But God produces kindness

Galatians 5:19, 22-23 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear. . . But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Last Friday, I had a lovely experience on the bus to the airport. The bus driver greeted each person with a cheery “Good morning.” Some people were obviously regulars on her bus, because she knew them, and asked how they were and briefly how specific things in their lives were going. She gave each person a smile and wished them a good day when they left the bus. She thanked a young woman who helped an older one to her seat.

I noticed that several people on the bus talked to each other. Passengers smiled at each other and helped each other. The emotional tone on the bus was pleasant. I wish I knew the bus driver’s name, so I could call in or write to the Pittsburgh Port Authority to express my appreciation.

By contrast, when I came home on Monday, my bus driver didn’t say a word to anyone, and I never saw him smile. He looked straight ahead unless he needed to check something, like whether I had paid the right number of bills and coins. He pulled away while I was still paying. I lost my balance and my suitcases rolled down the aisle, almost banging into another passenger’s knees. Had he given me just five or ten more seconds, I could have found a seat without that small commotion.

This man was a good driver and safely delivered each of us where we needed to go. I found it interesting, though, that the people on the bus were silent. They seemed to follow the bus driver’s lead, and no one spoke to anyone else. The atmosphere on the bus was completely different from what I had experienced three days before.

What a great reminder of the value of a little bit of kindness!

But God watches

Psalm 33:13-15, 17-18, 22 The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. . . Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the Lord watches over those who fear him. . . Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

I know some people who do this frequently, but for me it was a new experience to fly to the exact opposite side of the world, with a time change of twelve hours, my first visit to Asia. I gained a new appreciation of jet lag: unable to sleep at night and struggling to stay awake in the afternoons of an intense schedule. Once my body started to adjust to Singapore time, we were off to the airport for a fifteen-hour flight to San Francisco, then across three more time zones to Washington DC, and finally home to Pittsburgh. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I managed to unpack, start laundry, buy groceries, sort through the mail, send a couple of time-sensitive emails, and make a meal, but then I hit a wall. It’s been a long time since I have felt so completely flattened. My admiration for those who handle this regularly has leaped to new heights.

Here’s the thing: We are so vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation that it’s even used as a method of torture. But God never sleeps. We experience fatigue, but he never gets tired. He watches over us, over all who live on earth, all the time. He understands our needs, our fragility and dependency, because he made us. No matter what time zone we’re in, or how confused that makes us, or any of the myriad reasons we may have trouble sleeping, his care for us is steadfast and reliable. At the same time, he is equally caring for and available to people in other places and cultures far away from our own.

We got home Wednesday, and today (Friday) I’m back on an airplane, on my way to speak at a women’s retreat. Wednesday night I slept straight through the night, so I thought, hmm, that was an easy adjustment. Last night, though, I hardly slept at all, despite telling myself how important it was to arrive at this retreat rested. I’m curious how God will redeem this situation, for the sake of the dear women who have committed this weekend to participation in retreat. I’m not often so acutely aware of how inadequate depending on my own resources (my “warhorses”) will be.

What joy to be able to acknowledge my limitations and relax into the Lord’s love, surrounding me—and all of us—24/7!