It was a typical fall Saturday afternoon in Medina. Rebecca and I had been hiking at one of the county parks, enjoying the sunshine and crisp air. On our way home, something caught my attention in a yard as we approached. A gentleman was mowing his lawn on a riding mower, but it appeared that a fire had started in the leaves under the mower. We both watched, concerned for what might happen, but as we passed, the man was starting to get off the mower to address the flames, so we were relieved that it looked like the crisis was going to be averted. However, as I looked in the rearview mirror, the man fell into the burning leaves!
I turned around as quickly as I could and we sped back, jumped out and ran to the scene. The flames were getting higher and starting to melt the hard plastic engine cover of the mower. The gentleman was having trouble getting his legs under him and gathering the strength to stand. I’ve never served as a volunteer fireman, and I don’t have any training or experience in putting out fires, but I had grabbed the only two things in the car that I thought might be of use to battle the blaze – an old towel and half of a bottle of water. There wasn’t enough water to douse the flames, so after helping the man away and moving the mower off of the leaves, I started beating the fire out with the towel. Luckily, after a few flailing swats, the flames went out.
After spreading out the leaves and ensuring the fire wasn’t going to restart, we helped the man to his feet. Of course he was quite appreciative. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit, and then we helped him push his mower back up to the house (which strangely enough wouldn’t start after it had been on fire – go figure). We had a nice conversation…he talked about his wife and his family and his hobbies, and we shared a little about ourselves as well. He found out that I’m a pastor and we shared a bit about the church. As we left, we assured him we’d be praying for him. A week later we received a very kind note from the man’s wife, thanking us for helping out.
That fire in the leaves that day was a crazy experience that could have ended very badly, but instead it kindled the beginnings of a relationship.
I guess that’s one way that Rebecca and I were able to love someone to life recently! It was a pretty dramatic event in an otherwise average day, but it gave us a chance to be kind and meet a need and talk a little bit about Jesus.
Now, I know that it’s not every day that there are fires to put out, but I think that there are a couple principles from our experience with the leaf fire that I think might apply as we all look for ways to love people to life.
It might not be as dramatic as seeing a mower on fire, but are you looking for the ‘fires’ in people’s lives around you? There may be crises that your coworkers or friends or family are going through where you could bring God’s love and grace to help. Sometimes it’s easier to look the other way, or to not get involved. I think we also miss chances to love people to life simply because we’re not looking, and we don’t notice when people are struggling. Be aware of what people are going through, and how God might be positioning you to help.
Loving people to life takes time and effort. You might have to postpone your plans, pull off to the side of the road, and get involved. It might take an hour, or an afternoon, a season, or a lifetime as you determine the need and respond in love. But time spent being a blessing in someone’s life is time well spent. You can literally make an eternal difference when you take the time to invest in others.
Love is not typically a one-and-done kind of thing. God’s love gets involved and builds relationships. There might not be a crisis to deal with, but just building relationships is a key component to helping show God’s love. As you grow closer to people, you may have the chance to point them to Jesus. Or there may be a crisis that comes up, and if you already have a relationship, you’ll be ready to step in and help.
Who knows where things will lead with our new friend and his leaves. I believe that God positioned us to be at the right place at the right time to lend a hand, in His name. And I think that, after that encounter, I’m more aware, willing to take the time, make the effort, and develop relationships that could make an eternal difference in people’s lives, whether there’s a fire or not!