No more tit-for-tat stuff, live generously.

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To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.

If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.

No more tit-for-tat stuff.

Live generously.

(Luke 6:27-30)

We have this kid on the team I coach. ATTITUDE. ALL. THE. TIME. I’ve been her coach for 3 years and every year we consider cutting her. But I push for her to stay. Because without knowing details, I know there’s a lot going on inside of her, in her heart, in her home, in her life. Some kids throw their anger outward and lash out at others, some inward and injure themselves through harm and shame. Both are equally dangerous, but the latter is more socially acceptable, even considered unjustly honorable in some situations.

Each year we’ve accepted her to the Varsity team. Each year we’ve said we won’t do it again the next year. And each year I convince the other coach that we should. Not because she’s a great player. She won’t get the Coaches Award for best sportsmanship by far. We spend many practices trying to get her attention, get her to care, work on her skills, focus. And to be honest, we over hear her talking about us often. That cuts. Deep.

But I want her on the time because she’s like me. Her anger is outward, the socially “unacceptable”. Mine is inward, the “humble and gracious”. To be honest, I wish I could be more like her, more angry with people, more expressive, less internally explosive. She doesn’t live with an internal fear that people will once again reject and abandon her. Her fear is right there in the open, for all to see. Nothing is hidden. I admire that. And I believe she’ll work through it as long as people don’t give up on her. Don’t cut her out for being different or difficult. Don’t leave her when it’s hard. Live generously.

Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. (Luke 6:31-34)

I decided before the softball season started, I would write a letter to each of the student’s parents sometime during the season, expressing what we appreciate about their child. Many of our kids come from challenging situations. Not many parents come to our games (but faculty does!). A few weeks ago, one of our kids received an injury to which the parent responded, “She shouldn’t even be playing sports. She’s not an athlete.” Sad, because not only is this student an athlete, but she’d been on our team for 3 years and was a starter for a team that was top on the league. Imagine what comments like that due to a kid’s self-esteem.

Situations like that occur often. So I decided to let the parents know how much their child is appreciated as a way to honor the student and encourage them. I arrived at our last practice of the season before our championship game with a few of these last cards. I handed them out. One of the girls was missing and no one knew why. It was attitude girl. The consequence for missing a practice before a game is you can not play, you can not travel with the team, and you will be talked with by the athletic director if it’s an unexcused absence. Regardless of who it is.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. (Luke 6:35-36)

The other coach had had it. He was angry and wanted her off the team. In that moment, we once again decided she wouldn’t be on the team next year. And here I sat with a card I addressed to her, not her parents, about how proud I am of the way she’s worked at her attitude these past two weeks. A card to encourage her. I wanted to throw it in the trash. I felt like a fool. I sat in my car for a while decided what to do with this card. “She doesn’t deserve it. What the HECK is she thinking?! I’m going to “talk” to her.” Other coach wanted her not to come to the championship game. We rented a bus for this game, so everyone could come and it’s a really long ride, which means we’d stop on the way home and eat out, something all the students love. This wasn’t just a game, this was a team experience that we wanted every student to have.

I was shocked by how much anger filled me over this student.

…Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never regret it. Live out this God-created identity, generously and graciously… 

We let her come to the game. We didn’t address the issue with her. It wasn’t worth it. We were JUST.DONE.  As I got in my car to head home after that championship game, I saw the note I wrote to her on my floor. I felt sucker punched. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

Yea, I had been reading this part in Luke the day before. This part that talks about cultivating a soft heart, a generous heart, so that the blind aren’t leading the blind. So that God is leading us into situations that reflect the Imago Dei. So that people are loved and encouraged in a way that honors God and brings about shalom.

I sat in my car for a long time evaluating what it means to coach, to care, to love. I thought through what it means to be easy on people, to not condemn those who are down. I thought of how hard I have been with others in the past, who have shown me such soft gentleness and the way that changed my life. My self-protective measure wasn’t an outward attitude, but a inward resistance. But they are both the same. Her and I. How could I condemn someone for the VERY same thing I was?

Just earlier that same morning I was sobbing on the phone to a friend. I needed encouragement. I needed someone to speak true things into my own heart. I needed to be revived some. When the encourager is discouraged and feels defeated, I’ve found it’s hard for others to know how to help. We all need encouragement.

We all need reminders that what we do doesn’t make us who we are. What’s been done to us doesn’t limit us.

We all need someone to be a little more easy on us, a little more loving, a little more gentle.

We need reminders that though we fail, we’re not given up on. Though we’re not enough, we still matter. We need others to speak alive the truths of who we are right into our very little hearts until that truth becomes a reality. 

We need people who believe we can become and are more than what we (and others) see us as.

We need to know we’re enough- loved, cared about, cared for, valued, wanted- even at our worst. Because He’s generous and gracious even when we are at our worst.

So here I am, heading to her school. Heading to drop off her card. To hand it to her face to face. To remind her she’s still loved, still valued. Not because she deserves it, but precisely because she doesn’t and needs it. She’s bringing out the best in me, by making me see the worst in me.

 

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