Before I became a wife and mother I would have considered this chapter from Feminine Appeal, by Carolyn Mahaney, the least relevant in my life. Kindness and goodness seemed to bubble up effortlessly as I (foolishly) sought the reward of being needed, appreciated, and liked by all my friends and colleagues. Yet, almost 14 years of marriage, 5 kids, and 10 years of ministry later...I dare say I need this chapter more than ever!
Author Jerry Bridges explains that while kindness and goodness can often be used interchangeably, it is helpful to distinguish between these two traits. "Kindness" he says, "is a sincere desire for the happiness of others," and "goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness." (p. 119)
Most of us would characterize our love for our families as truly desiring their happiness; and yet, that is not always what is felt or heard in our tone, our words, or in our actions.
"As with a sponge, what is in our hearts will spill out of us when the squeeze is on. In other words, difficult interactions or trying experiences (the squeeze perpetrators are not the cause of our angry reactions; rather they serve to reveal the sin that was there all along." (p. 120)
No wonder it was seemingly so easy to be kind in my younger years and more challenging now that I am a wife and mother. It is not the circumstances of life that determine our ability to be kind in words and actions. Which is to say, regardless of how we feel about our children's behavior, our husband's stress, our financial situation, the cleanliness of our house, or the relationships in our lives, we are called to gentleness, kindness, self-control, and goodness for His glory.
When we struggle with anger, bitterness, or a judging spirit..."It is helpful to ask the question: 'What do I want more than I want to please God?'" It is so convicting to remember that my dying to bitterness or anger toward frustrating people or situations must ultimately be motivated by a humble view of God's mercy toward us sinners, and our love for His lovingkindness. If we want to respond with a godly attitude, we must think we a godly attitude:
"If we habitually review the offender's wrong, if we replay the episode over and over in our minds, if we wallow in self-pity or withdraw our affection--chances are we have succumbed to bitterness. And we cannot pursue a sincere desire for our families' happiness when bitterness blocks the way." (p. 123)
Jerry Bridges points out that the action of goodness is "calculated," which is to say, it is intentional:
"Planning is not only necessary for heading off danger but also for initiating good. Good works don't just happen. We need to plan and prepare for them." (p. 132)
Because the activity of goodness is outwardly visible, we must ask ourselves,
"How would our family and friends portray our character? As these people observe our lives, they should be more aware of our good deeds than our style of clothing, our talents and abilities, our hobbies, or our standard of living...of course, the goal is not to garner attention for ourselves, but to show forth the compelling power of the gospel." (p. 128)
(In the same way that caring for our homes was a gateway for the Gospel last month...)
My desire to be known for good works must begin at home. I miss the whole point of Titus 2 if I pursue and plan for kindness and good works with friends and community, and fail to exemplify this attitude with my husband and children. My reputation must first stand with them, not my friends, church, or blogging community. The Lord has entrusted my husband and my children to my care first. The reward of kindness is both the pleasure of our Father, but also the ever-growing fruit of our diligence before the Lord:
...We do prepare thousands of breakfasts in our lifetime. Each and every day we cheerfully welcome our family members home. We listen with rapt attention to the same story--over and over again. We bring countless prayers and burdens before God's throne. We refrain from anger, even in the face of repeated wrongs. We reserve judgement once more. We plan a myriad of special memories. Faithfully we encourage, constantly we support, and above and beyond we forgive, "seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:22). (p. 133)
If you are a weary mom today, I get it. I understand how short your temper can get, how tired you may feel doing the same thing day after day. I understand that you desire kindness and good works, but find yourself succumbing to a complaining and bitter spirit time and time again. I get it, friend! Let's return to the Lord, casting our weariness before Him, and recounting the glories of the Cross that is sufficient to overcome our every sinful thought and attitude. Christ is at work to sanctify and transform us today...that we may have a right desire for kindness, and a renewed fervor to intentionally pursue living it out in action.