Saturday, August 18, 2012

"We're all bright in spots"

When Francis was a child, she made a comment about a special needs child. Overhearing her conversation, her dad told her not to look down upon anyone whose life or circumstances caused them personal pain. However, for her preacher dad, the verbal teaching wasn’t enough. He put legs on his lesson.

            He told his daughter that he wanted her to go for a ride with him. On the road, he told her about his childhood friend, a girl, who made a habit of making fun of others. Soon, they arrived at the “girl’s” home, who was now an adult with a family of her own. The minister knocked on the door, and his friend from childhood was delighted to see him. It seems he made regular visits to encourage this caregiving mom. After going inside, the minister introduced his daughter Francis and asked about the wellbeing of the woman’s family.

            He specifically asked about a daughter named Teresa. The mother replied that all was well, and continued, “Teresa’s about the same. Do you want to say hello?”

            The minister replied yes and led little Francis into a room where twenty-one-year-old Teresa lay in a bed – her body held captive by her mind, not advanced beyond that of a two-year-old child.

            Recently, the grandmother-aged Francis related the story to me saying, “I’ve never forgotten the power of that experience.” If her dad had only verbally chastised her for making fun of someone, the instructions might have faded, but he wanted to teach a lasting lesson and he succeeded.

            This week’s humility lesson, based on Jeremy Taylor’s rule thirteen encourages believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).  Taylor’s  (1613-1667) rule thirteen in the language of his day: “Suffer others to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is a lessening of thy worth.”

            Let’s say that in Texanese: Make a habit of praising others, not finding fault. Don’t subtract from that praise by pointing out some fault of the person’s being. When you hear a good report about someone else, don’t think poorly of yourself because you don’t have similar or equal gifts or honors.

            I first discovered Taylor’s rules in Randy Harris’ book, “Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk.” Harris furthers understanding of rule thirteen saying, “If we have a moment of deep and sudden honesty. . . Taylor catches us here.” He continues, “We all have had a moment when we heard about somebody’s failure and everything in you said, ‘Yes!’” Harris further says, “Or we’ve had a moment when we heard about somebody’s success and everything in us says, ‘Too bad.’”

            For me, the rule indicates looking for a genuine quality in a person and encouraging them by noticing their gift. Too many people live in a negative atmosphere. Awful things happen to moral people. Our minds accuse us of missteps. Haughty people delight in pointing out the faults of others. Family members point out mistakes and rarely overlook minor offenses. People sorely lack someone who will step up and extend a gentle kindness or congratulate them on an accomplishment.

            After all, everyone has disabilities. We’re all flawed. No one is perfect. Our inadequacies could have crippled us for life, but most of us by the grace of God had good souls come along and nurture our graces. I spent a few days working with Francis, and I saw in her a resolute spirit of encouraging others to make good choices. Francis is a tough-love woman with an endearing, fun-loving spirit.

            This week, as we all work toward becoming more humble people, look for the good you see in others, and choose to praise them. You may have to look a long time at the worse among us, but you’ll find something to praise. As my husband, David, fondly says, “We’re all bright in spots.”

            Hunger for Humility (week 33): “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2 ESV)

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments here or at       

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