Monday, October 10, 2016

It's all about the bedrock....

When I was a little girl my mom often challenged me to a game. If we'd come across someone in our day who looked a bit unhappy or stressed, like a shopkeeper or neighbor, we'd do our best to leave that person just a bit happier or more encouraged than the condition we met them in. What a good thing to teach a child---to be aware of the needs of others! Since then I've learned the side lesson that it's not my 'job' to make everyone around me happy all the time (important one for me!) but the lesson of considering what might be going on in the life of everyone that I meet and offering them grace has impacted my whole life.

I'm not sure who first said it but I love the quote:

"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always." 

There have been times in my life that I've desperately needed and been on the receiving end of significant kindness.  How could I not pass that on to others?
My acrobatic son Adam jumping for joy. :-) Photo Credit: Solomon Waterhouse

Working in India taught me a lot about kindness as well. I witnessed those in extreme poverty sharing with those around them in sacrificial ways.  They knew through experience that they actually needed each other, and kindness was given and kindness was received. That doesn't mean that a lot of fighting and angst didn't occur as well, after all hurt people tend to hurt people, but at the core when they had a bit more than they needed they would share. A little rice, a vegetable, a spare piece of clothing, tending each other's children, sharing good clean water....

.....what a challenge to those of us that have way too much.

But I have a confession. I have to admit that even after a life of being wired towards kindness (thanks, Mom and other great examples!), I realized the other day that I am a hypocrite.

Big time.

You see, if you are clearly hurting I will expect to give you grace. If you're in need I will do my best to share. If you are nasty I will wonder why and try to be kind anyway. If you are sad I will want to offer you sanctuary. If you are lonely I will try give you my time. But if I, in my vast knowledge and omnipotent wisdom (ha!) cannot discern pain that would then inspire my grace, and if someone is continually and intently choosing to see and point out the negative in others, I will struggle with them. I tend to put them in the 'undeserving' box and shut the lid of my heart. I am judge and jury all rolled into one and someone constantly focusing on the negative is the particular thing I find hard to find grace for.

Oooops, what happened to,"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always"? I tend to forget that those who cut down others are usually compensating for feeling lack in themselves. Therefore, hidden hurt. 

Sheesh, I realized that I had prided myself in my love of others and had thought I was doing pretty well, but I'm a hypocrite indeed. Good thing I'm not the Judge of the universe.

I'm sure glad that God has a different perspective on us than we do of ourselves and of others. He consistently in Scripture brings us back to trust in Him and not in ourselves or our ability to be good enough or do enough good. Because no matter how good, how kind, how loving, how generous, how honest we may be----we fail at some point.

Paul addresses this very thing in Romans 9:31-33

"But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.  Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him.  They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, 

'I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, 
a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who trust in him will never be disgraced.'"

Do you ever feel a strong sense of shame when confronted by the Holiness of God? When you thought you were doing so well but then realize a gap in your armor, a place where you've failed?  I did when I realized my blind spot in loving kindness. Whoops, I failed again

The somewhat painful question to ask ourselves at this point is, "What are we trusting in?" Our self, what we're capable of, what we've done----or God himself plain and simple? Trusting in ourselves is so seductive, because when we do well we receive the glory. But trusting in ourselves is ultimately painful because we were never designed to do it all on our own and we WILL fail.

Paul said this next about the people of Israel, but if we're honest isn't it often easy to apply this to ourselves as Believers today?

"For they don't understand God's way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God's way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law 
(or do good stuff).
 Rom. 10:3

We know in our heads that Christ has already made a way for us to succeed and be right with God and therefore we can do good as well, (vs.4) but practically we live as if it's what we do that matters. And set ourselves up for failure in the process. But there's an answer:

"Anyone who trust in him (God) will never be disgraced."
Rom. 10:11

It's all about focus. When our focus is actually in the One who has already paid the penalty for all of our failures, we may sometimes look like fools but will never actually be disgraced, because all He asks of us is to trust in Him. Follow Him and let Him worry about the rest. 

His ways confound us but they are ultimately wise. They surprise because to us they can seem simplistic or idealistic but they are full of truth and make our paths straight. They may seem difficult but they bring us to the place of realizing that we cannot do it on our own and that He has already provided an answer so full of love that how can we knowingly refuse?

Simply and powerfully trust and you will never be disgraced. And for goodness sake, stop disappointing yourself by trying to be good on your own! And be free......