For years I monitored children during recess and playground activities. Between all the running, jumping, rowdiness, and good-natured play, someone would often end up getting run into, tripped, shoved, etc.
Often the child who had caused the accidents would immediately raise his or her hands and say, “It’s not my fault” or “I didn’t do it on purpose!” But of course, establishing guilt wasn’t the immediate priority. The most important issue is the welfare of the “injured” one.
Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes,1 which spoke of blessings for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. He was teaching what those who were part of the kingdom of God were to be like. Then He moved on to another topic:
I was going through a tough period. People who had offended me were frequently on my mind, and I found myself almost exploding with resentment and anger.
The only thing being angry and flustered does, though, is cloud my thinking and perspective. It never solves my problem. My natural reaction is to retaliate and set things right, but in the long run, this only makes matters worse.
When I think back on my unforgettable freshman semester in college, an image of a six-foot-five, lanky fellow with longish black hair comes to mind. Steve was a senior in my department, but we first met in a General Education course. He won my admiration by joining me in the front row, the spot avoided by most students. Although I barely recognized him, having only seen him a few times in the department office, he acknowledged me with a nod.
There’s an important and easily missed form of love that’s manifested in the small matters. For example, helping a person in need, preferring them over ourselves, showing sympathy when someone is stressed or worried, offering a prayer, or being a listening and sympathetic ear.
My prayer is that in all the busyness of life, in the abundance of urgent needs and priorities, we don’t lose sight of how important love is—both in the big picture and in our daily choices and priorities. Sometimes we forget that all our accomplishments are nothing without love.
Have you ever had a bad day just because you crossed paths with someone who was in a foul mood? Maybe it was someone on the bus or another customer in a store—someone who you normally wouldn’t have even noticed—but that one grumpy or inconsiderate person cast a pall on your whole day.
Life can be so incredibly busy, and that can hinder our spiritual lives. It can be a struggle to find the time to commune with God, to spend time in His presence and in His Word. It’s as if there is a strong gravitational force that keeps us tethered to the burdens of daily life, making it increasingly difficult to stop and enter His presence, where we could find the spiritual strength and stamina to gracefully handle the burdens of life.
For the last few years, I’ve volunteered in a project teaching underprivileged youngsters. I was brought up in a typical Indian upper-middle-class family, and for most of my life, I’ve lived in an affluent neighborhood of the city where I was raised and have enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. So it was bit of a culture shock to set foot in the slums and experience life on a totally different level.
Smiles are powerful. You’ve probably met a few gifted people, like I have, who radiate warmth and friendliness all the time. They smile so much that just being around them charges your spiritual battery. Babies are experts in this as well. Without saying a word, they lighten your day with their smiles.