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A rustling coat shifted my gaze away from the woman pouring out her heart to the prayer group. Despite her tears, I was struggling to focus on her words. I had been out of sorts all day and dragged myself to the meeting more out of misplaced obligation than a true desire to pray.

The rustling coat belonged to another woman. She was getting up and setting her belongings down. Taking a few short steps, she handed the hurting woman a Kleenex and returned to her seat without saying a word. It took only a moment, but the act was full of love and compassion, and I found myself convicted by that Kleenex.

The truth is, I had Kleenexes in my purse too.

But my thoughts and heart were so far from that place that I could not see the woman in pain. I was too distracted by my own problems.

I never expected a Kleenex to weigh so much — but the heavy realization it brought in that moment crushed me. I was living in a place of complete self-absorption.

How did I get here?

That painful truth overshadowed me for days. I thought back to a difficult season in my life. Tired and struggling, I remember giving myself permission to take a break from reaching out and simply receive for a bit.

While I do believe we all occasionally need time to rest and receive, I’d slowly allowed restoration to be replaced with single-minded focus on what I “needed.” It expanded until it excluded most everything — and everyone — else. My heart had grown cold as selfishness took root.

Fast forward many years, and a featherlight Kleenex hit me like a ton of bricks.

In my attempts to protect and care for myself, I had lost sight of one of Jesus’ primary commands — “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love one another — not just when it’s convenient or when we feel like it, but in the way He loved us: fully, sacrificially, with kindness and compassion.

The decision to detach myself and turn inward had led me away from God and His will. It made me blind to the people around me. It ironically caused me to forget that the comfort and compassion God showed me modeled a way of living that puts the interests of others before my own.

Jesus truly loved people. He saw them, heard them, and knew their hearts and struggles. And when He needed rest, He didn’t retreat into Himself. He sought out the face of His Father and centered on the Father’s will.

As I think more specifically about how Jesus lived, I am challenged to change. I am challenged to return to God and ask His forgiveness. I am challenged to pull out the Kleenexes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, to set myself aside and fully embrace the people I encounter. I am challenged to love as He loves.

Consider your interactions today. Do they fall in line with the example of Jesus’ love? Perhaps you too have some Kleenexes in your pocket that are meant to be shared.

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