Promises are fragile things. They are ephemeral ties that bind us, encouraging us to do exactly as our words have dictated. Inevitably, whether by choice or situation, those promises are sometimes broken. How many times have we in our day to day lives forgotten to live up to our word? I know I have made promises to those I love that I have unintentionally broken. It happens. We are human. Our words have so much meaning, but often, it is the actions that prove to mean the most.
This time of year always makes me think about why our promises matter. The Easter story, which tells of Jesus’s death and resurrection, is both a story of sacrifice and promise. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross embodied God’s covenant as a man with all people. A promise of life after death. Of the opportunity for us to redeem ourselves. Who hasn’t needed that? A second chance, an opportunity for compassion. I can say, easily, that I require that almost every day.
When I think about my relationship with my faith at this time of year, I try to focus on how I can honor such a sacrifice. What can I do that would make such an act of love seem worthy? And this year my thoughts have turned to the people surrounding my life that need an equal measure of forgiveness and love. Because we try, as human beings, to give each other compassion and understanding, right? We need it so often ourselves, isn’t it fair to offer it in equal measure?
But so often we don’t always succeed.
That guy cut me off!
This person is totally weird, they are so different from me.
I don’t agree with that point of view at all, they are wrong!
They have such different political views, they must be crazy!
I have seen it in my life. I have seen it in my social media feeds. I have witnessed this as I have grown up. Contention and anger because we are different. And here at last I am finally beginning to understand why this time of year is so crucial to christianity.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20.)
It is a reminder that Jesus died for all people. For those who believe and those who do not. For every last soul on Earth. And if he can make such an all encompassing promise, how can we not offer one another the gift of compassion? Recognizing our strengths and our differences with tolerance and with love? To all nations and all peoples Jesus made this promise. So perhaps, with this reminder, we can make a promise to try to offer love instead of hate. Understanding, not anger. Forgiveness. And in doing so, perhaps become an embodiment of the Easter lesson that was taught to us with such sacrifice.
Written by Meredith
With each new year, comes a new resolve. We promise ourselves, in varying degrees, that this year we will be stronger, healthier, and better. The drive to do better is human, perhaps, and a good impulse to follow. But where does this drive tie in to our faith?
In my day to day life, for example, I struggle to keep up with responsibilities and expectations intrinsic in a mom’s life. Some days, it gets to the point that I’d like to drink straight from the coffee pot, tie my hair up and say, “Forget it. I can’t do this! I’m giving up! I’m going to pile the dishes and the laundry and the mess all together in a mountain on the front lawn and go live in the Amazon!” Despite these urges, I still live in Texas. I still attempt to keep up with my responsibilities, children, chores, and duties. And I haven’t moved to the Amazon. Yet.
In this struggle, in this grind of the everyday, where does my faith fit in? Usually, my faith starts to find me when I’m at those points. When I want to give up, God finds me. When I’m driving my children in the car, or rocking them to sleep at night, I think about my day. Those are the moments I reflect and usually realize my troubles are never so great that my faith and my love cannot get me through. I have dishes to wash, because there was food on my table. I have laundry to do, because I am able to clothe my children. And I have a family to care for, because God led me to be there and to love them.
Through frustration, through despair, through miscarriages, through difficult deaths and illness that has touched my life, somehow, I still manage to find in those moments of reflection, a sense of peace. Of gratitude. You are here, in this world to live with purpose and direction, God tells me. In Proverbs 19:21, we are told that “[m]any are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
No matter what that purpose is, what God’s plan may be, even if it is to find a reason to smile once in the day, you are waking up to do it. And that resolve, that purpose, is not to become better than everyone around you. A resolution, a promise to yourself should be centered on the belief that you can become better than you used to be. To try to live in love and kindness, as we have been taught. And in those moments, when you just feel like giving up and moving to the Amazon, or wherever you want to go to escape it all, remember that you are never alone. God will not give up on you. So this year, look at your frustrations with new perspective and start your days with purpose.
Written by Meredith
When we sit down at the table for a meal, I usually ask my children what they want to be thankful for that day. Inevitably, their answers are...interesting. “I’m thankful for peanut butter!” pipes my 4-year-old. “Doll!” says my 2-year old. I smile, because for children, being grateful for food and entertainment is not a bad thing. But my husband and I always try to end the discussion with the words, “Be thankful for your blessings, but be grateful for your hardships.”
This is perhaps a weird thing to say. Hardships? No one really wants to hope for those, right? But in my house, we’ve had each in equal measure. Most folks have. “But why,” demands my 4-year-old, “should we feel grateful for things that make our life hard?”
In many ways, it’s easy to be angry when things don’t work out the way we want. I want to be frustrated with traffic or angry when I’m late. I want to be upset when I am stressed out or the surprise expense appears. Even deeply difficult things in our lives like lost jobs, sickness, or death make us want to shake our fists and vent our hurt and anger. The hard truth is that these moments have a purpose in our lives. We cannot grow as human beings without hardship.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi, Africa on a medical mission trip. We helped set up clinic at a place called Potoweera. Peter Masako, the director and only doctor, had founded the orphanage / free medical clinic / woman’s domestic abuse shelter. He worked six days of the week to run the clinic and spent his time on Sundays helping tend the compound’s livestock, running a private clinic for all the children of Potoweera, and doing the odd jobs often required of him to keep everything functioning. He proudly showed us the buildings that had concrete floors and tin roofs. There was no electricity, but there was running water from the well. The exam rooms each had a big window, and while they lacked glass, they were each covered with mosquito netting. His was the only clinic available to many, as the nearest hospital was 56 miles away. Without his care, many of the villagers in the surrounding area would have succumbed to disease or infection. In those weeks I helped him care for those such as an abandoned baby, weighing only 4 pounds. I saw many with cerebral malaria, including a 7-year-old boy, who was seizing from fever. I saw cholera, flu, and many with chicken pox. Peter treated them all with a gentle kindness and humor.
It was during my stay at the clinic that there was a break-in by thieves with guns. They demanded what little money there was to be had. They ransacked the clinic at night, stealing anything that might be of value. Even the cheap thermometers were taken. In the morning, I walked with Peter to view the damage. He was angry and frustrated. His sole purpose was to keep this small island of hope running for so many who needed it. But when he spoke, his words were not of anger or defeat. He looked at me and said, “This is the Devil trying to keep me from my work. But I will not let him win! I am grateful for the chance to forgive.”
I have never forgotten Peter or his message. Gratitude, in its many forms, is crucial to our lives. Like a house that needs repair, my mind and attitude often need a little work. In my struggles I look at my hardships and try not to see the issue, but rather the opportunity to build, to be grateful, and to keep working through.
Written by Meredith
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.