My daughter’s wisdom astounds me. I was driving her to school the other day and we began talking about this new game her brother helped her download on the computer. It was one of those rare moments that my children were not only getting along, but actually interacting in a kind and loving way. I know my kids love each other. But they don’t always like each other.
While her big brother was downloading the game, he began telling her about other games he had on his account and how he would let her play those, too. I busied myself in the kitchen trying not to jump for joy at the rare gift that was being unwrapped before me. I wanted to scream from the hilltops “How sweet! You are an awesome big brother!” But I didn’t. Instead, I soaked in the tenderness he was displaying to his little sister and eavesdropped as she reveled in the attention he was giving her.
On the way to school, I mentioned that her brother was very generous and had a big heart. “Yeah,” she said, “He has a big heart. But it shrinks a little when he’s mean.” Images of the Grinch came to mind. The big, green fuzzy body and evil grin floated in my head. I saw his heart, hard and cold. Then I replayed the scene in which his heart “grew three times” because he gave and received love and kindness from others.
I’m a visual person and the picture in my head made me think about how my own heart can do a reverse Grinch quite often. I love my children, my husband, my friends – no doubt about it. But sometimes, when I’m asked to do something I don’t want to do, when I’m inconvenienced, I feel a slight burning inside me. There’s a flutter of annoyance, a flicker of anger. This is when my heart hardens and crusts over just a little. Instead of being soft, pliable and resilient, in those moments the edges of my heart begin to atrophy and become brittle. I can actually feel it happening. The lining of my pink, healthy heart burns to black and charred ashes of intolerance take its place.
Listening to my daughter put it so plainly made me so aware of what happens when I’m mean. As a Christian, God commands me to be unselfish and kind to others. Not just when I want something. Not just when I want to feel good about myself. But always. And especially when it is not convenient. These are the moments that test my Christian walk. These are the soft whispers of submissiveness that my God longs to hear. These are the almost imperceptible moments that determine my character. Because it is not how I act in front of others, scenes on display for the world to witness that matter. No. It is how I act inside myself, in my heart, my mind and my soul that matters most to my maker.
There will always be moments when I cringe inside when asked to do something. My heart will occasionally still shrink. And there will be many times I stumble and fall in front of others. But that’s okay. Because I’m a work in progress. And every time I falter, God is right there with His outstretched hand, ready to pick me up and set me on my way again. All I have to do is reach out and take it.