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Grow in Grace

Sun, Jan. 15, 2017 Posted: 06:55 PM

When I was growing up, I was not a particularly nice person. My sister Karen was the nice one—the do-gooder, the Candy Striper, the kind and thoughtful one. I didn’t have much patience with weak or needy people; I thought they needed to just suck it up and get a grip. When my mom would take us to visit someone at a nursing home, Karen was very sweet to the old folks, while I was thinking, “Get me outta here.”

Well, God has a sense of humor. He let me become weak and needy myself, and gradually, over decades, He has given me a heart for all people. He has brought across my path many hurting people, and now, instead of thinking “Get me outta here,” I can enter into their lives and offer them some of the comfort I have received from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Cor. 1:3).

The first time I recall someone really opening up to me was when I greeted a young mom after church one Sunday morning. I didn’t know her well, and I just said the customary “Hi, how’re you doing?” She burst into tears and a whole tale tumbled out—a story of abuse by her husband and stress with her small children and struggles with money. I think the reason she felt safe with me was because it was no big secret that I had troubles of my own. I had let down my façade of pretending that I had it all together, and therefore she could be open and vulnerable with me.

Since then, there have been many more, both young and old, each with a unique life story—many filled with tragedy and hardship. I’m not any sort of therapist or counselor, just a friend. I can’t fix their problems, but I can be a listener. I can’t make their suffering go away, but I can serve in practical ways—whether fixing a meal, giving a ride, caring for kids, or going to court. I have little to offer in myself, but God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4). The Holy Spirit is the true Paraclete—the One who comes alongside as our helper, comforter, guide, and advocate—but each of us can serve in that role for our fellow humans.

My basic personality and identity have not changed. I’m still me. But by His grace God is little by little conforming me to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). It’s not rocket science, folks. Every human being is created by God in His image and deserves the same understanding and compassion you want for yourself. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31). Remember, “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). Or, as an Internet meme succinctly puts it, “It’s not complicated—don’t be a jerk.”

Diane Castro