The sweet kindness of God

I hate teeth.

They make me a bit queasy to think about, and my one recurring nightmare involves my teeth loosening, aching, and falling out.

When I was a teenager and old enough to babysit or volunteer with kids, I found that children really love showing off their teeth.  They are so excited about every loose tooth and new tooth and have this universal reaction to any change in their dental status:  I need to show everyone.

Look at my loose tooth! Look at where I lost a tooth. Look at a new tooth growing in! 

They’re thrilled and rightfully so.

Me, not so much.  I hate seeing teeth wiggle around and hold on by the strands.

I’d try to keep my cool when these little ones showed off their pearly whites with pride.  I’d nod my head and muster up some celebratory joy:  “Wow, look at that loose tooth.  Amazing!  Won’t be long now.”

Then I’d avert my eyes as soon as I possibly could because a loose tooth was way gross to me.

When I had my wisdom teeth out as a teenager, it took some courage for a girl who hates teeth.  I slid into the chair and gripped my hands together across my middle.  I didn’t know the doctor, but he went over everything with me and then said something about the nerves and how they were entwined with the root and there was the possibility, although rare, that there would be a complication and I would have difficulty talking or singing after the procedure.  But it’d probably be fine.

Awesome.

Then he started to work, only to find that I don’t respond normally to numbing and need extra medication in order for me not to feel  what he was doing in there with all of his metal tools.

Double awesome.

But here’s the thing, I was a scared teenage girl who didn’t like teeth about to undergo a dental procedure that was already off to a rocky start and then I heard the Beatles.

The radio station they were playing in the dentist office that day had kicked off a Beatles weekend and the Beatles were (are) my super favorite.  So, I breathed in a little breath and prayed out a little prayer: “Thanks, Lord, for the little reminder that you see me down here and are with me.”  And I sang in my head to  Beatles tunes while the dentist worked.

That was  20 years ago, and I still remember that little kiss of God’s kindness.

We have these moments, all of us, where we’re tumbled into a pit of fear or darkness.  We have to face our greatest nightmare.  The very worst thing, the thing we hoped would never happen, sometimes happens.

Sometimes  we’re simply overwhelmed, the little things have piled up into one big massive, overwhelming thing.

Or perhaps we’re so exhausted and weary and our soul feels heavy-laden indeed.

Perhaps out of nowhere, we’re hit with conflict.  We had peace, and then there was war.  People against us.  People attacking us.

There is loss and sadness, anxiety and fatigue.

But there is also Jesus.

There is, most importantly, Jesus.

In some of those seasons when I wondered if He could possibly even see me still,  that’s exactly when He’d show me kindness, a little blessing in the day, a pick-me-up, a joy.

It was enough to know that He saw me and hadn’t forgotten me, that I was in His sights and in His mind.  It was enough to know that because He was with me, I could make it one more step, one more day…and on and on until I could fully overcome.

The Psalmist prays:

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings (Psalm 36:7).

Kindness is compassion and sensitivity to need, and God’s kindness is a sign of His loyal love for us.

His greatest act of merciful kindness to us was sending Jesus.

Titus tells  us that:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5 NIV). 

and Paul tells us the same:

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7 NIV).

We didn’t merit salvation.  We weren’t good enough.  We hadn’t earned it in anyway, and yet Jesus poured Himself out for us because of His deep and abiding lovingkindness.

And that kindness continues.  He brings us  moments of refreshing and breezes of peace. He brings us reminders of His affection and signs of His love right when we need them most.

Doing Small Things for the People Near to Us

colossians-3-8b

In the Sunday morning rush, we have eaten and dressed.  We have brushed teeth and brushed hair.  We have found missing shoes and sent children one by one into their room to collect their Bibles.

When they were younger, my kids needed help with every… little…thing in the morning routine. Now, at least, I am primarily keeper of the clock and pourer of the milk for those too little to do so without spilling.

Finally, with all the children fed and clothed, I retreat to my bedroom for my own prep time.   I’m brushing my own teeth while hunting in the closet for my other shoe and watching the clock out of the corner of my eye.

Time’s up.  We head out the door to load up the minivan.

That’s when I see the two freshly filled water bottles on the counter.

One is my husband’s.

The other is mine.

This is his Sunday morning gift to me.  Almost every week while I’m showering and dressing, my husband retrieves my near-empty plastic bottle from my nightstand and he fills it up with fresh water while he is filling up his own.

It’s the tiniest act of kindness, and yet it means a great deal.

This is a little self-sacrificial thoughtfulness, a gesture of remembering and of noticing my need, an offer of help without even asking.

I feel loved and cared for.

Yes, by this simple thing, the refilling of water, I am refreshed with love.

There are other acts of kindness, of course, and hopefully they go both ways.  Me serving him.  Him serving me.  Secretly filled gas tanks.  A milkshake after a long day.  Trash taken out.  Cards hidden.  Lunches made.

Love thrives on the simplest, most daily acts of consideration and thoughtfulness.  That’s because it’s far more natural to slip, slip, slip into forgetting, and selfishness, and taking for granted.

I wait until we arrive at church, and then I halt our dash into the brick building with four kids in tow for just a moment to say, “Thanks.  Thanks for filling my water bottle.”

Because kindness deserves noticing.  Kindness deserves gratitude.

In Acts 9, widows crowded around Peter to tell him of their sorrow.  Their dear friend, Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), had died, and they missed her.

Scripture says she was “full of good works and acts of charity”  (Acts 9:36 ESV).  The widows “stood beside him (Peter) weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them” (verse 39).

Maybe it seemed like such a small thing when she was alive:  A garment here, a tunic there.  Dorcas spent time sewing and then gave her gifts to the widows, the poorest around her.  She didn’t give millions of dollars.  She didn’t run a charity house for the destitute or organize a worldwide effort against poverty.

Tabitha did small things for the people near to her.  She served God in the way that she could.

Her kindness was her legacy.  It was the evidence the widows offered to Peter for why he should raise her from the dead—and that’s the miracle that happened that day.

Robert Morgan wrote:

The little things we do are bigger than the great things we do; and how wonderful to learn the importance of the sacred ordinary (All to Jesus).

I read this morning about a family’s wild jaunt of a day filled with random acts of kindness.  They carried flowers to nursing home residents and paid for strangers’ groceries and left dollars on the dollar store shelves.

They had the best time spreading kindness like a million tiny seeds all over their small town and then letting it grow and bloom into kindness in others.

What a glorious thing.

But I’m reminded today that random acts of kindness aren’t just for strangers or neighbors.  Too often we forget the “random acts of kindness” we can offer within our own families.

Maybe for some of us, bitterness, anger, and hurt over ingratitude make kindness feel like an impossible challenge, a chasm we just can’t cross.  But that is when the kindness is the hardest sacrifice we could offer.

This is the offering we give.  We take the time to notice a need.  We make an effort to reach outside of ourselves to help another.  We put aside our agenda in order to love people first and foremost.

Along the way, we rediscover how truly kind God is to us even when we ourselves didn’t deserve it:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).

When I Fell In Love

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma (my favorite), and I was an audience member.   He delivered the first line of the whole play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Immediately, I laughed aloud, until I realized that no one else seemed to get the joke.  More than a little uncomfortable, I slumped down in my chair.

(The first line of Pride and Prejudice was ‘read’ by a character in Emma.  There now, aren’t you laughing?  This is the kind of thing that strikes me as hilariously funny.)

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front with the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”  I think I even confessed to being the girl who laughed at the first line of the play all by my lonesome self.

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted on stage in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

There I was two weeks later being introduced to him.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader nearly 15 years later).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

And the first time he dropped the word “obsequious” into a sentence effortlessly, I think I experienced whiplash. (I’m a sucker for SAT words).

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.  Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

He loves us.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my daughters, I loved them in an instant.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”  and David similarly prayed, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed out and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

Still He loves.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

How can you respond to God’s love today?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King