When I first think of kindness, I envision of heroes of old, fireworks, and the noble brave. I recall moments in time where simple acts of selflessness split history in two and threatened to tear the veil of ego-centrality off humanity. And for a season, awe reigned, only to be swallowed, again, by the very same force of years piling one on another, slowly fading the veracity of the unforgettable as humanity continued on its harrowing bent towards self. But is kindness only to be found in the peaks of grandeur, quickly won and lost in the spotlight? What about today, in these little lives we live?
Perhaps kindness is more subtle and pervasive than we realize. Maybe it is even a bit humble and ignoble at times, finding us where we believe it should not. Perhaps it is best touched and felt, not announced or lauded. And perhaps, like water, it finds its deepest inroads through time and not by force.
How did you learn what true kindness is?
Fractured minds, like fractured bones, must be broken and reset, but healing comes in the waiting. Years of sameness has formed ruts in the soul and thinking follows ruts, like a channel coursing through our inner life. Kindness is one of the few tools or even weapons I’ve known that can break the most entrenched thought patterns. I have learned and still learn of these things in my friendship with a dear, wise woman named Sally.
Sally is kindness. Well, mostly. She is also grit, fire and sass, but that’s another story. Sally is patience in my impetuous need for justice. Sally is wisdom in the midst of the foolishness of my own heart being unbound. Sally is discipline and a firm reminder of the end rebellion takes. Sally doesn’t expect, rather but gives. Her eyes look to an eternal reward and not one this world, or even I can offer. Sally is kind.
When I came to live with Sally, I was broken in all the wrong ways and strong in ways that called for a deeper breaking. I was a seething harbor of anger, hidden beneath a plastic smile with vain hopes for quick, deep relationship. In short, I was a hot mess. Sally took me into her arms and heart and offered me a place to fall apart.
In my ignorance I believed myself to be innately good. I believed if given the ideal circumstances, all the intrinsic goodness locked up inside me would flourish and come pouring forth like sacred water from the rock. Surely all the choices I’ve made were only a product of my environment… surely. But kindness also knows truth; it just doesn’t always shout it. Sometimes kindness let’s truth find you. And find me, it did. As the dam of hate and rage and horror pent up in my calcified heart was breeched, I found myself in shock as I looked in the mirror. How could I identify with the me I saw? How could I accept what I abhorred and scorned and mercilessly judged in those around me? I could not. I would not. And the shame threatened to harden what tenderness was left.
Then came Sally. Then came kindness. Kindness doesn’t lie, but it stands in the mess and silently offers the undeserved. Kindness sees reality but reminds us of deeper Truth. God never expected any more from my flesh than what I saw. Jesus died for the ‘me’ in the mirror that I detested. My fresh acquaintance with the revelation of self and my subsequent shock only exposed the depth of my pride, the true peril of my soul. Sally didn’t flinch when I spewed my loathing words, lamenting the apparition I lost. In fact, she smiled. She embraced me and told me she was proud of me. She reminded me that outside of a living connection with our Lord, we are who we are, powerless to better the true condition of our heart.
In 1 Timothy, Paul makes a statement that put a hole through my religious assumptions about sanctification. He says, “This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” I seriously think he lost his ‘tenses’ when he wrote that verse. Dear Paul, in case you didn’t notice, that ‘am’ is present tense – you just said you ARE the worst sinner. I mean, that’s a ‘wuz’, right? The once-Christian-hunting, murderous Paul, is now an apostle, adored by many and honored by the Lord Himself. Paul, as you are writing half the New Testament it might be good for your reputation, maybe even the Lord’s, if you don’t say things like that… being the worst of sinners isn’t really a zealous aspiration for the rest of us. Right? Don’t we eventually reach a state of better-than-that if we just try hard enough or do some good when we can and think positive thoughts?
Our own strength and wit are not efficacious in this spiritual transformation we long for. We are really quite impotent beings.
Sanctification is real, but rehabilitation is not the pathway. Sally knew the truth of the hidden decay in my heart, in all of our hearts, but how? Kindness has walked the road before us and is willing to circle back and walk it again, knowing, apart from Christ, these old hearts do not change. Kindness knows that justice has holes and delays and fissures and if we are willing to bend, we can see kindness peeking through, beckoning us into the goodness of Christ, inviting us to shake off all the pleasantly contrived ideations of self and to become enraptured in Him, and in the light of Him begin to see the real ‘me’.