It's All About Kindness
It's All About Kindness: December 15, 2017
When I wrote this blog preview I had just finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Jack told me I should read the book because 1) "You'll love it, Mom! It's all about kindness." and 2) "You're going to cry through the whole thing!"
He was right on both counts. So I’ve been thinking about kindness, and Mr. Browne's September precept: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer)
What Advent meditation could be better than that?
Advent. The period of watching and waiting and preparing for the unknown epiphany that we trust will arrive in God’s time.
But it’s also crazy busy with holiday parties and end-of-term exams and year-end financials. List making, gift buying, logistics planning. Plus normal life, like arranging service for our furnace that wouldn’t heat above 62 degrees. Like replacing the starter—again—in my beloved 2001 Toyota. Like enrolling Emma in Kindergarten with the right version of the right forms.
Honoring Advent is tricky; and can end up feeling more profane than sacred. So I’ve set my task of choosing kindness over being right.
Wednesday was a long day. New office to set up at work. After school pickup and homework. Church supper and the Christmas pageant. The sanctuary was alive with music and crowded with barnyard animals, shepherds, an unusually large host of angels, the magi, the sleeping baby.
Bedtime is hard after all that. Pajamas and toothpaste so mundane and tedious. But we managed. We asked and answered our three questions. We kissed and hugged and turned out lights.
I took a deep breath and settled in to watch an episode of Outlander. A true indulgence. Not much is worth more to me than reading, but this saga is. A blissful seven minutes. Then I heard Jack giggling his way through the house. “Mom! Come see this!”
I was so done. I was off-duty. It was past bedtime. I’d been so good all day. I never watch movies.
“Mom! Please! It’s so cool! It’s in my room. Come on!”
I went. I admired the static electricity, which was, in fact, really cool. I settled Jack back in bed. We hugged and kissed and said good night. I chose kindness when I so very badly wanted to choose being right. And, surprising myself, I felt the better for it.
I’ve chosen kindness when Emma was provoking Jack and when Jack was taking the bait. I’ve chosen kindness when Mark was obsessing over re-painting all the trim and cabinets. I’ve chosen kindness in the face of my dog’s over-enthusiastic devotion. I’ve chosen kindness when colleagues acted out of the stress of working at a church during Advent. I’ve chosen kindness when I’ve not lived up to my own standards.
We might also call this grace.
I love Richard Rohr’s definition of grace: divine unmerited generosity. He goes on to describe grace as “everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired."
One clear example of grace is the birth of God in human form. Made flesh. God Incarnate. Carne=meat. God become this meat we call humanity.
Incarnation is the ultimate example of choosing kindness over being right. Because Incarnation presumes Resurrection.
God becoming human sets the stage for God to conquer death. Death is no longer the ignominious end of this meat.
Advent is the time of preparation to receive this gift of grace.
Divine unmerited generosity. Usually undetected. Like a poor child born in a stable. Often undesired. Undesired because to acknowledge this great gift of kindness, I have to acknowledge that often I would prefer to be right.
I sometimes would prefer a God of wrath and score-keeping because that is something I would understand. Make amends before I forgive you. Apologize. Repent. Humble yourself.
But as hard as it is to acknowledge, Incarnation means that sexual harassers and white nationalists and mass shooters and drunk drivers and jihadists and tax evaders and yes, praise God, even us…we are all beloved children of a God come down to us.
When Jesus has every right to choose the letter of the law, he chooses to hold us accountable in the spirit of the law. The woman to be stoned for adultery—“women, where are your accusers?...neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”
Now, to be sure, we are still held accountable for our choices. For our actions. But as our then-marriage counselor and now-dear friend, Amy Sander Montanez, told Mark and me: Jesus says to us, “I love you. I love you, and stop acting this way. I love you, and you can be better than this. I love you, now go apologize.”
God put the sign of the rainbow as a reminder of the everlasting covenant between God and “every living creature of all flesh that is on the Earth.” Flesh. Carne.
Incarnation presumes Resurrection.
Now I don’t know whether God had the whole thing scripted, or if Resurrection could have happened in a multitude of other ways depending on the actions of the actual humans involved. Free will and all that. But Resurrection didn’t occur to overcome the problem of Incarnation. Resurrection is the natural conclusion of Incarnation.
Hear the word of the Lord: I love you. Go and sin no more.