To the Intolerant Jesus Squad, Choir Preachers, Fish Mongers, Toe Tappers, Hand Raisers, and Praise Posse: Play Nice
Be nice… Be not… intolerant.
Look out for the little guy.
Sit with the lonely…
Feed the hungry.
Care for the sick and suffering.
These are the things I told my children.
Recently, I overheard the vandals, our 3 and 5-year-old sons, discussing niceness from the kitchen. Charlie explained to Sam, “I haf to be nice to you, you’re my brudder.” To which Sam explained, “I haf to be nice to you too, cept for when Riley is here. Den he is my fwend and we gets weeeeally tired of you buggin’ us.”
Of course, I intervened. “Sam we need to be nice all the time.”
They looked at me quizzically; if they knew the word I am certain they would have piped, “Hypocrite.”
Cause I am not nice all of the time. I lose my patience. I get tired of the noise, the laundry, the monotony, slow internet service, and too little froth in my cappuccino. Don’t even start with me if you mess up my coffee order. Hell hath no fury….
Certainly, it is my trademark war cry “I will kick your lung out!” if you don’t settle down, clean your room, unload the dishwasher, or the cops call me one more time in the middle of the freaking night.
For the most part, I am a kind human being. Yes, I am a foster and adoptive mom. Most likely I didn’t get into this line of provision because I wanted to cook and eat children. My house isn’t made out of cotton candy and gingerbread and I have yet to make a toddler soufflé. But am I nice?
Am I kind?
Am I nice only on condition?
To this guy, I am nice to his face.
To that girl, I am nice to her when I am with this group… but not the other.
Somewhere the lines are blurred between niceness and tolerance, which no one seems to be able to abide. Push me to my utter limits and I can go completely postal over stuff I feel passionate about. For instance, what the heck was George Lucas thinking when he came up with JarJar Binks? Not only was that stupid it nearly cost the Alliance everything.
But I have found myself in a room full of the broken and addicted and have been overcome with compassion and mercy… I have heard myself utter prayers asking God to change things, drastically for those in need of Him most.
Whichever way the wind blows?
Is that what determines how much I love or how much I am willing to afford clemency?
Who is not worthy of my kindness? Who is so awful, so bothersome, so despicable that they are not worthy of my thoughtfulness?
Granted, a child molester is not a wise dinner invite for my children’s safety. A murderer donning a hockey mask and machete is not someone I should give a ride to on a stormy night on a back road. Nor should I ask him to “get my back” with coconut scented SPF4 while basking on a foggy lake-side beach at a deserted church camp.
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I asked my oldest daughter if I were passive aggressive, just because I suspect that some passive aggressive folks don’t realize they are aggressing in passivity.
She informed me I was not passive aggressive but in fact, just aggressive.
I kicked her lung out at the notion.
When I am surrounded by those with whom I agree, I nod my head and say amen. We are so right, it is impossible that we could be wrong. And from way up here on that loathsome high horse, I scarcely give consideration to the preposterous impression that I am not nice.
Me and my choir sing hymns of our niceness to each other.
Supplementary in my passage, steeped in the deep fragrance of relationship, further from the petulance of religiosity I see images of my Christ and His goodness and kindness.
He has afforded me much.
Condemnation has vacated my mind and heart. Still, sorrow for that which I believed was justice, that which was my fanciful, pompous and altogether nonsensical conditional niceness, has manifested imagery of past malice, an old projector rattles black and white images in my mind. Not once did He move in me to repent with His unspoken wrath. No, He loved me unto this change. A change I had not known was possible.
Scenes of my marginal nice performances, my self-righteous greatness, are cast into the sea – as far as the East is from the West – He is nothing but nice to me. And the times I was cruel? The times I was altogether wicked? Those are cast to the same depths.
Who am I that He is this good?
What have I done that I would be offered such an enormous portion of kindness?
Most definitely I wish to be nicer – sweet Savior, let me kinder. While brethren may disagree, this denomination shall not… this denomination shall – let it be said of me I was nothing short of nice, yet never knew myself to measure it.
Indeed, let it be said of me… “She was kind – to everyone – but never counted it among her qualities.”
For if my niceness could be measured by feet, inches, ounces, or seconds would I not owe He who saved me a measure of nice beyond miles? Pressed down, shaken together, and running over? How much I wish this to be true.
Dare I say, Lord create in me… tolerance. Breathe into me a patience for that which I do not agree or understand. Birth in me something that might only be understood by You and me, where I am able to gift a kindness that confuses and irritates those who believe it is wrong to love this group… or that.
Not for the merit of the offense but simply so they too might see lepers, thieves, and sinners as you see them… clean.
Although I cannot stand to see suffering, never let me miss it. And in my weakness, in my fallible humanness give me eyes to see when I am not nice. Yes Jesus, fashion in me a heart that cannot fathom a cruel word, a harsh judgment… a kicked lung.
For if I do not love I am nothing and if I am to love well – it is best accomplished when I am nice.
This is the World You so loved and held such a high hope in, a glorious utopia, where You, the God of the Universe died believing in a humanity who might… every so often … just maybe… play nice.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4
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