You know those comedies where the person thinks, “I’m not getting enough attention!” and then decides to play hard to get? As in, “You’re not noticing me, but maybe if I were less available, you’d stop taking me for granted and get interested.” I’m sure that has nothing to do with why I haven’t written a blog post for a long time. Nothing whatsoever.
But I am back: back to coaching and mentoring, back to another school year, back to Nicaragua after a couple of crazy weeks in the US (including a lost passport, but it’s definitely too soon to tell that story), back with my family after what felt like a long time away. I don’t know how military and business folks do it.
Today I’m reminded that the things we say and do matter. All of them. Even though I haven’t written anything in this blog for too long, yesterday a young adult quoted to me something I wrote in a post and told me it changed significantly how he was thinking about his life.
Love, in its simplest form, is our choices.
It’s very easy to get immersed in our own challenges and struggles. Some of them are legit. Some of them are drama. It’s hard to tell the difference from the inside.
It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to look around and see how bad the big things are going and conclude that the little things don’t matter.
Every little thing we do for others matters. No act of kindness is ever wasted. Even if the person receiving the kindness ignores it or retaliates. Every smallest kindness matters because each one is a revolutionary act against a world of hopelessness and selfishness. To quote my hero, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
In a more contemporary language translation:
“Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.”
Why is the cup of water given “in Christ’s name?” Consider this: one of the ten commandments is “Do not to take God’s name in vain.” That doesn’t mean don’t cuss. It means don’t make promises and try to back up your credibility by invoking God. “I swear by God I will pay you back if you loan me money.” And then the person runs off with the money and makes it look like God is part of the swindle. It means lying and using God to back your lie. God is NOT PART OF THE SWINDLE and does not look kindly on people who make the world think that’s what he’s about.
The cup of water, on the other hand, is what God is about in the world. People who are thirsty matter to God. All of them. The ones who can’t get their own water and need a hand or even could get their own water but you beat them to it (notice Jesus doesn’t distinguish), those are the folks we can love. With just water in a cup, we can show that this is what God is about in the world, and God notices. Count on it.
With just water in a cup, we can show that this is what God is about in the world, and God notices.
I’m really weary of Jesus’ followers conveying that we are about division and argument and feeling superior because we believe right-er stuff than everyone else. Jesus never, ever said that. He doesn’t command us to outdo others by the purity and rightness of our beliefs. He commands us to share and give thirsty people water. He commands us to love people in his name.
Little acts matter. They might matter the most. Helping people to see that a God exists who loves them is about it. I can’t think of anything more important. Urging people to join the revolution by speaking kind words, by spreading laughter, by smiling at strangers, by refusing to get pulled into debates that won’t change anything and praying for blessing, instead, these are the radical acts that can change lives–others’, and our own.
In case you’re new here, I’m not speaking as Pollyanna or Cheer Bear (I need some more current happy characters! Suggestions?), I’m speaking as one who deals with depression and lives in a developing country next to a slum. I get that the world sucks, at least to most outward appearances.
But changing the world won’t happen through resigning ourselves to that view. Doing nothing, or just looking out for myself and my own, will only reinforce the status quo. And I’m not buying this status quo. Maybe that’s stubbornness. Maybe it’s faith. Maybe it’s one of my own lifelines to resist depression. Maybe it’s my gift to offer to the world. One of my ultimate player teammates once told me that I’m the adrenal gland of the team.
That leads me to one further step before I hit “publish.” We can all do the small acts right in front of us, every day. Love is our choices. We also each have specific gifts and strengths and talents and abilities. My young adult friend probably pays attention to what I write because we are friends and I’ve shown him kindness and respect (and kicked his butt a few times–I’m also his coach). Those opened the door so that, when I used my gift of writing,* he could receive it.
Our little acts count in themselves, and they also matter because sometimes they give us opportunities to impact people with our unique abilities. Most of my gifts are relational, so I’m usually thinking in terms of building trust so that folks can receive what I have to offer.
You may have a completely different set of talents. We need them all. How are you changing the world with those talents? How are you changing someone’s world with those talents? The Revolution Jesus creates is made of small things done in love and everyone pitching in with what they’ve got to help create the ripple effect that does bring change. What have you got? How are you pitching in?
A radical thought is that God gave you those abilities so that you can help change the world. An even more radical thought is that your true satisfaction in life, your joy, comes when you use them to help others.
Cups of water and your gifts. Kind words and the stuff you love to do and do well.
¡Viva la Revolución!
*Yeah, it’s a furious inner conflict to type that; you probably get that if you’re a writer or artist of any kind.