He Chose Me in Kindness
I chugged the last of my coffee and shook the remaining drops out on the sand. I didn’t have any pockets to fill, so my coffee cup would have to do. I just couldn’t help myself – I needed to make room for these seashells.
I had watched one of my younger nephews gather piles upon piles of shells for days at the beach last week. Each time he would “sneak” past me in the rental house to grab another baggie to fill, I would just wink and smile at him. It had truly become an obsession.
Now that I walked alongside the stormy waves and saw the shells myself, I too felt compelled to choose my own seashells. I had to giggle at myself as I admired the shell I had just plucked from the damp, cold sand beneath my feet.
I wondered: What beautiful mystery lies behind the act of choosing?
I make, what seems like, a million decisions a day; often to the point of being overwhelmed. I can feel my mind splintered when the choices are too rapid, too heavy, too many. In the moments when I cannot push through, my mind literally goes blank. I was having one of those weeks at the beach last week as I gathered seashells. The gravity and strength required to make some of the pending decisions in my life were so heavy, that I was finding it hard to make simple, mundane decisions…like, what to eat, or when to wake up – decisions that I normally make without separated energy or thought exerted.
But on the beach, I was clearly making choices about seashells and cleaning out a resourceful container to carry them. Something about those shells sparked a wonder and awe that I could not resist even though they are “a dime a dozen”.
My thoughts surrounding the mystery of “choosing” are a double-edged sword for me. The act of choosing is contrasted with something else I see often that wrenches my heart: not being chosen.
My children are awkward. I know this. They are “special” because
they are different – which doesn’t feel special. It feels more like “odd” or “outcast”. So, my children are more often not chosen. I expect it. I am used to being the odd one out. Yet, interspersed within the “outsider” feelings are brief moments of true kindness – an invitation to play a game of bingo – a whispered rendition of “Happy Birthday” – the tap on a nearby chair with a simple, “come sit by me” – choosing to ride in the backseat so my “not-so-kid-sized-kid” could ride shotgun to avoid anxiety and mayhem. Perhaps these things sound like acts of general courtesy, but for those who are on the “outside”, it is so much more. It is the mysterious power of being chosen with kindness.
Nothing in particular made the shells I gathered any better than the ones I left behind, except that I chose them. They were special to me because I made the decision to hold on to them. I noticed. I stopped. I made an effort to reach them. I studied them closer. I washed them. I carried them. I even grabbed my own bag (taking a cue from my nephew) and brought them home from the seashore all the way to Tennessee.
My Mom frequently instructed us to follow Jesus’ example to notice those on the outside, to stop and consider what it must feel like to live the life someone else lived. But her instructions didn’t stop there. She didn’t just quote verses about welcoming the “least of these” – she lived it and required it of us as well. She lived a life that would prove to me that life isn’t about me – it’s about Jesus. She would ask, “Who needs a friend right now? Is there someone you can help? Look beyond yourself – find the hurting, and there you will also find Jesus.”
She was right.
Jesus chose to go to the well at noon in order to find a woman who needed His living water. He chose to walk down the byways towards the lepers cast away and brought the kindness of a healing touch. He chose lunch tables where He could sit alongside sinners and tax collectors because their starving souls were gaunt from spiritual malnourishment. He went outside to hang on a cross, among the cursed things of the world, so that we could be saved.
He loves those whom He chooses, and He chooses us with kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).
He could have chosen us with justice, or recompense. He could have chosen us in wrath or in bitter shame and disgrace. Yet, He leads His choice with kindness.
This is why God calls us towards “other-centered” living. It’s why “all of the law and prophets hang on these two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. And love others as yourself.” (Matt 22).
Kindness is the mysterious force that empowers choosing. Choosing to see others, to stop and learn about others, engaging with them as they are, learning from them, and sharing space with them, mimics the kindness we have been shown by the Savior. When we choose others, especially in their pain or “outcast” state, we are reflecting towards another person the worth they innately possess as a human being made in the image of a loving God. When we purpose to seek “the least of these”, we are following the footsteps of Jesus who often went out of His way to bring dignity and value to others.
This may be one of the most powerful and most kind engagements we can choose to undertake, because it oozes with the love of God in the most basic, real, and tangible ways. It is the mysterious tenderness of redemption on display. It is literally following Jesus – Love Incarnate – who made it His practice to draw near to those who were once afar off (Eph. 2:13). Noticing, not ignoring the difficulties of another. Engaging with, not overlooking those who are often overlooked. Coming near to, not turning away from those who are removed. Giving of our time and energies to those who could never repay, and better yet – never assuming we deserved repaying.
Such beauty cannot be explained in mere words, which may be why the power of kindness feels like such a mystery. It is, after all, wrapped up in the sacredness of God's salvation of our souls. We are partakers of the divine ways of God, both as receivers and givers of His great lovingkindness. And in this way, the Kingdom of God grows, one kind choice at a time (Romans 2).