Today's world has become a rather cold place, cold enough to make it difficult to feel the warmth of God's love for us. That's why it's so important that we learn how to show God's love to one another wherever we are.
An airport bathroom might seem a rather strange venue for the love of God to be revealed, but the truth is that we don't have to be in church to be Church. An experience I had last week while traveling to the Applied Biblical Studies Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville was a powerful reminder of that.
My flight itinerary included a two-hour layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. I stopped, as I normally do, at a restroom on the way to my next gate. Lots of women were going in and out, but only one woman was speaking. "That purple shirt looks great on you, baby!" "God bless you, keep safe." "May the Lord bless you today." Compliments, prayers, blessings -- it was the voice of a cheery airport employee. But on a deeper level, it was the voice of God. There wasn't a woman in that bathroom who didn't leave feeling encouraged and valued. With simple goodness, that airport employee had given everyone around her a tangible experience of affirmation and love. Everybody's day was better because of it.
God speaks to each of us in a language we understand. It can be food, or numbers on a license plate, a street signs, a song, or a woman's words in a public restroom. God will do just about anything to get our attention. And when we learn how to listen, we begin to realize that God's love is everywhere we are; he is not far from any of us. Further, God isn't quiet about how much he loves us either; he is continually expressing it in new and unexpected ways. We can -- and should -- learn to do the same. That Charlotte Airport employee has a good start.
"In him we live and move and have our being." That's how St. Paul describes our relationship to the one true God. But if St. John is also right when he says that "God is love," then every one of us lives and moves and has our being in love. That is, each one of us is surrounded by love.
The tragedy is that not all of us experience that truth. Far too many of us do not believe that we are loved, or even that we are lovable. Today's world has become a rather cold place, cold enough to make it difficult to feel the warmth of God's love for us. That's why it's so important that we learn how to show God's love to one another wherever we are. When that happens, everything changes. And by "everything," I mean us, from the inside out.
St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata was known for doing "small things with great love." It is those small things that humanize us, that make us feel like we are seen, heard, known, and loved. Mother Teresa, who suffered deep interior darkness, smiled at everyone she met. She also frequently cleaned public restrooms. Imagine what could happen if we were willing to do the same?
Little things are a big deal. It matters when someone remembers that you don't like mushrooms, or changes seats on an airplane so that friends can sit together. It matters when you open a door for someone, or wait patiently for the elderly person in front of you, when you wipe up around the sink in the men's room, or make the effort to return the shopping cart where it belongs. And words matter, too. Greeting a stranger as you pass by honors the dignity God gave him; it affirms the value of each person God has seen fit to create in his image. A word of encouragement is a precious gift, and every one of us can afford to give. So why don't we?
God was as present in that airport bathroom as he was at the Catholic conference I was traveling to attend. But that isn't ironic: it's a powerful plan for evangelization, and for living the Gospel where we are. If we would stop minding our own business long enough, we just might find ourselves doing our Father's business, and spreading the love he poured out into the world through his son, Jesus.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.