SOMETIMES I THINK the greatest struggles I have are with myself. These battles seem so hard because the issues and challenges involve things over which I have little control.
Pastors and their spouses struggle perhaps even harder because we know what we and our families are “supposed” to look like and how we are to behave. Some things spin out of our control—our best-laid Sabbath plans, our children’s choices or behaviors, our spouse’s schedule, or maybe even our spouse’s latest and greatest ministry opportunity—yet they all press into our lives affecting who we are and how we will react.
I read Galatians 5:22, 23 about the fruit of the Spirit, and I became inclined to study more fully the attribute of “kindness”—something I thought might help me to react with grace and dignity and help me gain control of what at times felt like chaos and defeat.
I felt the need for a deeper understanding of others—to really shift my focus. Rather than feeling overcome by how the people around me were acting and feeding my out-of-control spin—or rather than responding in a negative way to my disappointment of failed expectations—I would change my “fighting” tactics. I began to think that maybe life’s unexpected challenges and battles with others could best be won with kindness!
As I studied deeper I came across Shaunti Feldhahn’s book The Kindness Challenge, which taught me a few tips on how to develop kindness.
Shaunti suggests taking a 30-day challenge that involves treating with kindness in three ways each day the person who may often be responsible for those unplanned “spins.” To do this she suggests the following:
• Nixing negativity
• Practicing praise
• Carrying out kindness
It is her third point I will focus on. The following story of the power of kindness, taken from the book Jumping Through Fires by David Nasser, happened in a little town in Alabama, and the kindness shown was instrumental in converting one of the teenage friends to Christianity.
“A few weeks before Christmas seven of us jammed into our friend Larry’s car after Sunday night church and went out to eat. It was late; none of us were really that hungry, and we were a bunch of teenagers being louder than we needed to be in a restaurant. Our waitress was not happy. She rolled her eyes, took our order with a grumpy attitude, and gave us service that was mediocre at best. She was tired and in no mood to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance, dessert-only kids. We finished our food and left. As they always did, somebody paid for my food. These nights out never cost me a dime.
“When we piled back into Larry’s car, I ended up sitting on two people, scrunched against the backseat window on the driver’s side. As Larry started backing out of the parking space, I heard a loud tap-tap-tap an inch from my left ear. I turned toward the sound and saw our waitress right in my face at the window, our noses separated only by the thickness of the glass. Larry slammed on the brakes, rolled down my window, and then craned his neck around to look at the waitress. Because of the car next to us, she couldn’t get to his front door to talk to him, so she poked her head through my window, as Larry twisted around to face her. Now our three noses were almost touching.
“‘Get out of the car!’ she yelled. If only she’d been that energetic when she was waiting on us. ‘Get out of the car!’ she repeated, short of breath from her run outside.
“ ‘What is it?’ Larry asked.
“She said she’d just been chewed out by her boss for not stopping us. We’d made a big mistake and overpaid—by a lot. The bill was $30, and we had left more than $130. She held up a wad of bills.
“Larry smiled. ‘Ma’am, that wasn’t a mistake. We know it’s nearly Christmas, and we know you’re working hard. We got you at the end of a long and tiring day. We just wanted to bless you, so we emptied out our pockets. If we’d had more, we’d have given you more. And we’ll be back next week.’
“The waitress yelled right in my ear, ‘Make sure you get my table!’ Big tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face. I looked at Larry, that massive hulk of a linebacker, and he was crying too. Everybody in the car was crying. I was crying! I couldn’t help it.”
This story dramatically illustrates the power of kindness and grace—my new “fighting” strategy!
Although it may not be until heaven that we will see the power and results of little kindnesses, I’m sure there will be eternal benefits. Do you want to join me on a 30-day challenge? Share your stories on our Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/ministerialspouses) as you implement being more kind to all those around you, including those sitting in your church pews.