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Responding with the Unlovely

By:  T. Meeuwsen

As a parent I want my children to be gentle and generous of spirit in their evaluation of others. It’s easy to be critical of people who are unlovely or annoying; it’s inadvertent and spontaneous for us to compare ourselves to people whom we encounter, read about, or even see in the media. This activity leaves us feeling either superior or inferior. How should we react to people who are unlovely or annoying to us?

I took my daughter, Tory, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Miss American Pageant. A big reunion of former Miss Americas was planned, and forty-four of us were returning. A special book had been commissioned to commemorate the anniversary. Tory went armed with the book and a pen, determined to get every autograph.

As we walked along the board walk, I was struck by the incredible dichotomy before us. Flashing lights and glittering displays lit the boardwalk. Pageant attendees were dressed to the nines in tuxedos and dresses that sparkled. In the midst of it all, homeless people curled up alongside the buildings. Beggars, many of them handicapped, were playing harmonicas or holding out hopeful cups.

As I watched my daughter look with admiration and awe at all the “beautiful” people, I prayed, Lord, help her to see past the trimmings. Teach her to find her identity in You – not in her family or her possessions or her accomplishments. Help us both, as women of God, to see people the way You see them. And, Lord, when we come upon people who’ve lost track of who they are, help us to slow down and acknowledge them.

James 1:22-27 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

It’s easy to love the lovely, but speaking gentle words from a kind and forgiving heart when you’ve been wronged or provoked is a work of the Holy Spirit. It happens when we give up our agenda and grab hold of God’s.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Lord, forgive me for judging others harshly and speaking critically. Help me to remember how much You have forgiven in my own life. I want to reflect You to all I meet, and especially to my children. Use my words to bring wholeness and healing.

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Orig Title - Love Bears All Things

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