God's Kindness: My Story

Part One:  A Challenge

Ever have a song from who knows when pop into your mind and start living there for awhile? That's what happened to me one year right around Thanksgiving. So much so, that I turned its message into a series of posts as my Thanksgiving celebration that year.

The song is "Your Kindness" by Leslie Phillips, based on the scripture in Romans 2:4 that says, "God's kindness leads you toward repentance." This is certainly true in my life.

I was a young teenager struggling with the realities of my parents' marriage falling apart. I didn't have an easy time making friends, and I certainly didn't want the friends I did have to have an awkward need to somehow treat me differently because of our family situation. I chose to remain silent about the matter. But somehow I knew that God knew all about it. So I talked to Him, the friend who understood me completely, surrounded me with His compassion, and cared for me as my heavenly Father who would never leave. Ever.

God pursued me with His kindness through those years, and I found Him irresistible.

I was at a Young Life camp during that time where the speaker issued a simple challenge. He said that if we believe that Jesus died for us, it only naturally follows that we would live for Him. The scripture he used has been my life verse ever since:

"For Christ's love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again."
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Every follower of Christ has a story. Mine is so simple. He found me when I was lost. I was, am, and will forever be grateful. I couldn't help but turn in His direction and follow Him.

Here are the lyrics to the song "Your Kindness" by Leslie Phillips:

Waiting for angry words to sear my soul
Knowing I don't deserve another chance
Suddenly the kindest words I've ever heard
Come flooding through my heart

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

No excuse no one to blame
No where to hide
The eyes of God have found my failures
Found my pain
He understands my weaknesses
And knows my shame
But His heart never leaves me

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

If You are for us
Who can be against us
You gave us everything
Even Your only Son

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

Part Two:  Testing

How thankful I am that I received that challenge at camp to live for Christ because He died for me. It was so obvious to me. Of course I would make such a commitment. So did several of my friends.

Fast forward a couple of years. Tenth grade. A group of those same friends was at a girl's house one night. I guess I found out about it by calling around to see what was going on. That didn't occur to me until later. After I had been there for awhile. Some people were hanging around in the kitchen. Some downstairs. I was in the kitchen. I have no idea for how long. What I do remember is that I realized the others were taking turns. Hanging out with me. In the kitchen. They were starting to smell funny when they came up. Hmmm.

Somehow they had known I wasn't going there. I told them they were crazy. I feared they were about to waste their lives. I went home and told my mom and cried. And started looking for some new friends.

Maybe you have been there. In the kitchen. Or downstairs. Understand this: I wasn't speaking in judgement on them. They all had burdens in their lives like I did. It's just that I loved them. And I was starting to understand the peace of letting God carry my burdens. How I wished they did too.  

I'm thankful because when I told God I intended to live for Him, I knew that it was for life. It wasn't that I hadn't known and loved and believed in Him before. But somebody took the time to issue the challenge to make a commitment to the relationship. A commitment that would give me the courage as a teenager to walk away from friends who were headed in a direction I did not want to go. Had it not been for the commitment, I might have been downstairs. Praise God, I was not.

Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-29

Part Three:  Proof

"He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Acts 14:17

Once I discovered that God could give me more courage than I ever imagined having, things started to get better fast. I was a late bloomer, but a little confidence went a long way. I found real friendships, and quit worrying about who I wasn't friends with, and what they thought about me. (Now isn't that a gift you wish you could give your daughter!) My later high school and college years were, simply put, a feast. This was true both in terms of friendships, and of spiritual growth.

Then came graduation. I took a job at a small private school in the town where my boyfriend lived. I made barely enough money to get by, but I was excited to get a new start on my adult life. The real blessing was that I got involved at the church where my boyfriend was the youth leader. I could not imagine the extent to which I would come to rely on my church family.

I lived in that town for two years. Early on my boyfriend broke up with me and left town. I would jokingly say that he took off and left me with the kids, since I then took over as the youth leader. In those two years, I lived in five different places--and not because I thrived on change. I had a car that about sucked the life out of me for all of the times it broke down, placed me in harm's way, and cost my last penny to fix. I wrecked my knee when I took the youth group skiing, and ended up having major knee surgery. In the middle of winter. Let me just say for the record that crutches and ice were not made for each other.

In the end, my car died, and for several weeks I ended up depending on my roommate and my friends from church to get me to and from work, and to physical therapy for my knee. Very painful therapy, which in the end was never successful in restoring my range of motion. So I ended up in surgery again, to break up the scar tissue caused by the first surgery and subsequent six weeks in a cast. Did I mention that I was totally dependent on others to get me everywhere I needed to go during these weeks that turned into probably a few months? I hated that.

God knew what I might not have wanted to know at the time. He was teaching me to be fearless. Not that it worked 100%, mind you, but it occurred to me later that, during those two years of barely scraping by, pretty much everything I feared happened. Plus some things that I never thought of fearing. My boyfriend deserted me. I ran out of money. I ate food from the food shelf. I lost my source of transportation. I had surgery. Twice. I had to ask for help. LOTS of help. But oh, the Lord came through! Not only did I learn to trust Him, but I also learned why He loves a cheerful giver. It was no fun to be on the receiving end, but it was truly amazing to me the way that my church family reached out in love and kindness to me, OFFERING help so that I wouldn't have to ask.

God knew that I needed to be fearless. Just a few months later I headed to the Philippines for two years, not knowing anyone. They were years of tremendous unrest in that country, but they were years filled with peace in my own life.

I think often about the two years that God spent proving to me that when my fears come to fruition, He is faithful. I never would have asked for a season like that, but I am thankful that rather than always giving us what we ask for, He gives us what He knows we need.

Part Four:  Transformation

The song that started this whole thing about a week ago had me singing, "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance, oh Lord." So I went to look up this encouraging verse by checking kindness in my concordance. There it was, Romans 2:4. A verse of encouragement? Not exactly! Here's the whole thing:

"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

The Roman Christians had lost sight of God's kindness and were marked by a hypocritical and judgmental nature. Paul was telling them to stop it!

The last couple of years have found me checking my own theology for legalistic baggage. This commentary on this passage by Chuck Swindoll really struck a chord with me:

"One of the worst forms of pride among Christians is a militant, harsh, abrasive attitude that expresses itself in judging others. The most accepting people on earth should be Christians. And the most winsome, magnetic place in the world should be the church. Both can be true if we will stop judging others and start opening doors of Christ-centered giving."

I am thankful that...

...it was so clear to me when Christ poured out His kindness and made himself irresistible to me.

...someone issued me the challenge to commit to a life of following Him.

...God has given me times of rest and blessing.

...God taught me to be fearless by showing me His faithfulness as He allowed my fears to come true.

...so often He has used the church, His body, to wrap His arms around me in my need.

...just when I am getting comfortable, He challenges me to take another step forward to extend His grace to a world full of people who need Him just like I do.

...He continues to stretch my thinking, to show me the vastness of His strength, His greatness, His character.

...He is constantly in the process of transforming me to be more like Him.

NOTE: Just in case you have been curious enough to read through these posts, and find yourself waiting for someone to challenge you to commit to a life of following Christ, consider yourself challenged. You could never make a more profound, life-giving commitment.  I would love to hear from you at your.milestones@gmail.com if you do that, or if you have questions.