Last week I put out my first post since early last year, and I mentioned that I’ll come back and share more in particular about my experiences throughout my transition from engagement to marriage, and the lessons learned. To be honest though, I began writing this in anticipation of sharing something I experienced during my transitions last year, but as I kept writing, I recalled something that happened in 2020 that illustrates what I’m continuing to learn even now. What hurts is that there are other aspects of my thinking, feelings, and reactions that I’ve shown where I need change.
As a Christian, to be kind is first and foremost a quality of the fruit of the Spirit (I say a quality, because I believe there’s one “fruit” of the Spirit that consists of nine qualities.) This really drives home the importance of kindness in the life of someone who professes faith in Jesus. Now more than ever before in my life, I realize how difficult that has been for me to live out day to day. Especially when it is put under the pressures and pains of conflict and disrespect, real or perceived. For some of you, it may have been something that you’ve practiced and are stronger in, regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. For me, I’ve found that the strength of my kindness is tested often, and I’ve failed more than I can count in my marriage and life.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”Galatians 5:22-24
Transition is not only hard, it exposes the areas you need to grow in most, and with all of the experiences I’ve had throughout this pandemic, preparing for a wedding, and supporting my wife in the preparation of a funeral, life cooked up a number of opportunities to expose where I need to change in my patterns and actions. One such opportunity came back in September 2020, in the form of criticism and outbursts from my wife during our road trip to Boston. So much can happen in seconds when driving, and for Vanessa, it takes a lot for her to sit in front with me as I drive. When you combine that with a few close calls that she’s experienced with me behind the wheel, in our own ways, we’ve both created an environment for sparks to fly when things happen that are both in and out of our control.
As I was driving in Boston, I was stopped at the light waiting for it to turn green. When it turned green, I let my foot off the break to begin driving, and someone begins to walk as my car is moving—of course. Well, Vanessa caught it half a second before I did, and in her fear she reacted loudly, questioning (read interrogating 😒🤣) why I didn’t stop and see the person moving. I struggle with taking certain types of criticism, and take offense when I’m am or feel disrespected. This comes from a negative thought pattern where I struggle with fears of failure or embarrassment. Instead of simply allowing her to react and show her kindness and grace by being slow to speak, I quickly took offense and my temper flared up quickly! To the point where I’m shouting at her about how I saw the person and how I never can drive in peace with her in the car.
Yeah. Unkind to the max. When there are unhealthy or negative thought patterns, it’s hard to think redemptive in the moment of pressure and conflict. Then I end up saying something that is a curse instead of a blessing. There is nothing good that comes from speaking negatively like that, it would’ve been better to not say anything at all. Even better would be to wait and then bless with my words when everything calms down. I had the opportunity to display kindness even while being rightly angry at how unfair her judgement was, by watching what I say and when I say it.
This aspect of kindness that I struggle with is about being more considerate of why she’s reacting the way she is, rather than what her reaction is. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that situation among others is a humbling reminder for me of how much I need God and the wonderful people He’s placed in my life to show me what kindness looks like. To never stop striving to live a Christ-like and Christ-centered life, no matter how often I fail. To know that Jesus set the bar with His kindness and love by forgiving those who crucified Him, saying that they didn’t know what they were doing.
The real test of your character often happens in the face of struggle, conflict, and when someone does something you don’t like. You can get a clear view of the quality of the Spirit’s fruit in your life, but He is also able to convict you without condemning you for the failures you see about yourself. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! I truly rest and pursue what is better for me because of this. I pray you do the same.