We all have those people in our lives that most would label as “not normal.” For me, that person is a younger guy named Antonio.
Pay Attention To The Distractions
I met Antonio for the first time while I was preaching. Yep, you read that right, while I was preaching.
At a young age, Antonio had a seizure that resulted in severe brain damage. Even though he’s now twenty-one years old, he has the understanding of a ten-year-old. Yeah, sometimes he laughs during a worship service when I’m talking about something that isn’t funny, like divorce, but that’s part of what makes him unique. From time to time, we’ve had people mention that Antonio was distracting them from connecting to the message and asked if he could be quieter.
Many people tend to avoid people like Antonio since they don’t understand them. Antonio wears a permanent smile that’s a bit hard to read if you’ve never met him. Is he being sincere? That, and his shaking hands make him different. Many people feel awkward when they attempt to engage him in conversation since he only offers one-word responses. But even though Antonio is an awkward, simple guy, there’s one thing about him that sets him apart: When you’re with him, you can’t help but feel totally and completely loved. In my experience with human beings, that’s hard to find.
What if people like Antonio are reminders of Jesus’s extravagant love and adoration for us? Yes, during a church service, but also throughout our week. I’ve found that often the “distractions” in our lives, whether people or events, are the things Jesus wants us to see, hear, and pay attention to the most.
I’ve found that often the “distractions” in our lives, whether people or events, are the things Jesus wants us to see, hear, and pay attention to the most.
Learn From Others
Antonio has so much to give in our cellphone-addicted society. He’s not glued to his screen. He doesn’t judge you by your likes or witty online posts. He loved me well that first time I met him (and every time we’ve interacted since) by making me his central focus when we were introduced to each other for the first time after church. Where we often love others only if they have something significant to offer us in return, Antonio’s extravagant love is refreshing. Given with no strings attached.
I didn’t need to earn his attention; he freely gave it. I didn’t need to try and impress him or act like someone I’m not; he loved me for the person I am. Antonio made me feel like I had worth.
Like I mattered. Like I was loved.
Because I do. And I am.
Even when I don’t feel like it’s true.
The truth is, there’s something special inside of each of us. God says we are made in his image. We may not see it, but we are. Humans are different than any other living thing on earth. We resemble God, fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us has a gift to offer humanity. Each of us is important to someone. If to no one else, we’re all important to God. There is something within us that is divine, that points to our heavenly Creator. God looks at us and says that we are good.
Jesus loves extravagantly, Antonio does the same. I want to learn to love others that way.
Extravagant love without conditions seems ridiculous at first. It’s out of our comfort zone. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. Extravagant love takes up time we don’t really have to give. I’ll maybe extend it if someone loves me extravagantly first. But try it once, and you’ll never be able to go back to loving people any other way. There’s something about stepping outside your comfort zone to make someone feel special that’s contagious. Loving extravagantly turns the focus from me to you, something both Antonio, and I’m sure even someone you know, can teach us.
It doesn’t take a huge party or something expensive or elaborate either. Each person, deep inside, simply wants to know: “Will you love me?” Will you notice me?” Antonio answered my unspoken, “Will you love me?” question with a resounding, “Yes!” – treating me like his favorite person each time he spotted me. In turn, I wanted to love other people in that same extravagant way.
Antonio may be different than most people, but he’s different in a good way! He has so much to teach us about what love should look like.
So, who are the people in your life that you can love extravagantly?
The unseen VIPs that you’re hoping to make feel known and loved?
An elementary school kid who needs a mentor in his life?
The new coworker who just moved to town and doesn’t know anyone?
The quiet classmate in your math class?
The neighbor you pass on your way to work every day but never stop and talk to?
Love them! Stop overlooking people. Even for just five minutes. Love them extravagantly. Surprise yourself with how much you can make them feel like the cherished person they already are in Jesus’s eyes—uniquely made with a purpose from God!
Struggling to find the treasure that God has buried inside of someone? Dig deep. Look for the aspects of God in the person. Ask them questions. Have them share their story with you. Keep digging until you find the unique gift God has given them. It’s in there somewhere!
Want to love someone extravagantly? Ask yourself one simple question: What can I do to make this person feel special? And then go do it! It doesn’t always need to be something fancy or shiny. You don’t need to go out and give away new cars like Oprah or buy them Starbucks for life (even though that would be awesome!). Simply love the unseen people in your life with what you already have, just like Antonio loved me—extravagant in his own way.
Want to love someone extravagantly? Ask yourself one simple question: What can I do to make this person feel special?