Nowadays we associate Valentine’s day with romantic love, but when I researched its origins, I noticed that the various “candidates” associated with this day seem to have practiced love for their communities, including encouraging those who were being persecuted for their faith and healing the sick.
In the Bible, one of the metaphors used for the church community is the body. I have always understood intellectually that we all have different roles and that every role is important, whether we are serving center stage or back stage.
However, I got a new appreciation for this metaphor when my husband John got sick in December. At first the doctors diagnosed indigestion, but when he developed acute jaundice, the talk soon switched to either a problem with his gallbladder or pancreatic cancer.
For the first time I checked out how the gallbladder, pancreas, stomach and colon are interconnected – if you had asked me which organ was the most important in John’s body, I could not have answered that question. They all have to function correctly for us to remain well. We are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made”, as Psalm 139 puts it so beautifully.
In fact, I got to appreciate the importance of an individual cell. When CT scans had proven inconclusive, an internal ultrasound and endoscopy were requested. The doctors were now hunting for the culprit of John’s problems on a cellular level. We were told that if even a few rogue cells were found, it would mean major surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. If nothing was found, all that was required was a stent to clear the bile. (Luckily, John got the all clear after a few tense weeks. It is now assumed that a gallstone dislodged itself and caused damage when it travelled through his body.)
Just as one organ or cell in our body can contribute to our health or cause havoc, all of our actions and reactions can have an impact on others in our community for either good or ill.
In John’s case, many people were praying for us –even people we had not told directly what was going on were praying for his full recovery Then there were those who offered lifts to the hospital. We were also touched by those who simply offered a hug or the people who made the effort to write encouraging e-mails. They would never know it, but there were also two nurses who lifted our spirits by the way they cared for someone else. They had baked a birthday cupcake and written a card to an old gentleman who had to spend a part of his birthday in hospital.
So never think that what you have to offer is unimportant. God may put writing a book on a particular subject on your heart, but sometimes all that may be required is a simple note of encouragement.
Every act of kindness can have a ripple effect. We all have different gifts, talents and limitations. Don’t worry about what others can do, ask yourself how you can help to communicate love and bring light to your community.
About the author: Susanne Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation Wie man einen Berg bezwingt: Was der Kilimanjaro uns gelehrt hat was published in June 2017.