Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
Hospitals can be a scary place at night. Urgent calls for codes over the loudspeaker, people coming and going, laughter or cries that do not make sense. Even the arrival of a new roommate in the middle of the night wrecks what little peace and quiet you might have. Hospitals can also be disorienting. It is hard to keep track of day and night. Blinds are shut and light stay on. Blood is drawn at unreasonable hours. Meals are delivered on a schedule when most people aren’t hungry. Doctors make rounds at six am. That is why when one of my parents is in the hospital, I usually stay overnight with them on their first night. Hopefully, a familiar voice or a squeezed hand will help reassure them that everything is okay. If a nurse is needed, I can make sure the right button is pushed. And I don’t miss the doctor’s first morning visit. After the first night, I can go home at bedtime knowing that they are more comfortable. Hospitals were not really designed for overnight guests who are not patients. I usually manage to find a recliner and sometimes a blanket and pillow. I cram myself into the chair, position my legs as straight as I can manage and wait for my head to loll over to the side. I never get deeply asleep which is probably for the best. No sense being there if I miss the opportunity to do what I came for-assist. Or as some translations of Romans 12:10 say, “Outdo”. “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This year, Romans 12 has been my mission statement. I have memorized most of the chapter and recite it to myself every night as I fall asleep. It is my prayer that I will be the kind of person described in those verses. One who loves sincerely, embraces good, is joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, shares, practices hospitality and seeks peace and harmony. The definition of true love in those verses is quite daunting. I don’t think anyone, no matter how hard they try, can fully reach the potential noted there. Especially if we are trying to do it on our own steam. The only way to truly meet that definition of love is if we set aside our own interests and let God’s love flow through us. Otherwise, I get snappy and cranky when my feet go to sleep or my underarms stink. I am flawed, but thankfully God is not. And even in the darkest hour, He is there sustaining us and the ones we love. I certainly don’t want to spend the night in the hospital if I am not sick. I don’t want to make sure my parent gets to the bathroom safely. I don’t want to “outdo” in the middle of the night. But, I outdo. Because of love. Mine, but mostly God’s.
PS I want to make it clear that when I talk about outdoing, I am not talking about overdoing volunteer work. To do something out of love is different than to do something out of obligation. So often we hear, “No one else will do it,” or “You are the only one who can do this” and we think we have to step up and take something on that we are not passionate about. Then, our calendar fills up and we are drained and tired. If you focus on the things you are passionate about, perhaps rocking babies in the nursery or cooking spaghetti for the youth or visiting the hospital or whatever gives you joy and a feeling of fulfillment, you will spread love even in small ways. Don’t try to do everything. Just what is most important to you. Outdo loving not overdo working. And don’t be afraid to say, “NO!”