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I’m struggling with kindness today.

I knew after not being able to fall asleep until after 11 pm and waking up around 1 am to the cries of my daughter for some water (of which she only took a few sips) and then having to fall back asleep to find myself awake again just after 4 am for a bathroom trip and water to drift off again just when my husband’s 5 am alarm went off that it was probably going to be one of those days.

I laid there quietly listening to him pull himself together, and I started to drift off again after he left the bedroom to find myself awake to the cries of a baby (the baby of our neighbor that lives below us) that seemed pretty inconsolable for that time of the morning and then the loud slams of a door because my neighbor can’t handle the stress of his own child yet. After that I was convinced that it was going to be one of those days. I was still awake after 2 whole hours, my daughter was going to be awake within another hour, and I was really tired.

So having my daughter whine and complain all morning about various things completely met all of my expectations. And I knew that I needed a great deal of grace and patience to deal with her for the day. But as I picked up my phone to text my husband to pray for me (partly because I really needed the prayer and partly because I wanted him to know that I was having a sucky day already), my eye caught this message that I had written on a post-it note a long time ago. It reads:

What good is a well-kept home if I lack kindness in my heart and on my tongue?

I sat there thoroughly feeling the words sink in (or we can just say conviction). I’m about to ask for prayer for grace to deal with the normal, everyday things I always deal with…a cranky toddler, a to-do list that may or may not get accomplished, pregnancy tiredness, angry neighbor…things that are all external to me. But the one thing that I hadn’t attempted to address was my own heart condition, a real lack of kindness.

Now, the reason I’m not saying that it’s not a lack of love is because love demonstrates itself in intentional decision-making, a setting of the will to do something. It is love that compelled me to get out of bed early this morning to give my daughter some water. She is my daughter. I am mother. It is my responsibility to care for her and to make sure that her needs are met. But where is my heart in all of that? That’s where I see how kindness comes into play. I can do everything I’m supposed to do as a loving mother, supportive wife, and manager of my home, but if it isn’t coming from a heart that is full of kindness (or goodness, benevolence, gentleness, consideration, forbearance, and any other related word you want to add), it doesn’t amount to anything of any real worth. Kindness is more than just “doing something nice for someone else”. It is the general disposition of your heart that accompanies and characterizes your actions towards others.

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Thinking about that note this morning, instead of texting my husband, I turned to God in prayer asking Him to work on my heart today, to help me be kind even when I wasn’t feeling like it at all. In truth, I wanted God to just speak a word and fill me with kindness so that I could “float and flitter” throughout my day in a great mood and with tons of patience. But instead, I got another reminder by way of a distinct memory that this is one of those fruits that I must strive after and train myself to do.

Kindness doesn’t just miraculously happen in the heart. Just like love, it must be continual, intentional decisions about my attitude and disposition towards others. Therefore, I can’t overlook the times when I’m being prideful, or self-centered, or just too self-absorbed. I have to let that mind be in me that was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8). I have to realize that having an attitude, being moody all day, not being kind to others (even to my 3 ½ year old daughter) is a sin that needs to be repented of and put to death. And I have to remember that God graciously receives sinners whenever they turn to Him, no matter how many times they may fail in the process.

So, it’s a quarter after 4 pm, and my day hasn’t been squeaky clean perfection. I’ve been struggling with kindness today, and my flesh hasn’t wanted to die as quietly as I would prefer. But I’m still pressing forward. The day isn’t over, and every tomorrow promises me another battle. And before the thoughts of always having to fight this inward battle (along with all the other ones) wearies me and attempts to drive me to despair, I can trust in the promise that He who began this good work in me will one day complete that work within my heart for all eternity.

You’ll find me striving by God’s grace until then.

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