Summers when I was a kid were filled with: games of baseball in the culdesac, riding bikes down the greenbelt, licking popsicles as they dripped in the summer warmth, and visits to family and friends. One of the family members I liked to visit best was “Aunt Susie”, although she wasn’t truly related to us at all. All of the kids, probably even the adults, at our church came to know Susie and she wasn’t content to leave it at that. She’d shower hugs, attention, and love on us and immediately we all knew, regardless of relation, she was and would always be “Aunt Susie”.
It’s interesting that just a week or so ago, I was reminiscing about “Aunt Susie” to my family, wishing with all my heart that somehow they would have had the chance to know this wonderful lady. It was coincidental then, when just this week, a childhood friend posted a picture of her “Aunt Susie” (truly related). I hadn’t seen a photo of her in years and I scrutinized it with my now adult eyes. The first thing that stands out to anyone who knew her was her smile. Her smile was big and wide and just seeing it made me feel like I knew Jesus more. Her eyes were often crinkled up in laughter. Next, she had dark brown hair and I do remember her often wearing a skirt. I don’t know if that was typical on her farm or if it was just the fact that usually I saw her at church and she had “dressed up” for the occasion. All I know, is no one could be around Aunt Susie without feeling more blessed afterward. She had a way of exuding Jesus at every turn.
Today in my devotional time, Colossians 3:16 was the central focus:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”-Colossians 3:16
As I thought and meditated on that verse, the picture of Aunt Susie came to mind. I realized this verse was one she truly lived. She didn’t just “act kind” or “smile a lot” or “think of others first”. No, she had the word dwelling richly and deeply on the inside and that word transformed her and made her like Jesus. She wasn’t trying to be like Jesus, she was just so full of Jesus that her actions, attitudes and love showed it.
Maybe that is what the world needs now more than ever. While there is a constant tug of war urging people to be kind… loving… perhaps we should realize that people will never act like Jesus until they are filled with Him. I mean, is it little wonder that problems break out all over the world when people are not giving God the first place in their lives? Truly, when we scale it back we realize we cannot give what we do not have. So the solution then, is to fill up to overflowing by “dwelling with the word and with God richly”. Only then will the attitudes of our hearts and the actions in our lives correspond with kindness, love, acceptance, peace… and all the fruit of the spirit.
Aunt Susie, I am sure, would be surprised to hear she is definitely on the first portion of my personal list of “Heroes of Faith”. She would probably wave her hand, dismissing the notion. “It’s all about Jesus,” she would say, her smile beaming wide, her eyes crinkling in joy. But she is on my list and truly inspires me to become the type of person that God wants me to be. No, not by following a list of rules or “trying harder” but by her example of being filled with the Word.
I will always remember the first time I entered Aunt Susie’s house. It was a lived in farmhouse and perhaps not outstanding in any way. Yet, there, I saw the truth. Every cabinet, every wall, every free space was plastered with papers or index cards with scripture on them. The way they differed in appearance, some weathered and worn and some new and crisp, one knew that she was constantly filling herself with the Word. It wasn’t just a “one and done” thing. No, it was a constant thing.
I also remember one time going into her backyard for a party. I believe it was a birthday party she was throwing for her father. The table had a bowl of punch on it and there were cookies and cake. Us kids eyed the table hungrily waiting for when we could have the special treats. The adults did a little talk about James— what they had appreciated about him— and everyone wished him a happy birthday. I remember Aunt Susie then turning to us children and saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice for the kids to share a scripture song for Grandpa’s birthday?” Immediately my stomach went to my feet. A song straight from Scripture? I could sing “Jesus Loves Me” or something like that… but a song verbatim from the Bible? My mind went blank even through more than anything I wanted to sing to fulfill sweet Aunt Susie’s request. Us kids were quiet for a moment, trying to think about what song we could all possibly know that was rooted in scripture. Being the sweet Aunt Susie she was, she gently came up and put a hand to our backs. “How about 1 John 4:7-8?” She wiggled her eyebrows and smiled. Oh yes, I knew that one and was confident my younger sister and some of the other kids would too. We started to sing:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. So Beloved, let us love one another.-1 John 4:7-8
Somehow, even now—twenty five plus years later—the words of this song describe Aunt Susie (and what she lived for each day) perfectly. She was born of God, knew God deeply through relationship and His Word, and that love that welled up in her was shared with others. It’s only through this formula that True Love can be extended. Anything else is just a farce, just a surface type love. But the True Love that broadens smiles, adds joy sparkles to eyes even though difficulty…. That only comes from a deep, rich, constant relationship with the Lord.
Aunt Susie continues to have such a remarkable influence in my life, someone I aspire to be like. Like her, I want the Word of God dwelling in me richly… overflowing me until it is all others see. It’s God’s love in me. It’s not a love that is manufactured or a forced belief or lifestyle… it is just a gentle overflow of all the good God is pouring into me.
Thank you, Aunt Susie, for your inspiration. I can’t wait to catch up on life together in heaven and see your beautiful smile again.
Until next time,