“Now boarding flight 479. Initial boarding has begun.” I sling my trusty backpack onto my shoulder, as over loaded with stuff as it is, grab my cup of tea and head over to check in for my flight.
I find myself standing in what I believe to be the line, only for both me and the woman in front of me to realize it isn't. So, we both walk over to get in the actual line.
Then the woman who walks with me stops and asks me to go ahead.
“Are you sure?” I ask. There was something in her tone that made me question her sincerity.
“Yes. I have to wait for my husband.” She then gives me a, shall we say, less than polite look and adds in a snarky tone, “Besides, you’re clearly in a hurry.”
Genuinely confused, I say rather sheepishly, “I’m not actually. You can both go ahead.”
“Just go!” she snaps. And I realize there is something more going on in this moment that I don’t understand.
At a loss for words, I simply say with as much kindness as I can muster, “Have a blessed morning” and pass ahead of her. Mostly because I truly don’t know what else to say. I mean, wow.
As I grab my seat, the flight attendant appears to be having a rough morning. Like she would rather be anywhere but here. She directs people with condescension, like everyone should just know what she does about how to load the overhead bins on a plane. Honestly, it’s kinda weird, this convergence of unkindness. Welcome aboard.
I chat with the person beside me, a quiet man with kind eyes, and we both agree. People are just grumpy lately. On the road, in the grocery store, even at church sometimes. It’s like everyone is perpetually on a short string, ready to snap at the smallest provocation.
Is it a hangover from Covid? A byproduct from the strife and dissension we constantly see on the news? Global warming? Who knows!
I think back on a past conversation. You know the kind - the words that linger for years because the truth you hear is so profound. I had been bemoaning the lack of care I saw from the adult children of my elderly neighbor when my friend responded with, “It’s hard when we expect the unchurched to act like the churched.”
The wisdom of those words ring clear as I look at the strife all around me. Far from being immune, I know there are times when all I want to do is give into defending, deflecting or reacting myself. Yet I know that whenever I give in, I simply perpetuate the ugliness instead of diffusing the darkness with light.
I am struck once again with the realization of how desperately the world needs rays of spiritual light. I am that light. You are that light. Every believer is that light.
Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14f).
What does that mean? That I need to sell everything and move to an impoverished area? Should I start passing out pamphlets at the airport or something? Thankfully, no.
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).
It’s not about doing; it’s about being. As a daughter of the King of the Universe, my life reflects HIS light. The more I am with Him, the more my life reflects the peace, love and joy only my Creator can give.
To me, it’s about being kind when others are rude and I have every reason to respond rudely in return. It’s about giving that compliment when it’s within my power to do so. Or flashing a peace sign to the driver that just flipped me off. It’s being quick to smile, especially to others who may not see warmth very often.
The beauty of choosing to reflect the light of Jesus is that over time, people around me notice. Not just in the midst of my blessings and happy spaces, but in the midst of my heartache and despair. Some of my worst mistakes have not only been my best teachers, but ironically also a great witness to God’s power.
I will never forget apologizing to a dear friend for my poor example in a situation I had allowed myself to get into. You know the kind - not god-honoring, and definitely not something you’d want your kids to emulate. She literally looked at me like I was crazy.
“Barb, what are you talking about? I have seen you on your knees, praying, seeking God through this whole situation. Honestly, I would’ve never even thought to have done that. It’s actually really challenged me to turn to God more because I don’t think that way.”
Talking about humbling. And eye-opening. People always watch. And if I’m walking with Jesus, even when it’s messy and not straight forward, his light is still reflecting.
It’s not that I’m trying. Geez, I may even feel like I’m completely failing. But ultimately, I am simply being. Being God’s kid. Walking, however imperfectly, in his ways. Living out that truth and sharing my personal experiences honestly and genuinely with those around me. Trusting my Creator to do the work only he can do as we journey through life together.
Does this sometimes lead to getting to share my faith? Yes. And it’s pure joy to get to share my God stories with others - the ways he’s showed up and blessed me with a rich life despite myself. Amidst the pain and heartache. Wrapped around every wrong turn. Always leading me back to the path of life again.
But the best joy of all? When I get to watch them experience that very same thing. When I see the Lord show up in their lives and do his thing as only he can do. I feel the kind of joy that spreads from deep within, spilling over to an external joy that lights up everything around me. I love watching God do his thing!
It ain’t always easy, this taking of the high road. Choosing kindness and love as a response to meanness and anger. Choosing to give when I’m tired or just not feeling it.
Being the light requires my faith and trust in God to stretch. I find I have to spend time with God. There is simply no other way for me to have the kind of strength I need; strength only my Creator can provide to respond with love to the wrong around me. Especially when every part of me wants to respond with ugliness and frustration in return.
The church, after all, is not a building. It is merely God’s people. I am the church, as are you. I am to love the church, other flawed folks like me who sin and struggle even as they fight to reach for faith. And I am to love the unchurched, the folks who haven’t realized yet how deeply valued and loved they are. In fact, I’m called to love them into the faith. Even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t feel it.
Yes, I may need to set up boundaries. I may need to choose in some instances to even sever a relationship. But even that should come from a place of love.
So, I choose to smile at the flight attendant. I make a point of being kind to the rude woman who ends up sitting catty corner to me. And if I’m asked why, I’m ready to give my answer.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: How do you respond when someone acts like a jerk? Or treats you with disrespect and contempt? Or is simply rude?
Man, is it hard to be gracious! The scripture that always helps me is Luke 6:37-39: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Of course there are times when I'm the jerk, disrespectful, contemptuous and rude. I suspect the same is true for you. In those moments, we want others to judge us by our motives or make space for our circumstances. But when we are put upon, we want to judge others by their actions. Remembering to treat others as I want to be treated by God, with compassion and grace, allows me be more intentional and less reactionary.
Look for practical ways this week to practice forgiveness, compassion and grace to those around you---and perhaps receive it from others.
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the challenges I face from others. I know you work through all things, even the hard things, for the good of my heart and my character when I'm looking to you. I don't always know all the answers, and sometimes there aren't any in this life. But I know you carry me with grace and compassion as I journey with you. Please give me your supernatural strength to do the same, remembering that the more I remember for how much I have been forgiven, the easier it is to forgive. In Jesus' name, Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to invite her to speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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