Monday, January 14, 2013

Kindness

When I was a little girl, my parents would pile us in the car and drive from Tennessee to Michigan over the course of a night to visit my grandparents. I suppose it was to save hotel bills, vacation days and their nerves, since generally we snoozed in the backseat.  I remember lying with my feet propped up on the window, watching the trees and the street lights whiz by. 

Sometimes I read my Bible like that.  Eyes heavy with exhaustion, a sleepy complacency stealing over me, I let the words skim past with as little impact as the whizzing trees.  Take kindness; obviously I know that Christians are supposed to be kind.  But I have as little idea of what kindness should really look like as I did the darkened landscape of Indiana. 


I remember one of those nights my Mom pointed up at the moon.  Luminous and bright it dominated the night sky.  I was astonished by it.  It seemed to be unmoving.  A single light on an unending horizon.  No matter how fast the car was going, it remained ever on the right, just outside my window.  Jesus stands like that in the Bible.  A single light, illuminating every bit of scripture.  If I want to know kindness, He'll reveal the way.

Faced with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus sat down to talk.  He knew all about why she was slinking to the well at noon instead of sashaying there before breakfast, and He wanted to chat anyway.  If I want to be kind I need to look around and see people who need a moment of conversation: a widow, the person no one likes at work, that sister who always comes in late and leaves early from church.  I don't feel like talking?  Not the point.  Jesus seems to ask, "Who needs to talk to me?"

When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery in John 8, rather than join the chorus of her accusers He diffused the situation.  Indirectly He allowed the guilt of their own consciences to turn them away and then with the gentlest encouragement told her, "I do not condemn you either.  Go. From now on sin no more" (John 8:11). It is just as easy to self-righteously condemn sin as it is to blindly tolerate it. Jesus does neither.  He knows nothing of self-righteousness and yet still identifies sin.   In this aspect, I fear Christians are not well known for their kindness.

At a wedding in Cana (John 2) Jesus steps in to help in a situation where he has no responsibility.  I'm sure he could have benefited from one evening off.  Just to sit around and talk, eat, laugh and celebrate with his friends.  But he helps anyway. His mama knew he would.  He's that kind of guy.

I wish I was that kind of girl. Instead I am the overwhelmed uninterested kind.  I'm the girl who grumbles and moans about her schedule but helps anyway. Kindness is blessing a friend, a student, a stranger with time and patience when it's inconvenient.  I am always short on time and patience.  Kindness is reading my girls a book instead of crashing face down on the bed. I am chronically short on unselfishness too.   Kindness is graciously helping my sweet husband.  Helpmeet is what it means to be his mate.  Even when that means a walk to the grocery store in the cold and the rain after the toothpaste I forgot this morning. I wish kindness was simply about what I do, but I know its all about the heart with which I do it.  Kindness is Jesus's story.  I want it to be mine.

I want to do better.  I want to let Jesus shine the light of his example onto all of scripture.  Last year I memorized a phrase, "in your light, we see light." (Psalms 36:9b) Without the light that Jesus reveals as the light of the world, even the Father is hidden from our view.  (John 14:1-11) I need to ask over every commandment, "How did Jesus live this out?"  And then, "How can I?"  The heart-rending realization of how far I fall from my Lord's clear example is one way the Spirit is working to bring me to repentance. (John 16:1-12)

I want to see the fruit of Kindness in my life. Walking after my Savior's example, I want to notice, value and listen to people from the smallest to the greatest.  I want to abandon all my self-righteous judgments and show the fallen my own fallenness and the Savior who lifts me up.  I want to help, not because it's my duty but because it's my joy.

Kindness is a slow virtue.  If I am speeding along, I'll pass it in an instant.  It requires a kind of thoughtful selflessness that I have not cultivated.  Walking in step with the Spirit in this case means walking more slowly, both more slowly through the scripture and more slowly through my days.  Kindness moves at the pace of a 4 year old, at the pace of the fallen, at the pace of Jesus.

Slow down.  Walk with the Savior.  Keep in step with the Spirit.    


Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission 

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