Life Is Messy, God Is Good

Cynthia YanofBy Cynthia Yanof8 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Life Is Messy, God Is Good: Sanity for the Chaos of Everyday Life by Cynthia Yanoff


Although my dad’s love has not always been typical, it’s always been tangible. He’s never been one to give sentimental speeches or enjoy long bear hug greetings. He doesn’t gush with emotion or even close each conversation with a heartfelt “I love you.” But he’s shown me genuine love is far more than an emotion; it’s an action.

I’ve watched him push the wheelchair of a widow’s daughter to their car every Sunday after church. I’ve seen him spend evenings and weekends volunteering his skills to replace garbage disposals and repair toilets. He’s served ice cream at church functions, taught countless Sunday school lessons, and given freely of his finances even when it has cost him significantly. Time and time again, I’ve watched him serve others quietly with no expectation or applause, because that’s just the way he’s wired.

I think this is how Jesus wants us to show our love. He tells us to love Him by loving those around us. He doesn’t give us a list of the right words or approved agendas; He just asks us to love our neighbors freely and frequently without counting the cost.

Jesus didn’t give long speeches explaining how we’re to love; He just lived it. As He walked each day, He loved those He encountered in ways that were less sentimental and more practical. He loved them through His actions far more than words alone ever could have accomplished.

He didn’t reason with His friends when their brother died; He just wept. He didn’t scorn the woman at the well in her shame; He just offered living water. He didn’t judge the paralytic for not getting to the pool; He just healed him. He didn’t complain about the wasted perfume; He just cherished it.

My dad’s love has been an invaluable gift of being present, helpful, and available. That’s the love Jesus desires for all of us: not expensive or eloquent, but always extravagant.

When I was little, my parents attended a tiny Baptist church in the Texas Panhandle. The town was rather stagnant and, sadly, so was the church. This church was in desperate need of CPR, and the members of the church were all too aware of it.

My parents gathered with a group of people from their church and began praying for the Lord to set their church on fire. They needed revival, and nothing short of God’s hand was going to bring it. And a few days before Christmas, my parents received a call that their little Baptist church was, actually, on fire.

Half wondering if this was God’s literal answer to a figurative prayer against complacency, they ran up to the church as crews were working to put out the fire. Nobody was in the building that night, so thankfully the only damage was to the church property.

My mom was active in the church’s music program, including playing the handbells in the handbell choir. Baptists love handbells like Methodists love an early Sunday lunch, so once the fire was out, my mom panicked remembering the handbells were still in a building filled with water that would ruin them.

The music minister was out of town, so my mom asked a firefighter if he would assist my dad in going into the building to retrieve the handbells. Now in what world does a firefighter agree to let some random person enter a recently burning building on a freezing night in December to retrieve handbells? I don’t know. But he agreed to accompany my dad in the pitch black through a basement filled with water because, after all, hadn’t they already lost enough?

My dad tells this part of the story like a good fishing story. What was once a few inches of water on the church basement floor, has over the years turned into him swimming in the Arctic all in the name of saving the bells. But either way, the mission was accomplished and my mom was thrilled to secure the bells, even at the cost of my wet and freezing father.

But the story doesn’t end there. After a few minutes my mother realized that one single bell was still missing. Everyone knows: a handbell choir you have not if a bell is missing. And so my dad went back into the once burning building, trudging through water, and retrieved the single missing bell. A few days later, the local paper published an article all about how “Dorothy Wilkinson Saved the Bells” with absolutely no mention of my dad. He’s still talking about that one.

But going back to save just one isn’t a story unique to my earthly father; it’s also the story of our heavenly Father.

What I mean is that, in a funny kind of way, my dad going in after the one rogue handbell reminds me of the kind of love Jesus showed on the cross. We tend to think of His sacrifice as a community project that happened to include us but wasn’t an act of love uniquely on our behalf.

I wonder how different our love would look if we really understood our oneness in Jesus. If we lived and loved others from an overflow of gratitude for the One who would leave the ninety-nine to save just one. And we are the one.

Your neighbor is also the one. And your boss is the one. And your mother-in-law is the one. And the guy who lets his dog do his business in your front yard without cleaning up—he too is the one.

How would a culture selling a love that’s conditional, temporary, and earned respond to such a different version of love? How might we see people differently, love people differently, serve people differently in this very moment if we basked in this kind of love?

Excerpted from Life Is Messy, God Is Good © 2024 Cynthia Yanof. Used by permission of David C Cook. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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