One of my favorite questions to ask of highly conceptual and lofty ideas is, “but what does that LOOK like?” When Jesus said “Love your neighbor” I was totally the girl in the crowd raising her hand and asking “so, what do you mean by that? Does that mean a casserole or just not getting huffy when their garage door opener triggers ours to open?”
However, I’ve found that if I question some of the directives given, I usually only have to look around me to see how the commands can play out out. So when you hear the commands of caring for the widow, the orphan and the prisoner, I’ve had ringside seats to see what it looks like.
I even have a picture.
Before we got married, Husband and I asked Jack & Judy to have dinner with us on a regular basis and gave them permission to ask us the questions that we should be discussing as engaged and newly marrieds. We sought them out not because we were under the impression that they were perfect, but rather that they were normal. They’d raised kids and moved and transitioned jobs and struggled and succeeded and through all of it they were faithful.
As my relationship with them deepened in my time at the church I began to see just how deep their faith drilled down, but more so I learned what it meant to put shoes on it and take it for a walk. Of course they volunteered at the church and met many needs within the walls. But the impression they left on me is how it seeped out into everything they did.
Caring for the widow, the orphan and the prisoner isn’t a hobby but a way of life. Jack’s last position in his career was working for the educational system within the prison. Beyond advocating for them as part of a job description, they became part of a rehabilitation group partnering with recent releases to help them transition back to society, largely with a faith-based support system. Heck, their most recent love in life – Stephanie – is the product of inmate responsibilities.
Then there are the orphans. All 27 (?) of them. One of my favorite stories of Judy’s is how after they’d had their second child and she was gearing up for more, Jack put the brakes on. But she loved children. Actually, Jack corrected her, she loved babies. But they grow up. They came to an agreement that, I believe, changed the lives of many children. They fostered. They brought in babies of all makes and models, in conditions beyond fathom, and loved them. They gave them a safe place and exposed them to a loving home. They never adopted, but I believe in the simple act of bringing them in they helped to set a standard for these children that good homes exist and they are worthy of it. Perhaps in some way it began to chisel away at a disastrous cycle. They didn’t set out to become heros, but God can use someone’s love of rocking a newborn for kingdom purposes. And he’ll seriously bless a woman who willingly enters that timeframe of limited sleep (at least, I believe so).
And then there’s the widows. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ve seen J&J show up for an event alone. They were the speed dial setting for more than one older person in our church – even those with children still involved in their lives. But if Judy was going to a circle group, she was picking up Maxine. If Jack is heading to church, Bill was in the passenger seat. Something as simple as presence fulfill God’s mandate; it reminds us that we’re not alone, especially in what has become lonely years for many.
Recently in conversation I shared with Husband who inspired I was by Jack & Judy’s example in how they lived out God’s desire for loving people. I hope that loving those close to God’s heart becomes a pattern in my life, not just another project to complete.