Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

Cheerleaders

A coworker gave me a gift. A fountain pen. Because I’d never had one before. Because I love pens. Because I write. With this gift and his words, he said, “I like what you write. Keep writing.” A simple gift turned into a huge encouragement.

Just like that we can communicate to another human: “I’m cheering you on.”

No hay descripción de la foto disponible.

What does it look like to be each other’s cheerleaders? To actually show them that we “believe in them”? To effectively and creatively communicate to them that we’re behind them, that we think they should go for it?

Cheering people on is much more than simply telling them that they can do it. It’s equipping them to do it, giving them the tools for their trade, providing them with the space and opportunities they need to develop, stretch, and grow.

I need people

Too much or not enough for other people, that’s what we are, or at least that’s what the little inside voice tells us.

“Tone it down, they think you’re too much,” and later I hear, “Get it together, they think you’re not enough.”

And out of self-protection, we fight that inner-conversation with “No, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me!” That’s partly true, but we’ve made a virtue of not caring about other peoples opinions when the truth is that it does matter what people think and say to us. It’s both-and. It doesn’t matter and it does.

My true identity is not based on another person’s opinion of me. I am who I am — beloved of God, free, secure, and redeemed in Jesus Christ — despite a person’s judgment of me. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what they think of me and it shouldn’t matter. My deep identity, peace, and joy should never be shaken by someone’s opinion of me.

But precisely because my identity is sure, I am free to allow myself to let people speak into my life. If I’m sure of my identity, I can simultaneously heed what other people say to me but not be wholly dependent on their opinions. My secure identity frees me up to calmly and gratefully listen to a dear friend who tells me that I’m in the wrong.

If my identity is secure, the opinions of other people will never wreck me, and their words will be valuable to me.

In fact, I need people whose words do matter to me, I need people who can speak into my life, and I need people to have some kind of authority over me. It matters that I listen to the people I trust. It matters that I show all of myself to a few chosen, close, trusted friends or family, and trust them with some authority in my life.

woman wearing gray jacket
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

I have to stop being an authority-hog in my own life. So often I live as the queen of my own life — a kingdom in which I make the rules and what I want matters most. We create our own guidelines, based on nothing other than what we want or feel at the moment. No wonder we have fights and abuse and wars.

I need to be changed – deeply, from my guts to my skin, and I need God to do it in me. I need something outside of myself, something objective that I return to and listen to even if, at times, it contradicts my desires and flighty feelings. Otherwise I’m just living as the self-enthroned queen of my own life where I make the rules and standards of right and wrong and change them whenever I want.

I don’t want to be the queen of my own life. I don’t want to because I want to be selfless, I want to love people, and I don’t want to steal glory from my Jesus Christ.

If I don’t want to be queen of my own life, I need other people. Other people will never define me, but I do desperately need them.

I need trustworthy people in my life who are brave enough to speak to me when I’m straying, who remind me of my true identity, who know how to encourage me, and who love me enough to speak truth to me even if it’s hard. I will give them the right to confront me when I err, to cheer me on, to hold me accountable, and to ask me the hard questions.

And only because I rest in my unshakable identity, the things people say are no longer earthquakes that wreck the foundation of my soul. Instead, the words I hear from people will either be life-saving and life-changing or simple opinions that don’t even ruffle my feathers.

When I don’t care what people think, I lose my capacity for connection.
When I don’t care what people think, I miss out on valuable wisdom.
When I am defined by what people think, I lose my willingness to be vulnerable.
When I am defined by what people think, I will never know who I am in Christ.

“If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tight rope, shame-resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene brown

Reading is like listening

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Scout Finch

Reading is like sitting down to listen intently with no intention of immediately responding or contradicting or giving our opinion.

We hear no audible voices but we take part in stories, we listen to opinions, and we learn about experiences. And we grow because we listen, taste, digest, and process what we’ve heard.

In reading we listen to someone, to something that we have not heard before. We’ve largely lost that skill with the people we have in our lives.

What if we treated people more like books? What if we asked them to open their pages as we sit down to listen, without planning to reply, without planning to convince?

I would like to treat people more like books.