A few years ago when unrelenting stress finally got the upper hand and rendered me unable to function, a lovely lady from church came alongside to walk me over the hump.
I had no idea what was happening to me, except that everything seemed insurmountable and I felt completely overwhelmed. Crying was the only thing that I seemed to be able to do with ease.
My newly-found friend explained to me that I was suffering from burnout and that I needed to go and see the doctor who would most likely prescribe some medication. She arranged for another friend to take me and recommended that I took some time away from my family so that I could rest. She understood the extra demands that having a special needs child had on me. The following week, she checked to see how I was doing and continued to do so in the ensuing weeks.
Each time we met or spoke over the phone, Chris would remind me of how much God loved me and taught me how to rest in the knowledge of that love. She patiently listened as I poured out the deep pain that was piercing my heart. There was no judgment; no condemnation. Before long, I was telling her all that my heart contained which I needed to release. Along with a listening ear, there was complete acceptance, grace, affirmation and love, with lots of prayer and encouragement. It was like encountering God in human form!
When I later told Chris how much I owed her for all that she was investing in me, all she said was: Someday you'll do the same for someone who needs it.
At the end of last year, a friend who has an autistic son rang me up late one night in a panic and asked me for help with something. Early the next morning, she rang me again in tears. Her husband was overseas and she didn't know what to do.
Having been down the road of stress and burnout, I recognized that my friend was going through the same experience. I was able to advise her what to do in the same way that Chris had done for me. I also took her to see the service provider for our sons to ask for more support during this time. Every week until her husband returned, I rang my friend to see how she was doing, encouraged her and prayed for her. Even now, as she and her husband are exploring options for full-time care for their son, my husband and I are the ones they turn to for advice and support.
The concept of paying it forward is a powerful one. I've had the privilege being a part of such an experience in two other instances.
One was the gift of an old piano when we first set up our home in the city we now live in. When we were able to buy a newer one, we passed that piano on to another family, whom we requested to pass on to the next family if and when they bought their own. That old piano has recently been gifted to another family in our life group. It may be old but it can still make music. The gift goes on!
The second pay-it-forward gift that we received was a two-night getaway for my husband and myself. The couple who gifted that to us were themselves the recipients of a similar gift and wanted to pass it on. We had likewise paid that forward to another couple who in turn had passed it on.
Whenever we do something for others, the concept of paying it forward will help us do so without expecting anything in return from the people whom we are blessing. Somehow, the blessings will come back through other sources, and sometimes in the ways we least expect.
Most importantly, we know we are honouring the One who gave us the greatest gift in the first place - the gift of His Son who in turn gives us life and everything we need through His death and resurrection.
And when I do something that reminds me of what others have done for me, I thank God for them and say a prayer of blessing over them.
May the gift of God's love get transferred from our hearts through our words and actions to the hearts of others!
"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'"
~ Matthew 25:40 ~
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