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She will like us. We are nice.

It’s a lovely thought, but what if she doesn’t?

How am I to respond when they don’t like me?

When he couldn’t care less if you or I disappeared?

Or when nice is a relative term?

Because, you see, I am nice, even when she’s not nice back. And I’m kind… most of the time.

Maybe she’s preoccupied, stressed, depressed, unsociable. It does happen—even to the kindest among us.

But downright rude? I try not to be, and hopefully you try, too.

But if we are… okay. Maybe once, maybe twice, we can overlook. Especially when we glimpse youthful immaturity, or recognize emotional pain. We are human, after all.

Otherwise, I’m sorry, but this nice person inside my five-feet-four-and-not-quite-three-quarters-inch-frame just wants to get along. You know? Extend common courtesy and receive the same?

Most of the time it works…

Sarah-plain-and-tall-kids

In Sarah Plain and Tall two motherless children wondered about the woman coming to visit their Kansas home. She had written in answer to their father’s newspaper ad.

They needed a mom, and their pa needed a wife.

And a single woman who viewed life as passing her by, needed a challenge and a change of scenery, a purpose beyond the security of her beloved New England.

Cautious Anna wasn’t sure. But Caleb’s innocence viewed the prospect hopeful. He had already answered the question, looming over the household. Of course, she will like us (what’s not to like?)… because we’re nice.

Skin scrubbed and clothed fresh for her arrival soon became dirty. Hands stained. Milk spilled. An unwelcome cat. The neglected farmhouse in need of a woman’s care. You asked for a challenge… Remember? Her conscience quipped.

Through the fog, the ragged edges of our dreams appear softer than reality presents them, finally standing face to face with the answer to our prayer.

But I didn’t think it would look like this!

The family members were nice—the stranger, too—each in their own way. But time and chance, survival and heartache had taken its toll on the young family. And Sarah was used to managing her quiet, sheltered world with ease.

Her borders, though, were enlarging, requiring adjustments in her attitude, her outlook, her expectations and her daily routine.

The way was rocky, and parched at times, hard as the earth outside the two-story wood-frame structure called home. It wasn’t her home, though. Not yet. And maybe not ever? Emotions tossed inside, threatening to topple her usual poise.

Hard-working, honest, the weary father and his unkept brood were a little different from the neighbors back east, with Midwestern values, and emotions still guarded from grief not fully reconciled.

But kindness ruled, by doing right and reaching out, by taking time to listen and understand, by putting another’s needs before their own. They struggled through the difficulties, and chose life.

Kindness which led to peace, blossomed into love, and the woman stayed. And the four became a family.

And in the end she claimed that hard ground for her home.

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Sarah-plain-and-tall-dancewithsarah

The Auca Indians of Ecuadorian jungles, known as Waodani Tribe, solved their problems with violence: by killing their enemies. But too soon everyone became their enemies—including their own tribespeople.

You aren’t nice? I’ll eliminate you. With a spear. And leave you to rot.

Anthropoligists still wonder at the transformation within this culture that once teetered on extinction.

In lacking understanding of the value of a human life, the significance of relationships, the sanctity of an eternal soul… if they didn’t like someone, they got rid of him (or her). Simple as that.

And their numbers were shrinking.

End-of-the-spear

But after being introduced to the Giver and Creator of Life, they read His Book and learned His ways. They put on clothing, and became educated, and developed work skills, and started building community.

And a barbaric tribe transformed. They became kind—and learned to get along. When they set the spears aside, the violence decreased.

So many times Life and Death are decided in the way we handle conflict. In all humanity, those claiming to follow Jesus Christ should be the example. By pursuing peace and loving others the way we love self, our lives should be the light that helps lost souls find their way in a dark world.

…for the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  –  Romans 14:17-19

We can’t control how an individual treats us or responds to circumstances we’re involved in, but we can reach out in wisdom, in love, in a way that benefits the other—even to my own hurt—and in a way that builds people and promotes Kingdom values.

To pour favor in the lives of those we live with, work with (or work for), worship with, serve with (over or under)…

We can turn conflicts into opportunities to open understanding through listening prompted by genuine concern, and constructive dialogue, all of which leads to resolving difficulties to benefit everyone involved.

Creating a win-win situation, and bringing reconciliation, by asking the question:  How can we make this profitable for you and me?

Not just an I-don’t-like-you-I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-you-Get-out-of-my-life-before-I-get-rid-of-you mentality. There’s no room for ego or greed, for resentment or rudeness, when developing or maintaining healthy relationships.

And if someone is stirring up hard feelings, James 3 tells us where that comes from.

An Old Testament king solved his problems this way. In his younger years, Saul was humble. One reason perhaps, why God chose him to rule. But as pride rose to the surface, anger and envy simmered beneath… and when another was chosen to take his place, the king started throwing things.

David offered friendship to this unwanted enemy, even when his closest companions suggested he take care of the matter personally. And permanently.

But that’s not God’s way.

When humanity had turned its back on God, when we didn’t love Him, He didn’t pick up a spear…

He laid His bleeding body down… on a cross.

The way of peace is the way of love. How will a hate-filled world learn anything of God’s love, when those who claim to know Him can’t even be kind?

It’s a rare commodity these days, but one we desperately need.

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