the passport of kindness

26 03 2015

We have had a wild go of things in the last few weeks.  We have both fought against various bugs and have felt the frustration of bodies not cooperating as we would wish.  There has been the constant struggle Deon faces: not having work, being bored, finding useful things to do… these strain the spirit.

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We are constantly aware that we are outsiders.  I made several mistakes with my school kids yesterday because I simply do not grasp language well enough.  I know that I act differently to others, because I am not familiar with all the nuances of what is acceptably Swedish. We expect these mistakes and apologise where we are really wrong. 

But I will not apologise for all things and I am being challenged deeply on a spiritual level around issues of culture.  Those who have moved around a bit know of the rigours of culture shock, reverse culture shock and the discomfort of being in a strange world.

On Sunday afternoon the world lost the physical presence of a gem of a person.  I was lying shivering with a fever, crouched over a toilet bowl for a lot of the day.  My heart was anxious as I had been called for further tests after an initial exam showed that there may be cause for concern in my body.  I was far too scared to read too much of Kara’s departure, because it just seemed a little too close to my own situation, although I had been following Kara Tippetts for some time. 

Those who knew Kara and have spoken of her this week, have testified greatly to her kindness and a life lived with grace.  Her final message to her blog readers asked for people to continue living in kindness, to Kara’s family and to others.  What a legacy: to go beyond herself while in great discomfort, to think of others. 

(Go read some of her writing :  Mundane faithfulness.  Amazing stuff!)

Pondering Kara’s story this week has resonated with some thoughts I have:

1.  This life is temporary.  Eternity is eternal.    We are not citizens of this earth and its culture should not become too comfortable to us.

My culture is not Swedish.  It is not South African.  It is a higgeldy downright mess of earthly connections, as I feel no rootedness to any geographical place right now.  But that is fine.  Because if we get so attached to a culture on this earth that we cannot loosen ourselves from it, we cannot be ready for a heavenly culture that is completely beyond the limits of human thought. 

10525916_797668546920475_7725342108338063161_nArrival Sweden, Vilhelmina 634

2. Eternal Kingdom values are very very different to earthy principles. 

Besides reading the Bible, I am reading books by David Platt, Floyd Mc Clung, Andrew Snaden and others who are challenging the idea of values.  If we truly seek to follow Jesus we soon discover that His ways and culture overturned all expectations of others while He walked this earth and the expectation was that His followers should not hold on to principles this world calls successful to mark their success.  While there were thousands who followed Jesus, He focused His attention on 12 individuals, pouring His life into them for 3 years.  While the world says that you should demand your rights, Jesus said to turn the other cheek, not gather riches on earth and that His followers were to expect difficulties in this life.

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3.  Cruelty tears down.  Kindness builds.

There is no great honour in being a teacher.  Even a good one.  It must be among the most humbling of professions.  There will always be disastrous lessons.  There will always be the one child who says it exactly as she feels it.  And those are not kind words!  They sting! 

Working with teenagers, tweens, young children (and whatever other age-formulas mind-fundis have yet to develop) gives a reasonable indication of the times, media and world we live in.  Perhaps because I teach English in a world where most people get their English pumped to them via American TV, computer games and music, I am surrounded by kids who think that crass language and mean talk is common, acceptable and normal. 

Swear words fly about, “Yo’ Mamma” comments are common and kids look at me strangely if I disapprove. 

It is a sad world, if I see it that way. 

And this is where counter-culture thinking is going to have to be my way of making it through the murkiness of modern media dependency.

The counter-culture roots of my faith stem from a Saviour who loved me in my sinfulness.  While we were still sinners Christ died for us.  (Romans 5v8)      He draws us to Him with KINDNESS.  (Romans 2:4, Hosea 11:4)

I grieve when I am surrounded by mean.  It is a world culture. 

We noticed it in Uganda ( cruelty) , see it played out often in South Africa, hear the meanness from across the world in every single news report. 

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So this is where I become a revolutionary.  And it will take all the energy I can muster up.

Going against the mean culture of this world, unkind tendencies of children, inward-looking ideologies of most people in Most Places… it is not easy. 

The Book of Romans tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I want to love with a kindness that nurtures a hard heart to desire to be soft. God is the only one able to transform someone else’s heart, but if I live a life submitted to Him, then His love will be reflected through me.

— Kara Tippetts, Big Love

This blog, full of the kind heart of Kara, has been part of my meditations this week too.

Kindness matters

Our hearts are changed by undeserved love of a gentle redeemer who makes our bad into something useful for His kingdom.  My longing is to see more and more people wish to live that kindness to others so that the violent, moody world becomes one awash with looking for ways to surprise with tenderness and respond with grace. 

This would be a radical passport to hold.  Beyond any culture, going past any borders. 

Are there others who seek to join me in this revolution of graciousness? 

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