As I write this I am nearing the one year anniversary of my commissioning as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Serving both in a church and as a counselor, something has become abundantly clear to me: people are dealing with difficult things all the time, all around us, every day. One of the things I love about my work is getting to hear peoples’ stories. As I listen to the painful struggles people share with me, I can’t help but think about all the people they encounter every day who have no idea what they are going through and therefore don’t know they need a little extra compassion.
We humans tend to be compassionate and supportive when others are struggling, but what about those times we don’t know about the struggle? That less than cheery cashier may have just gotten an eviction notice; the guy who cut you off in traffic may be racing to the hospital after getting one of those calls we all fear. We just cannot know all the stuff in people’s lives. If we cannot know the struggles of the grouchy cashier or the hurried driver, how can we know when to show extra patience?
I am reminded of the fruit of the Spirit. The “fruit” is a list of several qualities a person should exhibit when the Holy Spirit lives in them (i.e. Christians). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:22) When I read this verse I can’t help but notice the “fruit” isn’t about what is going on around me, it is supposed to come from within me. In other words; my reaction to the grumpy cashier is about me – not her. Ouch!
When I fail to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle or demonstrate self-control I let myself get in the way of the Spirit who lives in me. I also lose an opportunity to shine a light in someone’s darkness. I lose an opportunity to show another what the Spirit looks like, feels like, and how it changes a person. I lose an opportunity to tell the story of Jesus.
So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, consider the possibilities of why they might be in such a hurry and say a prayer for them that they arrive safely. When a server or cashier seems less than friendly ask him or her about their day, or give them a compliment. When we have the Spirit, we have the “fruit.” We just have to get ourselves out of the way.