June 12, 2010

when you say nothing at all

"an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." mahatma gandhi

"you've got mail" is one of my favorite movies of all time. first, meg ryan/tom hanks combos are always fantastic. second, this movie by far captures meg ryan's best phase of hair. and third, new york city is one of my favorite places in the world.

but besides all the cheesy reasons for its likability, this movie has a line in it that always gets under my skin when i watch it and makes me think about it for days. "when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows."

this statement has proven to be true countless times in my life. i'm sassy and outspoken, and i speak far too quickly without tasting my words and thinking of their affect. if my life were to have a soundtrack, "my stupid mouth" by john mayer would be a top song. and i'm afraid sometimes i value my love for wit and sarcasm over its recipient. in short, i fail...a lot.

it's those carefully cultivated zingers that sound like you mixed a bunch of words from the dictionary together into a perfect blend of shabam. it's having the satisfaction of giving someone the silent treatment. slamming a door in someone's face. ignoring a text message. not returning a call. doing the exact same thing the person did to you back to her or him. saying the key phrase or doing the perfect action that radiates nothing but pure "boo ya." and what's funny is for a brief moment after such a "victory," we think we've really won.

and then comes the aftertaste. finding out what you thought would taste so sweet and rewarding is in reality sour and unsatisfying. in fact, you feel worse than if you had not reacted at all and had just taken it. you realize you just bashed someone who cares about you and looks out for your best interests. you realize the silent treatment is not so fun when it's working both ways. you realize doing exactly what someone did to you is the typical response and doesn't prove the point you were trying to make at all.

i have found in my moments of sheer humanity, what puts me in my place like none other is not retaliation. it's not getting exactly what i deserve rubbed in my face. it's not hearing that key phrase so delicately put. it's not getting a strong dose of the silent treatment. it's the other person being kind to me in my moment of hideousness. it's the other person reacting with grace and dignity that silences me and makes me not only feel ashamed but actually, truthfully...sorry.

it's the person that keeps talking to me. the one that continues to be my friend. the one who apologizes when he has nothing to apologize for that makes my mouth fly open with utterly no words. and if you know me, that might be considered a miracle.

it's mercy when i least deserve it. it's grace when i have been disgraceful. i've heard it described: grace is getting what you don't deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. and what a blessing it is when you know exactly what you do deserve and you don't get it.

and in return, when i am on the receiving end of the offense, it's treating that person with kindness and not retaliating to whatever form of "punishment" i might receive. it's not bad-mouthing, name-calling, or place-putting. it's realizing that sometimes you do say or do it best to the other person when you say or do nothing at all to retaliate. it's meekly and humbly being kind to that person and letting GOD take care of the rest.

if anything, i've learned that when we take vengeance and retaliation into our own hands, we leave no room for what GOD has in mind. and personally i would much rather HE fight my battles than for me to try to do it myself. an eye for an eye really says nothing to the other person than that we are too weak to forgive. as ghandi also said, "the weak can never forgive. forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." it is when we react with the love of CHRIST that we show our true strength.

"my dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." james 1:19-20

June 5, 2010

how to save a life

"GOD grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." reinhold niebuhr

i've believed in GOD for as long as i can remember. my faith has always managed to grow, despite major tests and plateaus that have gotten in its path. i have always had a strong sense of conviction and purpose for my life. and it's because of this that i have forever had the innate need and love to help other people. to be a source of strength. to be a firm hand with a gentle touch. to be a guiding light that helps direct paths. to be an example and mentor while at the same time a sister and a friend.

in 22 years of living, i have seen my life touch other people. i've seen dark lives go from little purpose and meaning to a glorious light of mission. i've seen people who i thought might not be willing to change suddenly open themselves up to GOD and become new creations. and i have found that the one thing in this world that brings me the most joy is using my life to bring others to HIM.

but i have been humbled. in the past i thought that i was responsible for these changes. i thought i deserved credit for new souls and that they made me a spiritual person. i thought somehow i was good enough and godly enough that i was the source of the difference.

but through hard lessons of "failure" at changing lives, i learned it's not about me. and it never was. it's about GOD'S timing and a heart being willing to change. i learned that if a person doesn't truly want to change for himself or herself, he or she never will. and i learned that the only way to truly fail is to never try.

i learned that there is a time to share GOD'S truth with a person. a time to share life together. a time to expose your light. a time to reflect the very nature of GOD. a time to try to save a life.

then there is a time of reflection. a time to examine the progress. a time to determine whether you are bringing someone up or he or she is bringing you down. a time to consider if change is really taking place or if a careful facade has been created to fool you. a time to see someone for who he or she really is. and a time to decide if you can be more useful somewhere else.

and if the change isn't real and you're facing a facade, there is a time to surrender. a time to raise the white flag. a time to let go and let GOD. a time to throw your hands up in the air. a time to shake the dust of your feet. a time to punch your pillow. a time to let out a huge sigh of frustration. a time to let tears of sorrow flow. a time to let go. a time to truly move on. a time to say goodbye.

there's a time to realize that no one can heal but the GREAT PHYSICIAN. no one can save lives without HIS touch. we are merely HIS instruments. we may be able to hear a heart cry like a stethoscope. to ease pain like a medicine. to allow someone to lean on us like a crutch. but we are not the DOCTOR.

i realized that part of my value was being determined by whether i was successful at changing the life of another person. that my effort was becoming like a science project that was pass or fail, and if i failed, it would be my loss. but once again i realized that it's not about me and never was. i am merely GOD'S scalpel. that at the same time HE'S using me to refine someone else, HE'S using someone else to refine me.

i think mother teresa said it best when she said, "the success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done."

the beautiful thing is that though my best efforts might have "failed," GOD'S not done working yet. and HE'S not done working on me yet. if anything, i have learned that all i can do is share my heart and my life with other people and hope that my light passes on. but the value is not in the result. it's not a win/lose or a pass/fail. it's a process. and it's not about me. and who knows what that little bit of light shared will become after years of growing. and who knows if that tiny ray broke the bed of darkness.

"if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." matthew 10:14