How to care more for people (and less what they think)

 

I reread the words of a woman who is learning to care “less what people think and more for people, period.”  What makes the difference? In the moments when I’m able to offer myself more like a hostess than like a manager, what is it that I’m remembering?

 

Jesus, knowing “that he had come from God and was returning to God,” knelt to clean filthy feet (John 13:3-5)

 

But how does that help me? Jesus had come from God.

 

John’s words startle: ‘You, dear children, are from God. . .” (1 John 4:4; cf John 17:14,16) It’s no wonder the world doesn’t recognize us when we ourselves don’t seem to know who we are.

 

A corner of the curtain is pulled back, a distant glimpse granted to eyes just starting to see.

 

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)

 

* * * * *

Day’s end hurries in and with it the end of my rope. I settle into the psalms, seeking solace. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18) The words comfort, but I can’t help but wonder, “Where, now, is the glory?” How do I hold together frailty and magnificence, make sense of them both?

 

I glance again at the painting propped by the wall, the tiny, bent figure in whom it all holds together black against the backdrop of the world.

 

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). He seems to mean it more truly than I can grasp. No watered down sending, this, but a living breath-gift of his own power to do what He himself had been doing – even to forgiving sins (John 20:22-23). Even to doing greater things (John 14:12). He sends us by setting Himself apart to live, forever, His own life through us (John 17:19).

 

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6) His gait is to become ours: the face-forward, straight-shouldered stance of one passionately committed; the humble kneeling of one secure in whose He is; these, yes, but especially the leaning in close of utter dependence on his Father. Jesus was not merely commissioned once at the moment of incarnation to do the Father’s work on His own; He was sent moment by moment from the heart of the Father to be God’s own living, loving presence in the world (John 14:10). So too are we (1 Jn 4:17).

 

In this world, the brilliant vision of who we really are is always tucked into weakness. The tension is not contradiction; it leads to truer understanding of what it means to be “from God” and “children of God.” We are not “from God,” sent out on our own to do his work. We are “from God,” leaning in each moment as He does His work through us (John 14:1-14).

 

We are glorious creatures, created in God’s own image.  Left to ourselves, we forget that our glory is but a shadow of a much greater glory. We make our own glory our god. Weakness, this gift that we seldom want, keeps us from settling too comfortably into the glory that has already been knit into us, coaxes us instead into the much greater glory of God Himself with which He longs to fill and complete us.  (2 Cor 12:7-10)

 

The juxtaposition startles me awake. “I am Yahweh; that is my name. I will not give my glory to another.” (Is 42:8; cf 43:7; 48:11) And yet. And yet. . .

 

The Word, who himself is God come from the Father to show us the glory of the One and Only (John 1:1,14), speaks the heart of the eternal God, “I have given them the glory that You gave me” (John 17:22).

 

“I will not give my glory to another” yet “I have given them the glory that you gave me.”

 

We are filled with His glory – with Himself – and so share in His glory, but He gets all the glory because he has done this. Whoever heard of a god besides ours who shares his glory? Who else but He could be worthy of all power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise?! (Rev 5:12)

 

* * * * *

Why, remembering this, do I need to be an opinion manager? When weakness is gift coaxing me deeper into God’s own glory, when Almighty God declares me worth filling with Himself, when Jesus sends me by living His own life in me, does it matter what others think of my stooped gait? Can I not kneel and pick up the basin and towel?