The Love Factor

A room full of women waited for me to step onto the platform and, as they say, deliver. Deliver something worth listening to, a message that would impact or entertain or at the very least distract them from the concerns they’d left at home in order to attend the retreat.

I’d prepared for weeks. My PowerPoint slides had been triple-checked and edited. I had backups for my backups, should technology fail. I knew my opening lines. And, as often happened with me, I’d jettisoned what I was originally going to say a few days earlier when God redirected me. My prayer partner was miles away, but praying for me at that very moment. The emcee began the speaker introduction she’d written. Go time.

Two life-altering moments emerged that night. Big changes. Both of them in me.

As I sat in the front row, waiting for my final cue to take my place behind the podium, I thanked God for the opportunity to lift His Name before these precious women. I asked Him to make me invisible so He could be better seen without my standing in the way. And I asked that I would be guided every moment by the Holy Spirit.

An impression washed over me so strongly it was almost audible. “Love them,” I sensed God asking of me. I answered with an admittedly defensive sounding, “But Lord, I already do!” What women’s retreat speaker didn’t care about the women she served?

His response altered—and altared—my heart and my role. It rearranged every speaking event from that moment on. He simply said, “Not like I do.”

In His eyes, my effectiveness as a speaker, an author, a leader depended most heavily on the love factor. Was I willing to let Him show me how to love those women like He did, with that kind of depth and intensity and compassion and self-sacrifice? I was willing.

It was as if He said, “That’s all I wanted to know.” My willingness to let Him love more completely through me gave Him permission, if you will, to rearrange my thinking and retool my approach. I was no longer a guest speaker. I was a Christ-follower who loved them intensely and oh by the way had been invited to speak.

But He wasn’t done with me that night. It was the first night of a three-day retreat and early into my first 45-minute presentation, a woman about halfway back started crying, visibly and audibly. Several of her friends gathered around her, so I was assured she wasn’t alone. But she didn’t leave the auditorium. She stayed to listen, despite her non-stop tears. 

I didn’t feel compelled to stop and go to her then, making her pain even more obvious to the other attendees. But even as I remained aware of the tear-drenched woman while trying to focus on the others in the room, I determined to go to her immediately after the final amen.

I approached tentatively, unsure if I had offended her or if my words had caused her pain. Her friends opened their circle to include me. They explained that the woman’s husband had died unexpectedly two weeks earlier, but that she’d been encouraged to come to the reunion-like annual women’s retreat anyway. She obeyed, but in a cocoon of grief and tears.

Whatever was on the schedule next was abandoned without a thought. We simply loved on the hurting one. She was noticed. She was not the disruption she assumed. She was the point. Her pain was acknowledged and respected. And we poured out love like ointment from broken alabaster.

No matter what leadership role we’re asked to take—event planner, writer, speaker, pastor, Bible study teacher, small group facilitator—the love factor is the truest and best catalyst for change.

What comes to mind when you consider 1 Corinthians 13:13 in light of your serving? You may have faith that God will speak and that you’ve prepared well. You may have hope that those to whom you minister will be moved, comforted, helped, challenged.

That verse reminds us that three key elements remain or endure in our living for Jesus before others: faith, hope, and love. Then the Apostle Paul adds a line we may never finish processing. “The greatest of these is love.”

Where has that truth been most keenly evident in your life of serving? We will all grow if you’ll share a short snippet of your story in the comments.

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  1. Tammy Sue Willey on 2021-07-30 at 8:54 AM

    Thank you for sharing your truthful words.

  2. Peaches Knaut on 2021-07-29 at 12:07 PM

    Praise God for you Cynthia, Praise God for the Church family to love on the broken hearted to heal us up working through us for His Glory! Your Word is like seeds of love cast out to the multitudes of those as the Lord loves us to make us One with Him…thank you, She is very beautiful: The Bride is in her Chambers, as we dress Her in fine linen….

  3. Nancy J Smith on 2021-07-29 at 10:42 AM

    If we let our platform/ position/ responsibilities , whatever our “job” get in the way of ministering to hurting people, we have missed the point! May we always see others through Jesus’ eyes and be willing to show compassion.

  4. Misty Cramer on 2021-07-28 at 10:08 PM

    Thank you Cynthia. This was a wonderful reminder. Powerful.

  5. Kimalea ArrighI on 2021-07-28 at 7:29 PM

    This! ♥️ Cynthia Ruchtii, I am working on a memoir with a workshop component that I plan to “rehearse” with a beta group during a weekend retreat in November. Your story came at just the right time for me. It would be so easy for me to set my agenda and think only in terms of a work weekend. Thank you for the reminder that without love we can do nothing. Love never fails. May the Lord bless you.

    Kimalea Arrighi

  6. Denise Ann Goosby on 2021-07-28 at 3:41 PM

    Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your story. God loves His people deeply. It is hard to fathom that Father God would make a way for the many to minister to the one. But, like in your story, I’ve seen Him do it time and time again. Last month, my small group leader allowed me to tape a conference presentation in her backyard. I was all concerned about the taping–about not messing up and getting it done. But God had my videographer there to minister some things to her about her marriage. This lovely lady who spends so much of her time praying for and serving others needed someone to stand in the gap for her. I’m thankful God gave me and my videographer eyes to see the ‘one’ who was in need.

  7. Kathleen Rouser on 2021-07-28 at 3:36 PM

    What a sweet reminder of why we’re truly called to communicate. Thank you for sharing, Cynthia.

  8. Dyann Shepard on 2021-07-28 at 1:11 PM

    Thank you, Cynthia. Tears welled up as I read your story of the woman crying and her friends gathering around her. I was like that woman many years ago when I lost my husband not to death but to years of infidelity which resulted in his diagnosis of HIV. It was small group of committed loving friends that supported me emotionally and spiritually for years as I tried to navigate the unimaginable. Hurt became hope, fear became faith and the catalyst was the love of God working through precious friends. Now it is my joy to come along side women who are suffering deep hurt and loss assuring them of God’s love and faithfulness. Nothing is wasted or without purpose in God’s economy. This truth never ceases to amazed me.

  9. PAMela Mutz on 2021-07-28 at 1:03 PM

    Oh Cynthia, I couldn’t agree more with what you said. I’ve spoken with FamilyLife for 25 years, but have not had conferences the last 18 months. I could feel the butterflies while sitting in that front row getting ready to speak, asking the Holy Spirit to put His message and emotions needed to minister to others.

    Love First: Having come from a CRU background, I can look at the person next to me as “my project.” But HS tweaked my thought process and said, Love them FIRST.” It was a great reset button for me.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I met you at SpeakUp and talked to you about your tag line, sewing, and French seam. Thank you again and look forward to connecting to you at some point.

    PAMela Mutz

  10. Nicole Langman on 2021-07-28 at 1:03 PM

    Beautiful! Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

  11. Debbie Beck-Siddiqui on 2021-07-28 at 12:37 PM

    Excellent post…. Something I needed to hear as a good God reminder!

  12. Jeanie Connell on 2021-07-28 at 12:12 PM

    I was drawn in Cynthia, by your experience. I knew how to pray as the Lord brought opportunities! Not an emphasis on “my presentation,” but on the Love Factor.

  13. Sandi Banks on 2021-07-28 at 10:27 AM

    Beautiful, Cynthia, ♥️ Reminds me of the day I came to know and love our mutual friend Sandra Aldrich. She stepped up to the podium to deliver her signature Kentucky humor-driven message that Tuesday noon, March 5,1991, at our monthly luncheon for Christian Ministry Leaders. But as she walked up, someone informed her that all of us in the audience were grieving, impacted by the plane crash 2 days earlier there in Colorado Springs. No survivors. Larry Crabb’s brother Bill was among the victims; I was to meet with him the next day. Fresh grief permeated the room. She reached the podium, looked out at us with a sweet tenderness, spontaneously shifting gears, and delivered the most precious, Spirit-led message of comfort, reaching the depths of our hearts, from a place of her own, as a recent widow. She loved us well that day. We were wrapped in one of her signature hugs, and God was glorified.

    A few weeks ago, I was blessed to be with Sandra at that same place, and reminisce about that day 30 years ago and her thoughts as she approached the podium. May we all be ready, Cynthia, as you and Sandra were, to hear His voice and love them well.

  14. Carol Kentw on 2021-07-28 at 9:27 AM

    This is a powerful blog and a great reminder about how important it is to show love, compassion, and kindness to our readers and to those in our audiences. Thank you, Cynthia!

  15. Lori Altebaumer on 2021-07-28 at 9:06 AM

    This reminds me of the saying “People won’t remember what you said. They’ll remember how you made them feel.” Thank you for this beautiful message of truth and reminder of what matters most.

  16. Ruth Coghill on 2021-07-28 at 7:22 AM

    The powerful pause… to love in action!
    Thank you Cynthia

  17. TRACY DAYTON on 2021-07-28 at 7:21 AM

    Cynthia, it was such a blessing to meet with you last week. Reading a post from you this morning is starting my day off on a very good note. This added some serious depth to my devotions today…. what an incredible concept to chew on. A man can plan his ways but his steps are ordered by the Lord… Thank you for all you do and sharing your experiences with us “newbie’s”. I will regard what you’ve shared here as I move forward in my walk as a representative of our Lord’s to love on others through words, both written and spoken.

  18. Crystal McFadden on 2021-07-28 at 6:35 AM

    I think this is what I love most about those I meet in Speak Up, not that we’re not present in other conferences, but we’re concentrated here. The understanding of the depth of the call, the ministry, the humans we’ve been blessed to serve is also the joy of our work. Our work is an act of obedient worship we’re grateful to walk out and follow His lead above our own ideas. When we co create in His truth, love and are led by the Spirit – the work we’ve been equipped to do is also our life mission.

  19. Nicole on 2021-07-28 at 6:19 AM

    Your message is beautiful and has so touched my heart. I am prompted to look closely at my personal relationships. I’m earnestly praying for change, for one in particular, and now I have to ask myself, do I love the way the Lord does. I see flaws and mistakes and focus on past hurts. He sees his beautiful child fighting a battle. He waits patiently and lovingly to direct us, to comfort us, to pick us up when we fall and he cheers us on as we try again. As difficult as it may be (and it is), I have to learn to love the way he loves, in all areas of my life.

  20. Marge Ankrom on 2021-07-28 at 6:16 AM

    Inspired to “LOVE” more whenever I am teaching! Thank
    You for this.

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