Lovingkindness

Lovingkindness is one of my favorite words, but it is very difficult to define. The Greek word is hesed, chesed, or heced. The dictionary defines it as “persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy, a relationship in which God seeks after man with love and mercy.” I love the image those words form in my heart, but feeling it expressed is much better. I feel God’s love always, and He even places others in my path to express it when I need an extra dose.

God’s lovingkindness lasts forever, and Psalm 118 was in my path this week to remind me of just that.  Verses 1-4 repeat that beautiful thought and give me sweet reassurance:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
 Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
 Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.” NASB

Lovingkindness is more than love and isn’t possible for me to extend or receive it without the help of the Holy Spirit. Last week, I needed some lovingkindness after being blindsided by bitterness. God was faithful, as always, and provided lovingkindness to offset the hurt it brought.

The message continues in Psalm 118 with one of the most famous verses in the Bible. Psalm 118:24 says:

“This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” NASB

Pastor John reminded me on Wednesday evening that God will make each day if I allow Him to, but he also cautioned that others can make my day if I allow them to. I gave too much of my day and far too much of my energy to someone other than God this week and ended up frustrated and hurt as a result. God placed lovingkindness in my path and helped me see the importance of being a loving presence in this world.

The world wants and needs an explanation, and they expect nice, neat answers that conform to their way of thinking. God’s ways are higher than those of the world, and He made it clear this week that I have to trust Him and not worry when others do not understand. He does, and that is all that matters. There is a stark difference between loving self and place and loving God, and that was crystal clear to me this week. I want to bask in God’s lovingkindness and love as He loves. Witness is walking in His kingdom and helping others do the same. I also got a great lesson in what it looks like when we take on God’s role, and it wasn’t pretty. I’m thankful God is God because He is the only one qualified for the job. I plan to keep listening to and praising Him because it’s the best cure for the bitterness of this world.

Peacemaking or Placating?

If you have ever uttered the words, “There, but the grace of God, go I,” then you will appreciate the lessons I learned yesterday. I get blindsided so often that I’m no longer shocked when I find myself face down in the mud wondering what just happened. Unexpected hits are never easy because pride takes the worst lick. Broken pride takes longer to heal than anything else, but the humbling that comes from the healing is worth the hurt.

God reminded me yesterday that being blindsided can be a very positive thing when He is the one behind the hit. If there are bullets flying in the room, my best friend is going to blindside me and take me to the ground. God did that yesterday and even laid on top of me to make sure I didn’t get up until it was safe to leave. God has helped me dodge bullets before, and He has pulled me out of the water more than once. I am grateful for His willingness to step in and save me when I’m in trouble.

When I come through an almost accident or a situation where I didn’t go somewhere I had planned on going and later found that something terrible happened, I utter the phrase “There, but the grace of God, go I.” It humbles in a way nothing else can, and I am all ears when I hear someone telling the story of how that could have been me. God often teaches me with visual aids because He knows that’s the way I learn. He showed two vivid images yesterday that took my breath away and left me thanking Him for His grace and His patience with this stumbling disciple who doesn’t get it until face down on the ground.

I have the tendency to want to fix and do and help others, and that is not what God has in mind. It is easier to do for others than be still and draw near to Him, and that’s why I choose placating over peacemaking. Peacemakers are blessed. Placaters are not. It’s easier to placate, and it’s something I’ve learned to do very well over the course of my life. The problem with placating is that it is never enough. That was what I heard and saw clearly yesterday as I learned a lesson I needed to learn.

Making selfish people happy only makes me and the ones I’m trying to placate miserable. It’s at the heart of enabling, and I’m an expert when it comes to that, as well. Appeasing has always been appealing to me because it gets immediate gratification for the one I appease and for me. That is hard to hear as are all of God’s lessons, but it is necessary if I am to learn the important difference between peacemaking and placating.

Peacemaking isn’t possible until I am at peace with God and with myself. Peace cannot spread if I do not have it in my heart first. It isn’t something I can give to another, so it doesn’t go along with placating. There is an endless source of peace in God’s love, and He so wants me to tap into it and pass it along. Satan deals with placating, and he will convince me that giving and doing and trying to make others happy is what God wants me to do. That’s where the bullet comes in. If I continue to follow the placating path, I’ll be face up from the wounds inflicted, so I’m thankful God blindsided me yesterday.

It’s not fun being face down in the mud, but it’s better than the alternative. Mud is great for my face, and when I’m all cleaned up, I can say with all my heart, “There, but the grace of God, go I!!”