Simply put: Love Does

by Harvey Hook

“Simply put: love does,” is a statement made famous by Bob Goff, author of the NY Times million-plus, best seller LOVE DOES.  Those four words are simple yet profound.  They are a call to action.  They are a call to leave the certainty of our comfort zones for the uncertain, but incredibly spectacular experience, of loving, serving, sacrificing for or celebrating with another person or cause.

I’m in awe of Bob’s ability to say so much with so few words.  When it comes to compelling words, I’m biased towards the many, while Bob is gifted with the few. And yet, I like you, have my own voice to add to his invitation to step into the unknown, and “do love.”

I believe we are not dice rolled across the gambling table of life by an indifferent higher life form. I believe we were created for a purpose which is revealed through our redemptive actions. I believe redemptive actions are the things we do to: serve, inspire or even set another person free, as if from slavery.  When we reach beyond ourselves it violates a part of our nature that seeks self-gratification.  And when we do we discover the rich rewards of servant leadership.  (See what I mean, Bob would have said that in just 4 words!)

I’m reminded of a true story worth re-telling, that I originally wrote about in my book, “The Power of an Ordinary Life.”

Ashley Smith was a 26 year old single mom working as a waitress and taking classes at a medical-technician school.  Her 5 year old daughter was in the custody of an aunt, because of Ashley’s prior drug use, and four years earlier her husband died in her arms the victim of a knife fight and stabbing.  She was the most unlikely of heroes.  And yet, a new identify was forming through the grace and acceptance she found in God, and others who simply loved her.

Ashley thought her life was over, when fugitive killer Brian Nichols, placed a gun to her ribs and forced his way into her apartment at 2 o’clock in the morning.  Subject of the largest manhunt in Georgia’s history following his murder of a judge, a sheriff and a federal agent, Brian was already a dead man, just waiting to die at the hands of authorities.

7 hours later, Ashley walked out of her apartment for a scheduled visit with her daughter, while 2 hours later, Brian walked out, arms raised in surrender waiving his t-shirt above his head, to submit in non-violent fashion to the authorities on site to arrest him.

What happen in the interim?

Brian tied her to a chair with masking tape and an extension cord and took a shower.  After the shower he untied her and he wanted to talk.  Ashley spoke of those things that mattered the most to her.  She spoke of her daughter, Paige and the tragic loss of her husband.  She told Brian about God’s love for her and the disappointment Paige would feel if she didn’t show up for their scheduled visit that morning.

“Can I go and see Paige,” she asked.  “No,” Brian responded.

Asking if she could read something, Brian allowed her to get a copy of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”  She read aloud from chapter 33.  Brian asked her to stop and read it again, so she did:

“We serve God by serving others.  In our self-serving culture with its

‘me-first’ mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.

Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status.

God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not

how many people serve you.  God shaped you for service, not for

self-centeredness.  Without a servant’s heart, you will be tempted to

misuse your shape for personal gain.”

Brian was moved by these words.  He said “he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people.”  I was able to let him know how they felt, because I had gone through it.  He looked at pictures of my family.  He asked me if he could look at and hold them.

A bond – a trust – an unlikely connection was developing between Brian and Ashley.

Brian said he was hungry so Ashley made him breakfast; pancakes with real butter.  They talked more about God and their lives and Brian agreed to let Ashley see Paige.  He gave her $40.  Somehow she had offered him hope and a reason to live.

Ashley said, “You’re here in my apartment for some reason.  You got out of the courthouse with police everywhere, and you don’t’ think that’s a miracle?  You don’t think you’re supposed to be sitting right here in front of me listening to me tell you, you know, your reason to be here?  Your miracle could be that you need to – you need to be caught for this.  You need to go to prison and you need to share God with them, with all the prisoners there.”

Brian asked Ashley what she thought he should do.

She told him, “I think you should turn yourself in.  If you don’t, lots more people are going to get hurt.  And you’re probably going to die.”

In the end, the bloody shoot-out with police never happened.  There was no kicked-in door with a super-cop taking command of the situation and overpowering or killing the criminal.  It was not dramatic, and there was no struggle.  There was no fight left in the man.

If anything it was anticlimactic.

Just before noon on the day after his escape from the courthouse, Brian Nichols gave himself up in surrender.  There was no need for drama, because a quiet work had begun in his heart.  It was the work of a broken woman who was willing to reveal her fears and her painful past.  She was transparent enough to talk about her love for her precious daughter, and her new relationship with God.

Such stories just don’t end this way.  So what made the difference in this case?  How did this young woman capture the heart of a killer who had evaded authorities for 26 hours while beating, handcuffing or killing anyone who got in his way?

The ordinary and the commonplace made the difference, not the extraordinary.  There were three things Ashley did which captured my heart and attention.

1st – She took redemptive action.  Despite her fear and the crushing weight of life-threatening circumstances, she chose hope over hopelessness.  She became his advocate, and entered his world.  Making a difference begins with a choice to act for the good of something or someone beyond ourselves; even our enemies.

2nd – Ashley developed a relationship.  She connected with him through the commonality of their painful lives, and offered him the same hope she had discovered.  She told him her story in authentic ways and then did the unthinkable practical thing of making him a pancake breakfast!  She made a real connection with him through the open door of her own brokenness.  She didn’t offer him answers; she offered him, herself, her life, and her story.

3rd – She invited Brian to consider a new path that required submission and surrender.  When Brian encountered an authentic, non-condemning relationship, his heart was able to respond to Ashley and to the God she was getting to know.  In the end it was the simplest of things that turned this story from the tragic to the miraculous.

I believe you and I are here for a purpose.  God did not place us in life’s audience merely to observe, nor did he give us an audience for whom we must perform.  He placed us on center stage in the midst of the world he created, exactly where he wants us.  People, circumstances, triumph and tragedy will act upon us.

What will you and I do?

To lead we must first love; to love we must first serve.  Leadership = Love + Service.

Simply put: love does.

Join me for breakfast with Bob Goff on October 9 as he shares his “Love Does” story.  You can get your ticket HERE.  But that’s not all!

Immediately following the breakfast join the Relā Community Connector and discover non-profits serving the socially vulnerable in Columbus so that you too can take action!

What will you do today, in some small way, to change the world forever?

Harvey Hook is the Executive Director for Relā where he has served the Columbus, Ohio community for over 26 years; and is the author of The Power of an Ordinary Life.

Through his book, Harvey touches on the legacy each one of us hopes to leave. Hook explores the concept of redemptive action—how each of us can impact the world around us. He uses true-life stories of people in ordinary life who were plunged into remarkable circumstances and achieved extraordinary things. Using both stories that are current and historical—stories of younger and older people alike—this book will appeal to a wide range of people. From these stories, the author derives insights and truths to help others apply themselves to make a difference in this world.

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