Living the Life of Love

When I think about people who embody God’s love, my mind immediately goes to Pete Ross. Pete was a wonderful woman who was a member of our West Texas congregation during the time I raised my kids. Pete had a joyous, peaceful demeanor that was absolutely infective. It was impossible to be around her and not have your spirit lifted. Her blue eyes shone brightly straight into your heart filling you with acceptance and love. Her delight in seeing you was genuine and affirming.

What a force she has been in my life!

In our world, we expect that a person must be ‘theologically well educated’ in order to achieve wisdom and insight into living the life of faith. Pete was ‘theologically well educated’ all right, but her education came not at one of the church’s fine seminaries, no, her education came directly from the school of life and was achieved through her unfailing openness to God and God’s love for her in the midst the stuff of life.

Pete married the love of her life in the early 50’s and they had 3 boys in rapid succession. Her husband was killed in a work related accident while she was pregnant with their 4th son. She was left as a single mother to raise the boys with scarce resources. By the time I met her in the late 70’s, her boys were all grown and she had successfully navigated the joys and difficulties of single parenthood.

I always looked forward to my interactions with Pete, but it was when I moved into a difficult period in my own life that she truly became a life line for me. Late 1990 began quite a year in my life: my marriage ended in divorce, my father died, one of my best friends died, and they thought I had cancer. In addition, the divorce forced a move and precipitated a financial crisis. To top it all off my company started a major restructuring placing my job in jeopardy. You would think that during this time the place to turn for support would be my church, but the congregation was in the middle of a painful split which led to the senior pastor being forced out. It seemed that there was no place in my world that wasn’t being shaken to its foundation.

In the midst of this all this chaos – there was Pete, constant and sure. Her eyes lit up when I entered the door of the church and she headed for me. (Surely any sane person would be hoping to avoid me!) Immediately, she would grab me up in a big hug, and I knew somehow, in the core of my being, I would be alright. I am not sure how I could have survived during this time in my life without her loving presence and her unfailing reminder of God’s love and care. Amazingly, this special treatment was the norm for all those whom Pete came in contact with.

Because of this, Pete was a magnet. This became especially evident as she was dying from cancer. During her many hospitalizations, her room became the ‘hang-out’ room. The nurses and aides took breaks in Pete’s room. Towards the end, even when she had to take the oxygen mask off to speak, her message was unchanged, “You are God’s beloved. He delights in you. You can put your trust in Him.” Blessed assurance that we all need to hear and don’t speak to each other nearly enough – no complicated theological or doctrinal expositions, just loving words, spoken lovingly, by one whose whole being was permeated by love and the presence of her savior Jesus Christ.

What a joy and blessing to have shared a part of my life journey with such a giant of the faith!

I invite you to join the conversation. Who in your life has embodied God’s love to you? Who in your life has inspired you to embody God’s love to others?

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