your church family can be like that this year too! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    This is fantastic, Tanya! It truly illustrates what hospitality should be all about- regardless of how well we know someone, regardless of how “long” it will take. Your point about undefined time periods is a good one and something we don’t often consider or even want to consider because of what it can say about our motives. So glad your church loved you in these ways.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      “something we don’t often consider or even want to consider because of what it can say about our motives” – yes! It definitely makes for some uncomfortable self-reflection. I have been asking myself, ‘do I love like that? Unreciprocated? Ongoing? Hospitality is exactly the right word – sometimes I don’t think we’re challenged enough by the command in the Bible to show hospitality, because it is a real challenge.

      I’m so glad that you liked this, Leigh! Thanks so much.

  • ellen flack

    a church friend gave my husband a kidney 2 yrs ago !! ultimate generosity !!

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Wow!!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      That’s astounding!

  • ellen flack

    my daughter of 40 also has reanal failure and a friend of hers has been tested for donation and we’re praying it happens soon.while she was ill during her 4th pregnancy her church provided meals for 4 months !! God id good .

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Oh wow – really hoping that this happens soon. And so great to hear there are other churches who love well – 4 months of meals is fantastic! Thanks so much for commenting.

  • http://www.margaretfelice.com/ Margaret

    How wonderful. People can be truly amazing.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Lovely to see you, as ever, Margaret. It’s good to read a happy story occasionally, isn’t it?! Thanks so much for stopping by – I really appreciate it.

  • Mark Allman

    As always my friend Tanya touches deep into my soul. I have to make sure I am one who continues support in the face on no endpoint. I want to be one who shows up and extends acts of service and extends presence as well. Thanks for expanding my view on this Tanya. I don’t want to be a one and done type friend.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      You have always been to me a friend who keeps showing up, keeps supporting and encouraging, for which I am immensely grateful. THanks for your words, as ever, mark.

  • Rebecka

    Tanya, this was beautiful (like always).

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Thank you Rebecka! (And lovely to see your pic!)

  • http://TruthInWeakness.blogspot.com/ tanya @ truthinweakness

    so well said. thx for putting this into words, friend. i can relate to all of it.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Thank you so much, Tanya! Really nice to see you on here. So glad you can relate to all of it. Thinking of you.

  • http://teamaidan.wordpress.com/ Heather Bowie

    Yes – exactly!! I love that you were new to the church and they showed up anyway. I’m so glad that you pointed out the differing needs in a chronic situation and the remarkable compassion people can have when they don’t even know you. Thank-you for sharing.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Thanks, Heather! Yes, as I was looking back on it, it was the love shown even though we were new which was remarkable. Undeserved grace is so powerful, I think. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it.

  • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

    Oh Tanya. This resonates so deeply with me.
    Yes, I know what it is to fade away after 1-2 weeks, and to have that happen to me. I know about the middle distance and not knowing what to ask for.
    Thank you for this. You’ve put words to many things for me.
    xoxo. Love you, friend.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Love you, Cara. Thank you.