Riding the crowded city bus home, I was scrolling through Facebook in an attempt to distract myself from both the horde of pressing strangers and the ache in my heart when a quote on a friend’s post leaped out at me:
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Beautiful words attributed to the late Princess Diana, at first they seemed to align both with my Christian faith and my life as a mom in an atypical parenting situation.
A mother to young adults who need care far beyond most their ages because of mild/moderate developmental disabilities and the effects of many erratic pre-adoption years, I found it appealing that my sacrifices in parenting could maybe someday, somehow result in kindness returned to me.
The hope of a future kindness felt like a salve on a heart that has been bruised more times than I can count in our nine-year journey of parenting young people who did not have the opportunity to learn during their formative years the basics of a loving parent-child relationship. Every tiny step forward with things like learning how to bond, love, trust, empathize, and relate in a healthy way has been huge and something to celebrate, but the journey hasn’t come without cost, pain, and struggle.
As part of the cost, as time passed, I had felt my heart protectively hardening in a way decidedly unlike the heart of Christ.
But that afternoon, as the crowded bus wound its way down the road, with more and more strangers clambering on, packing themselves tightly in beside my wheelchair, I felt God speak a deeper truth to me, a truth that would set me on a path that softened my heart.
As Christians, we are not to carry out acts of kindness with any expectation of a resultant kindness. We are, in fact, called to live lives of sacrificial love, following the example of Jesus who gave up his very life for us—a gift he freely gave, one for which he will never be paid back.
I envisioned in my mind’s eye a giant tree that has grown from a tiny little seed, and how once planted it took many years for that seed to be realized into a large, strong tree. Sometimes in life we have the opportunity to plant seeds that will take so long to grow that we know we will not still be alive to reap the benefit of their eventual shade and strength. And yet, still we plant the seed, knowing that someone else in the future will enjoy that tree.
And in that moment, I realized the truth of why I continue to sacrifice each day as I plant seeds of life and love in young people who may never be able to show me the love, relationship, and trust that most parents can look forward to sharing with their children.
That realization both humbled and strengthened me.
As Christians, we are not to do kindness based on what we may someday get in return. Regardless of if someone ever does the same thing for you, it is a joy to share kindness, gentleness, and love.
We are to follow the example of Jesus who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).
In fact, it is because of Jesus’ sacrificial love towards us that we don’t need to hang onto a hope that one day in the future we will be recipients of love. That one day has already come. Through Jesus, we have already received a love and kindness beyond measure.
Every single day we all face numerous opportunities to follow Jesus’ example and to deeply love those God brings across our paths. Sometimes, extravagant sacrifice is required to love deeply. Sometimes, that person will never appreciate it nor be able to pay you back, and there is never a guarantee that someone one day might do the same for you. Take the step of loving anyways. Be a person of love. Let your life reflect the love God has shone upon this world.
Plant the seeds. Love the people God brings before you. Spread love.