Monday, February 3, 2014

The Person Who Never Smiled

I am often greeting people as they enter our church and as also as they leave our church on a Sunday morning.  For several months there was one person who stood out to me because I never saw them smile.  I'd say "hello" to them every Sunday.  I'd be friendly, kind, and warm.  Seriously, I'm not sure Mother Teresa could have done any better!  But, each and every time I got the same reaction:  a frown and a look that made me feel like I just killed their puppy.  Anyway, here's what I learned from the person who never smiled ... 

1. I'm not responsible for their happiness.  For a while, I really took it personally.  I mean, the "blow off" and "cold shoulder" could not have been any more obvious and intentional.  And, for a while I was offended by this.  I made it a personal goal of mine to make them smile.  So, I'd go out of my way to be over-the-top friendly to this person and really do my best to see them crack a smile.  Victory would be mine!  But, this was a mistake for two reasons.  First, my motivation was selfish.  I wanted them to smile to make me feel better about myself.  "See, they really do like me."  Selfishness and wanting to be liked is rarely good motivation for anything.  Second, it was a mistake because I cannot make them smile.  I have no control over their happiness.  As much as I may want to make them smile, I'll never be able to do that unless I leg sweep them and begin a tickle fest ... but that would just be awkward.  Realizing that I'm not responsible for their happiness really led me to this ... 

2. I am responsible for my kindness.  Regardless of how they respond to me, my response should always be one of kindness.  Why?  It's a fruit of the Spirit!  If I'm yielding to God's work in my life, I will be kind.  It's a character trait God wants to develop in me.  It's really easy to be kind to those who are kind back.  But, try it with those who completely blow you off.  That's a different story! I'm told in Ephesians 4:32 to "Be kind to one another."  Well, that pretty much narrows it down to everyone.  Not just those who are kind back, but to those who are unkind as well.  Proverbs 25:21 - 22 says "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you." My hope is that obedience to the Lord will always be enough motivation for me to be kind.  And, God will reward my obedience in this.  But if I'm being honest, it might be cool to see the "burning coals" literally heaped on the head of some of those who have been unkind to me.  The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  I have a long way to go with kindness!

All that to say this: God will often place difficult people in our lives in an effort to help us develop the character traits He wants developed in us.  We certainly cannot choose how they respond to us or control what they do or do not do.  But, we can take responsibility for our responses to them.  The more we respond like Jesus, the more we become like Jesus. 

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