The irony in being a teacher is that everything you teach is something you’ve been taught, and is often something you are still trying to learn. Because of that, I’m often prone to push things into people’s heads that I don’t really believe for myself. Take my title for instance:
Naturally, I tend to have a stoic, Kantian disposition/ philosophy in life; essentially I believe that doing good is the duty of every living person, that righteousness is its own reward, and that living to please one’s self instead of making the necessary sacrifices for the greater good is both the ugliest of wrongs and the most commonly perpetrated; the reason our world is such a mess.
Now, at this point, many of you are applauding me, many more silently (though maybe shamefully) agree as well, but any who has ever believed and acted similarly knows the problem with these values, they make you resentful and miserable, and after a while you start to feel like your little acts of kindness and virtue don’t matter. You begin to wonder if it really matters that you care when no one else does, if your handful of good deeds can overturn a sea of evil. You watch the people you do good to change their ways for a moment, then regress, remain unchanged and unthankful, or even worse, start taking advantage of your kindness. Maybe the worst of all of those is when you mess up, and it seems it instantly outweighs all the good you did.
Of course I’ve grown in my faith now, so I don’t officially subscribe to these beliefs anymore, they still hang around like a stray cat once fed, and when I’m not cognizant of what I’m thinking, my mind starts to play these messages on repeat and sometimes, I start to believe it. But this week something amazing happened.
Over a cup of Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and a Pumpkin Spice latte, an old friend of mine decided to follow Jesus. Whenever something like that happens, its awesome, but the events leading to it made it even more amazing:
An invitation to a spoken word poetry show(1) became her driving all the way to Lake Elsinore to give me the money for her ticket and telling me she couldn’t go anymore because she was called to work(2).
I gave the money to Tiffany (who bought all the tickets) and she decided that she didn’t want it and told me to give it back(3).
Since she’s the type of person who wouldn’t take her money back, I decided that I’d try to catch her by surprise at work the next day(4), it didn’t work. I called her and left a voicemail encouraging her to call me and telling her that I’m always here for her if she needs anything, from a listening ear and beyond that(5).
Turns out that it was perfect timing and she really needed the voicemail and the listening ear. I had no idea. So we met at Starbucks for chocolate the next day(6).
We talked about the last few moths and years of our friendship and some of the conversations we’ve had recently that gave her hope, the personality traits we share, the times we’ve had to stick our necks out for each other, and all the meaningful moments that had brought us to that very moment.
As you may have guessed, this was the conversation that eventually led to her salvation. In the few days leading up to our talk, there were 6 acts of selflessness and sacrifice that made the conversation possible. If even one hadn’t happened, that night would not have happened. Trust me, I’ve thought it over several times already. Even more amazing than that, were the memories we shared of things I said to her that stuck from years earlier. Things she says she remembers whenever she is going through something difficult. I don’t say this to capitalize on how amazing I am, not even close. I say this to drive one point home:
Every good thing you do matters. Don’t lose faith in them. It may take some time sometimes, and other times you will never see when it does, but it always will. Sometimes, it’ll matter immediately and you just won’t notice. God is working it all out, keep on! He sees you, and will reward you.
If you don’t quite believe it yet, that’s okay. I have a hard time believing it some days too. It’s still the truth though, and we’ll understand it one day.
So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. – Galatians 6:9-10