I pulled into the almost vacant parking lot of a well-known church in the community. All of the answers that I had faithfully recited to wounded people in the past were no longer satisfying. I needed more than promises. I needed more than Bible verses quoted to me. I needed more than someone telling me that they would pray for me. I needed this whole faith thing—this whole salvation thing—this whole love thing to actually be real. I needed to encounter this Jesus that we profess with our mouths to be present in the pain.
Stepping out of my car, I was drawn to the music that I heard echoing from the church. I didn’t know why I was here, but I was certain that I was supposed to be here. With my back pressed against the building, I found a refuge for all of my tears. The doors pushed open and I was invited in.
Within moments, a precious woman that I had never met came and took her place beside me. My chest tightened at the thought of being questioned. I wasn’t ready to give voice to the pain. Yet, without a word, she reached deep into her pocket and pulled out an unused tissue, as if she had once sat in this very seat of shattered dreams. She seemed to know exactly what I needed. No questions. No judgment. No Bible verses quoted. Just love present.
She placed the tissue in my hands and watched as I wiped away the tears of shame. Quietly, she reached down to an unsealed, lipstick-kissed bottle of water and whispered, “Sweetie, you have cried so many tears. This is all that I have – but you are welcome to finish it.” Love reached out and put cold water in my weary hand.
In that moment, all the scriptures that I could not choke down were made present through authentic love reaching out. For over an hour, she simply stayed by my side. No advice. No answers. No words. Just love pouring itself out to proclaim hope in such a way that the message would not be lost.
It has been four years since this encounter took place, and it has transformed my heart and vision of true ministry. I used to be the girl who saturated herself in ministry. Passionate to serve, to love, to share the hope of our souls, I poured myself into positions that granted me the opportunity to love on little ones and give to those in need. My personal library was full of books on reaching our community and sharing the love of Jesus. I attended all the conferences that my finances would afford and received training on how to make a difference in the world. I was hungry to live a life set apart—a life that declared love for all people, a life that beckoned hope to weary souls. Yet, it was not until I joined the tribe of the broken that I encountered the profound power of love reaching out to the wounded. All of the books and conferences and trainings had failed to give me what Jesus taught best: “Love them at their worst.”
In the place where we strive for perfectionism and glass slipper homes, true love reaches out and extends grace to the parts of us that cannot measure up. In the place where we are at the end of ourselves and uncertain of our next step, love steps in and holds us. In the place where we are so broken that we cannot find our breath, love takes a seat directly beside us and offers water.
Perhaps what we truly need is less books and more grace, less knowledge and more love, less conferences and more presence. Perhaps this is exactly what our Lover of our Souls meant when He proclaimed that this was our greatest life work.
This is where religion vacates and hope remains.
This is where love makes itself at home and overcomes all.
Liz Liles is Founder and Executive Director of Daughters of Worth, a unique mentorship program that exists to educate, equip, empower and encourage girls of all ages to become strong women of influence in their communities! Liz also serves as the Executive Director at The Blind Center in Washington, NC. Her life passion and prayer is that her days will be poured out to bring joy, hope, grace and unconditional love to those she meets!