It’s a heart change, a turning, a choice to see beyond ourselves. It’s what makes all the difference–the difference in whether or not we see the beauty of a day.
She sits on her bed, eyes big and round and somber, her bottom lip pulled in just a little, the way it does when she knows, in a few moments, those freckled cheeks will be wet with tears. She says she’s sorry, words I expected. But then she says something I didn’t expect–truth I am just trying to live out, after three more decades of life than her: “I’m sorry I did that; I wasn’t thinking about other people as much as I was myself.” And the waters from those big eyes spill right on over now, but she keeps looking at me straight and sure. “I’m sorry.”
We are up on her polka-dotted bed, summer afternoon sun streaming in. A half hour before, she was laughing and running and refilling water balloons with a big brother who adores her and drives her crazy, sometimes, all at once. And then a misunderstanding triggered indignation and yelling and accusations and tears. A slammed door. More yelling. A refusal to forgive, to turn, to soften, to reconnect and join together in the previous fun.
And behind that closed door, a little girl’s heart breaks just a little. And I recognize the heavy broken pieces of my own heart I lug around, how it may be true that I slam fewer doors now than I did when I was younger, but I still struggle to be okay when things are not going my way.
And I feel it sometimes, on these long summer days.
It is one thing to say sorry when our hearts have hardened and we’ve messed up and hurt someone. It is another thing to own the consequences of our actions, to recognize that it is our own choices–whether we are selfish or we are choosing to love another–that determines our perception of a day.
Whether we are choosing to love another, to give of ourselves rather than focusing on the self, determines how we view the good or the bad of a day.
And I realize what she is teaching me, this girl of mine. The way I perceive a day, a moment, becomes the life I live. If I choose to look at what is good in a situation or in a person, rather than what is frustrating me in it, my heart has turned. I am dying again to self–the self that is selfish, the self that works to rob me of joy, the self that tries to convince me that a day is measured by what gets done rather than the love I choose to experience it.
Paul urges the Philippians:
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG).
Focusing on the self leads to slammed doors and troubled hearts and lots of resentment and tears. And I remember these words:
Trusting means surrendering your will to mine. It means believing Me more than yourself. I am in you.
May we turn today; may we seek surrender and love, despite hardship, despite frustration and wishing circumstances were so very different than they are. May we believe we are beautiful, strong in our weakness, filled with a love beyond measure. May we stand tall, head straight, eyes focused on Jesus who is with us. May we consider how our actions reveal our true love–whether we are filled with gratitude for the life we are given, knowing all of our sins are washed away, or if we focus on what we lack, overwhelmed by all that is broken in us and in the world around us.
Yes, we are broken. Yes, this world is broken. But together, let us cry out and love hard and be the fierce gentle daughters and sons who rise with our God, grasping fast to His hand this day, so we may love well and forgive well and follow our leader who knows what it means to deny himself for the sake of another life.
Let us be ascenders, falling down and getting up again. Let us walk straight and sure, knowing the best days are the ones where we can feel completely overwhelmed by circumstances–and yet we’re not. Let us live knowing our God is carrying us, giving us what we need to be courageous, warriors who love with a fierce gentle heart and trust Him, despite slammed doors, stacks of bills unpaid, illness uncured, suffering yet to end.
We can do this. We can have soft hearts today and listen to His voice in us. We can give Him our fears and the things we can’t figure out on our own. We can speak with love and show encouragement and forgive when we need to and say I’m sorry. We can work hard at the tasks we are given, and we can be okay in not knowing what the next moment will hold. We are held. We are loved. There is more good here than we can see.
How are you hoping, this day, to see?