I have not always done a good job of showing my daughters how to demonstrate love and caring the way that God has commanded us. In my pursuit of perfection, I have displayed the ugliest of my character traits: inpatience, anger, frustration, meanness, judgment, and depression. Sometimes, I have gone so far as to behave in ways that have outright frightened my kids. When I think back on those moments, I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I wish that they had never happened; but at the time, I thought I was doing the right things–until I cracked, and God showed me how wrong I was to want perfection over compassion.
A couple of years ago, I realized (through an extreme breakdown and subsequient counseling with one of the best psychologists I have ever worked with) that my desire for perfection was a front for a very damaged self image. I wanted the outside to be just right because I did not believe that the inside ever could be. Once I recognized this problem, I repented. I changed my pursuit to one of excellence. I started seeking out my true self, determined to be the best ME I could get to every day rather than trying to be a perfect (and unrealistic) me.
I basically allowed myself some grace.
As I have grown in that grace, I continuously ask God to show me how to be an example of the love that Jesus showed as He walked the earth. I want my two daughters to model their behavior around that. And you know what? It is working.
They have shown more heart at this age than I could ever hope to attain in this life. The love they pour out to each other and to us and the world is…overwhelming. The hugs, the laughter, the kindness—they walk naturally in a kind of grace that I am only starting to understand. Here is how I know.
A few days ago, we were passing by a homeless man. We all three watched as people ignored him, shooed him away from their cars. Quite frankly, I was getting ready to do the same. Having worked on “crackhead row” in Chicago, I had become hardened to so many folks begging at the light–especially when I had experienced one becoming belligerent when I offered him my untouched, just bought lunch. (He wanted money instead.) I was ready to move on like everyone else at the light, when my children intervened.
One of the girls said, “I wish we had some food to give him.” The other said, “Or some money.”
I felt like a complete jerk as I actually looked at the man full on. He had a smile on his face, asking for help in the most unassuming way–not angry, not ashamed, not even downtrodden. Just standing there fully expecting someone to eventually show kindness.
Waiting on God to take care of him just like a sparrow.
I choked up. “Quick! Hand me the money in my purse!” I demanded. One of my kids handed me a wad of cash. I had about $14. I started to hand him the singles, but dropped them in favor of the ten. When I beckoned him over, he limped to the car.
As I handed him the money, he was careful not to touch my hand. He opened his mouth to say, “Thank you”, but the words would not form–his lips moved, but no sound came. I realized with tears in my eyes he could not talk. He smiled even bigger, pointed to me, pointed to the sky, and finally pointed at his heart. I understood in my own heart what his vocal chords could not produce. God sent us to help him, and he was grateful.
We all watched amazed as he went back to the guard rail, knelt down and began to pray. As the light changed and we made our turn, I glanced at my girls. One still watched him as he faded into the distance; the other wiped tears from her eyes.
“He couldn’t talk, could he?” The youngest asked thoughtfully.
“No,” I croaked, choking back tears. “But that didn’t keep him from praying or saying ‘Thank you’.”
Of all the 400+ blog posts I discarded from my original blog “A Mindful Chatterbox”, this one the Lord allowed me to keep. Each time I read it, tears spring to my eyes. Not because I think I did some big thing by helping a homeless guy. Uh uh. I cry because I am a wretch undone. For the stuff I have, money I’ve wasted, experiences I’ve forgotten, favor I’ve squandered… I feel pricked in my heart. Not shame cuz I haven’t done anything wrong per se or not even thankfulness because I dislike that false sympathy that masks pride and that spirit of “What sin did he commit to get like this?” that oozes out the wahoo of our self righteousness. But I feel absolute humility. God looks at him and me no differently, yet I will bet good money that His prayers have gotten answered far more frequently than mine despite our outward appearance. The man had absolute trust in God.
When have I had that? What have I experienced to cultivate it? How have I not died the wretch that I am by now? God is GOOD and His mercy endures forever. That’s all I can say.