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Sandra. 51-year-old, just hit by a car for the second time, Sandra.

Sandra. Self professed former drug addict, former alcoholic, former everything under the sun, Sandra

Sandra meet Ruby.

I’m standing in the return line at my friendly neighborhood Target and I hear a voice behind me, talking about the real difficulties of life, clearly longing for someone to respond.

That voice is Sandra’s and Sandra is about to ruin my plans for the day (in the best way possible). 

The back story? I have been a Christian for almost half of my life. I have been involved in and led a variety of different ministry groups for a range of ages that for the most part taught one universal message: love others.

However, if you’ve been a Christian, a significant other, a parent, and let’s be real, a human being, for any period of time, you will know that love is much easier to talk about then it is to actually put into action.

Love takes compromise and sacrifice. Love is risky. Love requires effort. Love is rarely convenient.

And because of all these challenges, I haven’t done love justice.

I’ve chosen to ignore the whispers (and sometimes shouts) from God the Father to love others well. I’ve knowingly put my agenda and my priorities above those that God has told me to love.

Not every time, but enough times to make an impact and more than enough times to position myself in a place where a can’t even hear God anymore. Not because He is isn’t speaking, but because I’ve made the conscious choice to not listen. 

Thankfully God NEVER stops speaking.

And thankfully, I’m so fed up with myself that I’m willing to listen again. Fed up with how I jump at the opportunity to love those who are easy to love and ignore the ones that require a little more “something.” A little more time; a little more money; a little more shelter; a little more prayer.

I have been wading in knee-deep, lukewarm water. The cold, shallow waters have been beckoning me; but I’m choosing the deeper, hot waters… and that’s where Sandra comes in.

Today, Sandra is the like a life raft from the Father, drawing me into those hot waters again.

Ruby. Almost 30-year-old, just had a baby while raising a toddler, Ruby.

Ruby. Self professed people and food lover, funniest person she knows, Ruby.

Ruby meet Sandra.

Right in the middle of the Target return line. People in front, people in back. Sandra speaks. Ruby has that moment of hesitation. “Just ignore her and smile.”

“No Ruby! Get in the hot waters again. And stay there. The love of the Father is too good and too real to keep to yourself.”

Sandra runs through a list of issues, most recently, being hit by a car which led to a new knee and hip that doesn’t seem to be working right.

What’s next? Pray for her. Pray for the Kingdom of Heaven to invade her body. Ignore the awkward stares of those in line and really speak to Sandra’s heart.

Prayers done; that was easy. But this isn’t over. Remember: love requires effort, sacrifice, and is rarely convenient.

Sandra wants to talk. She wants to walk around Target together. She wants to chat about her adult son (as I push around my infant son) who is addicted to drugs and her father that beat her. She notices my tattoo and tells me about all of hers that run up and down her arms and across her back, recalling her past and marking her future.

Over and over again, I’m able (not of my own efforts) to release encouragement and hope into her life, but then just as quickly as it began, it was over.

Sandra walked toward the pants and I walked toward the food.  We exchanged goodbyes and as I went on my way, I thanked Jesus for his timing and for never giving up on me: the lukewarm lover.

The next day, I’m thinking about Sandra, did I do enough for her?

She didn’t get healed on the spot, but is she feeling better now?

I can’t answer those questions. But what I do know is that she was lonely, and I spent time with her (time that was precious to this Mama who for once didn’t have a toddler to chase in Target) and she was in need and I gave her some money (not because I wanted to, because God told me to).

Love requires something.

“I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.” Bob Goff in Love Does

Sometimes simply being with people is loving them. I was happy to “just be” with Sandra. I’m happy that the Father lovingly pushed me out of the lukewarm water and into the hot sea.

Now staying there, that is my next challenge.

Stay Ruby.