Cambridge terms run for 8 weeks, Thursday-Wednesday, and people here often keep track of where they are in term by marking the fact that we are ‘near the end of Week 1’ etc. There is also the notoriety of the ‘Week 5 blues’ – supposedly because most people are worn out by that point in the term, but find themselves only at the half-way point.
To make the way we relate to the different weeks a little more positive, Siân and I are naming the weeks by a different fruit of the spirit. This is now the end of Week Kindness. Here are our reflections.
Siân – Looked upon with kindness
This week, I have witnessed so much kindness in my friends and the way they treat me. Happy things – washing up, cups of tea, offers to go shopping, hugs, a well-timed card, a cheering message, delicious pudding – and hard things, like making me do something that will be for my good, even when I don’t want to do it, or holding me accountable when I do things wrong.
Kindness is about giving and being given what is needed, rather than what is wanted. We all know the feeling of utter relief and gratefulness when someone has predicted what we need before we knew what it was ourselves, no matter how big or small. And we all know the instinct that something was hard but necessary, that we wouldn’t have chosen it, but that it was right nonetheless. And we all know the feeling of getting what you thought you really wanted, but you realise, disappointed, that you don’t want it anymore.
I have been thinking about how blessed I am to have friends who want to point me towards the first two feelings of satisfaction and away from feeling disappointed and underwhelmed – and to have a God who wants the same.
God’s kindness towards me is constant, his understanding of what I need and when I need it always complete, because I am perfectly known by Him. My wants are fickle, but my needs are basic – I need to be drawn more in line with God’s will, and he will sort out the rest. In his kindness, he provides everything I need, though I have no return to offer.
God’s kindness looks like his mercy and grace pointing me towards the unwavering promises of life, rather than relying on the crumbling promises of this earth which will fail. His kindness too often goes unrecognised in my life because I take it for granted, I am convinced that I am deserving, and surprised when my plan falls apart.
His kindness humbles me. It is perfect, and yet I have nothing to bring. It is kindness that I cannot repay. In amidst this kindness is the place where I can taste the bitterness of my sin and the sweetness of God’s forgiveness, the place where tears of shame are redeemed in tears of joy. My creator looks on me, the very worst of sinners, with kindness. What a glorious truth.
Rachel – kindness is grace
At the start of the week, kindness was something of the ‘poor relation’ of the fruits of the spirit in my head, subsumed by gentleness and patience and goodness and love and not strong enough to ‘stand apart’ as its own thing.
But, on reflection, kindness, in its full sense, demands a lot of things – it is not simple or straightforward or quaint. It is demanding of gentleness and patience and goodness and love and care and thoughtfulness. It demands seeing someone as a whole person rather than through the lens of our relation to them. It demands meeting them with a graciousness that can only come from a goodness outside of ourselves.
What I have learned about kindness this week, is that it has a far greater connection with grace than I ever realised: God’s kindness towards us is full and never failing and it is a kindness that models grace.
When I think of instances of our kindnesses, I realise that they look like our extending what we know of the undeserved gift that is God’s kindness to others. These small undeserved gifts are just small models of God’s grace.
True kindness demands a perspective that is not of this world, it is a perspective of giving and not of having. It requires a strength, and has a content I didn’t attribute to it at the beginning of the week.
The content of true kindness is grace.
“The incomparable riches of God’s grace are expressed in his kindness to us, shown through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7