Set Apart Girl Character Series
By HEATHER COFER
Out of breath, overwhelmed, in the middle of a big city, I glanced for the hundredth time at the route on my phone. Which bus was I supposed to take? What time does it get here? Am I on the right side of the street? Why in the world did I decide to do this?
Last year our family took a trip to San Francisco. While my husband attended meetings, I decided to be adventurous and brave the public transportation system on my own with a toddler — something I had never done before.
The first day I ventured out, I had my one-year-old son, Jude, my almost-duffle-sized diaper bag, and our nice, hefty stroller. And I was 5 months pregnant. Things went badly right away. I wasn’t sure where exactly the bus was supposed to stop, and when I saw it driving past me, I raced as fast as I could up the very steep street to try to catch it. Someone saw me coming and asked the driver to wait for me (which was about 20 seconds). When I arrived, panting and trying to mentally figure out how to hoist my son and stroller onto the bus, the driver began being extremely rude. So much so that I finally said, “That’s okay, just go ahead. I’ll wait for the next one.” I felt so defeated, humiliated, and small.
Shaky and blinking back tears, I collected myself and asked the Lord for help. When the next bus drove up a few minutes later, I will never forget the man waiting next to me who grabbed the front of the stroller and helped me lift it onto the bus. All along the way, as I got on and off the buses, the Lord provided people who were there at just the right moments to help me. And they will never know just how much it meant to me.
All of us have experienced those moments when someone goes out of their way to show us thoughtfulness; a stranger who lets you ahead of them in line, pays for your drink at Starbucks, or offers an encouraging word when your child is acting up; or a friend calls just to say hello, helps you finish a project, or brings you a meal when you’re sick. These acts become etched into our minds and hearts, and can be used to deeply bless us on many levels.
We see this principle many places in Scripture, and the root of it actually goes back to what Jesus said is the second greatest commandment:
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:36-39).
As women who profess to love God, this should be an outflow of our lives — loving others as we love ourselves. What does that look like? It means doing unto others as you would want others to do to you. (See Matthew 7:12.) Far too often we get caught up in thinking about what we wish others would do for us. We have a pity party when others don’t seem to care about us, when we are overlooked or treated rudely. We also neglect to see the things that we can be doing to care for others, and are far more likely to be insensitive to those around us. But when we turn outward and treat others more significantly than ourselves, we are demonstrating the kind of love that Jesus showed to us. (See Philippians 2:3-8.) In our own strength, we will always think of ourselves first. But we are enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to joyfully sacrifice our needs and wants in order to bless and love others in Jesus’ name.
When I was fourteen, my family returned for a year-long furlough in the U.S. after having been overseas for four years. I struggled significantly in those first few months, because there were very few people my age who reached out and made me feel welcome. My parents, as well as other adults, began noticing that I often walked around with a sad, self-conscious, inward demeanor (which was completely unthoughtful of those around me). I remember my dad firmly confronting me on this attitude, addressing it for what it was: sin. But along with that, he also challenged me to turn outward and look for those who were maybe even more lonely than I was, and treat them as I was desiring to be treated. I am eternally thankful for that conversation, as difficult as it was at the time. It was like a lightbulb went on. Being someone who is naturally introverted, it isn’t easy for me to go out of my way to initiate conversation. But God planted the desire in me to be the person who continually showed love to those who most needed it, even if I was the only one.
About a year later, we were doing a project in our school, and were supposed to find a partner to work on it with. I decided to ask a girl a little bit younger than I was who was new to our school. A couple of years after this, she came up to me, with tears in her eyes, telling me how much it had meant to her, and expressed her deep thanks. I was amazed! Something that had been seemingly small to me had been hugely significant to her, and helped her feel welcomed to a place that was unfamiliar to her.
Here are some practical things we can intentionally do to and practically display thoughtfulness to those around us.
Go out of your way to meet the needs of others, large or small. This could be offering to watch the little ones of a stay-at-home mom while she picks up groceries or shoveling the driveway of an older couple in your neighborhood. The possibilities are endless!
Be aware of and sensitive to those around you. Thoughtfulness isn’t just doing the right things; it is also not doing the wrong things. This involves being considerate, kind, and situationally appropriate in both our words and our actions.
Ask others how you can pray for them. This is a wonderful way to show interest in them personally, and can often open up opportunities to either encourage other believers, or to share the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ.
There are a lot of people who don’t know Jesus and yet value doing things to help others for a variety of reasons — whether it be to gain “points” to get them to heaven, or to feel good about themselves, or simply wanting to make someone else’s life more comfortable. But we are the only people who are able to offer hope for people’s souls. When we show love — the love of Christ — to others, it will look radically different than this world’s version of love. When others see us going out of our way, even to love and care for those who mock and hate us, they will see Jesus in us. Oh, what a privilege we have as those who bear His name!