by Janet Eriksson
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Several years ago I met a man who made me feel that if Jesus were here in the flesh, He would look a lot like this person. Society wouldnít pay much attention to this man. He had cognitive impairments that kept him wheelchair-bound. Much of his day was spent in silence, at a table in a workshop where folks with cognitive struggles were given simple tasks, and the opportunity to sit together. Some of them tried to communicate with each other. This man was silent.
Not a life most people would want. Not a group most folks know exists. Not a man that many of us would see, if he were right in front of us.
Yet through this manís spirit, God opened a window to lavish Christ-like kindness onto everyone around him.
Iíve never met such strength of spirit. Such life in the depths of someoneís soul who canít shout, ďLook at me. Iím here!Ē
It was the Lord and His kindness that drew me to get to know this man.
Kindness wasnít a dish served at most of the tables where Iíd dined. I was the worst offender. I beat myself and trashed myself so badly. The reason was simple: If I hurt myself first, I couldnít feel the pain when others lashed out.
It might seem I would have given up on kindness, but I didnít. That was the grace of God, pure and simple. Since kindness seemed so hard to find, I treasured it. I searched for it. I reveled in it, anywhere I could find it. Simple acts of kindness, wherever I encountered them, gave me something to shout about. I poured out my heart with thanksgiving, to folks who would say, ďBut I didnít do anything.Ē If only they knew how much they had done with one small act of kindness to a starving soul.
Then I met this beautiful man. J was his name. I was helping to chaperone a group of high schoolers on a mission trip out of state. We had the opportunity to serve at a workshop that helped provide work to folks who had cognitive and other physical difficulties. The first few days, we were asked to help with manual tasks desperately needed by the administrators. We were glad to help, but this meant we had little opportunity to interact with the clients.
Even at a distance, J stood out to me. I felt the kindness in his spirit. I was drawn to his kindness as if Iíd traveled for months through a parched land and finally found a deep well. Thereís a reverence, a weeping of the spirit, a simple awe at the beauty of kindness that must be acknowledged before reaching out to drink. I smiled at him as we worked Ė he almost always seemed to be looking my way, as if he recognized a soul in need of the blessings that filled him to overflowing. On every work break, I wandered over to say, ďHi.Ē
On the last day of our visit, the manual labor was finally done. We were invited to sit with the clients, talk to them, encourage them, and help with their projects. I made a beeline to Jís table. Made myself at home with all the clients sitting there. By this time I had gotten to know a little about each one, enough to converse and joke and draw out some laughter, even from one man who was determined not to smile. But most of my attention was on J.
I asked if I could partner with J in assembling the computer parts that the group was working on. Thatís when I learned that J wasnít allowed to work on the parts, because of an allergy to the oil that was used. He was just there to watch, to be with others. My spirit told me he was there for a lot more than that. He was there to bless every single person at that table with the Lordís kindness.
I partnered with J on the project anyway. I did the assembly, and I asked him to inspect each part when I was done. I loved his humor. I gave him a cue for how to tell me if the job was well done, or just so-so. He most often told me I had done a good job, and though he was my age, his smile felt like a fatherís smile of encouragement to his young child. But J didnít hesitate to tell me when I did just so-so. We both laughed, and I tried to do a better job with the next piece.
Just sitting with J; talking to him, though he couldnít answer with words; laughing together; working side by side Ö Iíve never felt such refreshing from such a deep and unending fountain of kindness. His spirit knew so much more than his physical person could say. Medical tests might say that his mind couldnít take much in, or process it. But his spirit had a depth of understanding beyond anything I could fathom. He knew that he knew that he knew. What a powerful vessel, filled with the presence of the Lord, only too glad to share the kindness and the joy he was experiencing in Christ.
Jís willingness to share such a depth of kindness was one of the most selfless acts Iíd ever witnessed in a person other than Jesus. I couldnít imagine how hard this manís life was; how much pain, how much confusion, how much frustration he experienced every day. Yet there he was, pouring kindness on a stranger, just because.
My heart was changed that day. The walls that had kept out kindness with the pain, they melted as I sat with J. I looked into his eyes so many times and said, from deep in my heart, ďThank you.Ē It wasnít my words that touched his heart. It was the gratitude that now flowed as freely as his kindness. With a look of understanding that medical science would say is not possible, he nodded and met my gaze with wisdom and understanding and Christís love.
I may never see J again on this earth. But one of the most glorious days for me will be when we meet in the New Earth, and I can hear, through his words and his voice, what Iíve already heard in my spirit. I look forward to those times together, to getting to know him better, and to whatever wonderful and amazing things we will talk about. Praise God.
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