Last week I had a unexpected words of loving kindness with my son’s friend, a local business owner.
Kyle’s friend had seen my posts on FB, so when he mentioned to Kyle that he’d like to tell his story, perhaps write a book, he didn’t hesitate to take Kyle’s suggestion to call his mom.
Kyle’s friend and I had a great conversation. He said he’d already set aside time during the week to write. I congratulated him, adding we make time for those things that are important to us. I talked to him about getting started, getting words on the page. At this point I said he didn’t need to worry about sentence structure, where the commas should go.
I also suggested that he not worry about his whole story, beginning with one story. He talked about his mom and dad. I said there was no doubt their story would be part of his story, but I asked him to begin with his story.
I knew enough about his friend’s story to know he’d had some amazing experiences. Start with the incredible, I encouraged him. Start with the story you told your new employee, the guy you were interviewing last week, the moment you knew you needed to call me about getting started.
And then tell us it started with your family’s move from one state to another.
For almost 11 minutes I got to be my most encouraging self. When I was ready to say goodbye, he stopped me and said, “Wait. I need you to know what a great guy your son is.”
I started to cut him off with my thanks, but he cut me off. “No, wait” he said (as in, I’m still talking). “You need to know how much Kyle means to me. That guy is the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever met. His friendship has meant so much to me”
This time he let me respond, but I honestly didn’t know what to say, hearing the sincerity in his voice.
You see Kyle’s friend is a felon.
Yes, Kyle’s friend is someone who’s been convicted of a serious crime, someone who served time in a federal prison, someone who needed 8 years under lock and key to atone for some major mistakes.
Kyle met his friend at the gym. They’d bonded over tattoos and weight lifting equipment. Over time, while spotting each other, while doing whatever weight-lifting guys do, Kyle learned about his friend’s past. “It’s an amazing story, Mom.”
Kyle’s friend had appreciated the chance to share his story, but what his friend most appreciated about Kyle was his ability to see him now, to appreciate who he was now, not letting his past color Kyle’s judgment of who he was now—even as he learned shared more and more sordid details.
Talking to Kyle after the call, my son was very matter of fact. “Mom, he made some big mistakes, but he left prison ready to be a changed man. Has he continued to make some mistakes? Yes, but Mom, he’s a good guy who’s doing the best he can.”
Yes, he’s a good guy with a criminal past, a past that Kyle has refused to hold against him. Kyle has had the ability to see his friend for who is today, to see the possibilities before him.
Words of loving kindness while doing whatever weightlifting guys do.
Seeing the possibilities in a guy who’d squandered some possibilities in his past. Believing in a guy who may not have believed in himself at times. Delighting in a guy who was delighting in the chance to be a better person.
Last Sunday we celebrated Easter.
On Easter we discovered the empty tomb, that moment when we saw God’s promises of redemption, renewal, reconciliation come alive.
We’ve all been imprisoned, not in the way Kyle’s friend had been, but I know my own mess-ups have left me separated from those around me, separated from God. We may not have had federal agents knocking at our door, but I’ve had so waaaayyyy too many times when mistakes have shattered the quiet of my own life, arresting me in the moment. We all have a past and some of it’s not pretty.
And we’ve all been saved by grace through faith and this is not of our own doing; it’s God’s doing.
That beautiful reminder is from a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians. God’s loving kindness was/is our saving grace. Paul reminds us of that amazing fact in another letter, this time to Titus.
And our words of loving kindness can share God’s loving kindness—in a phone call, in a Sunday morning celebration, in a simple spot at the gym.
As you may know (or not), when you spot someone at the gym, you’re the guy or the gal who stands at the ready for someone lifting heavier weights, who’s going for more repetitions, who’s lifting more than they’ve ever lifted. The spotter steps behind and helps get the weights in position for the lift, who helps with that last push, that last extension, who grabs the bar should anything go awry.
Kyle’s words and deeds were a real spot during moments together in the gym. They have also been spots of friendship for a guy who was finding his way as a new person.
Our words of loving kindness can “spot” those around us. Our acts of loving kindness, moments of loving kindness stand behind those who are doing some heavy lifting, when they’re not sure they’re up to the task, when the weights in someone’s life are teetering a bit.
I love thinking about the possibilities.
I love thinking about how much our words of loving kindness, our deeds of loving kindness will mean to those around us. It certainly meant a lot to one young man.
Your loving kindness was our saving grace.
Your loving kindness is our saving grace.
And Your grace is a gift we celebrate,
not just at Easter, but each and every day,
a gift we now get to share with those around us.
Be with us as we “spot” others with Your loving kindness, with Your grace.
In the name of Your risen Son, Jesus the Christ,
Friends, I have no idea where God will take us today, who He’ll place in our life, but the opportunity to spot someone is a divine possibility.