Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller 1887
Pastor Barry/ The Gathering: POWER 4: Patience, Kindness, Goodness To watch this video message and others go toand click on the youtube link to subscribe
I heard a true story last week that becomes a great springboard for my message today as we reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of His people: An elderly, white Christian lady excitedly made an appointment at her favorite salon to get her nails done—before Governor Newsom shuts them down again! She arrived for her appointment with her mask on and a little early with a happy welcome back greeting for the manicurist who had just reopened for business after the long shut down. Also waiting in the shop was a young black woman dressed in a Black Lives Matter tee shirt and matching face mask. She had walked in without an appointment. Then it happened— the manicurist called the white lady over to sit in the chair. Immediately, the black woman rose to her feet and in aggressive accusatory language, loudly protested that she was being treated prejudicial because of her color. “I was here first”, she yelled—”you are being racist!” The manicurist tried to explain to the woman that the policy of the store was to always give first priority to people who had made appointments over walk-in guests, but the woman just became more angry and continued yelling all the louder about the outrage of racial inequality in America. The elderly lady who had made the appointment was rattled to say the least and was deeply offended because she had never been prejudiced a day in her life. She carefully rose up from her chair, turned to the flabbergasted manicurist and softly said “she can have my appointment— I’ll make one for another day” and hurriedly left the salon.
Now, when I first heard that story I was incensed! I said, “that Christian lady should have given that self righteous, narcissistic, racist woman a piece of her mind and the owner of the store should have ordered her to leave and to never come back!” That was my initial response, but then my wife, who is much more patient than I, with the ruthless stupidity of mankind, made me see what the elderly Christian woman may have averted with her self sacrificing action: The angry woman may have refused to leave and even escalated to physical violence. The police may have been called—bringing about a false blue on black narrative for a cell phone recording sent out on social media. In today’s climate that could have resulted in misguided protests in front of the store, and even the destruction of that store and neighboring businesses—possibly even the senseless loss of life. At least it would have fueled the victim infused racist narrative that is so embraced in society today. That Christian woman was a hero! She should certainly be given a free nail job!
Watch Your Step Ephesians 4:26-27, Galatians 5:16-17, 25
That story sobers me, because I realize that my natural reaction in that scenario likely would have led to disaster in some form. My natural reaction may be understandable, justifiable and even right… but would it have edified the situation? Would it have mitigated the situation? The answer is no. Would my natural reaction have given the Devil an opportunity? I’m ashamed to say, “yes, it would have”. Thank God I wasn’t getting my nails done that day (for many reasons)!
We are instructed in the Bible not to sin in our anger and not to give the Devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27). The only way that we can accomplish this is by walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18). The less we respond with our “natural reactions” the better (especially in today’s climate). “We are not to do whatever we want.” We must allow the “fruit of the Spirit” to guide us. When we “keep in step with the Spirit” we will not give the Devil a foothold (Galatians 5:25). The “fruit of the Spirit is a gift to the child of God but we must choose to eat it and fall in love with its flavors— and it is an acquired taste! If we would consume this fruit like our morning coffee we would be doing fine!
Three More Matthew 16:21-26, Luke 22:31-34, John 21:4-7, 15-19
We spoke of the Spirit’s Love, Joy and Peace in the last lesson. Today we look at three more characteristics of God that we sorely need: Patience, Kindness and Goodness —when one exercises patience —kindness and goodness will follow. God’s kindness and goodness is displayed in His patience which is intended to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4) —our exercising these three things towards others will bring the same.
The story of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller (Autobiography: The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller, Movie: The Miracle Worker 1962 and 2000) is the epitome of patience, kindness and goodness in what appears to be an impossible situation. Helen was blind and deaf due to the Scarlet Fever and prone to violent outbreaks until a blind teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught her how to communicate at age 7. Helen Keller ( 1880-1968) went on to become a great American writer, activist, lecturer and leader who made great advances for the deaf and blind. She was also the first blind person to ever earn a bachelors degree. She and Anne Sullivan remained close friends throughout their lives, but Anne’s teaching methods were frowned on by Helen’s parents. Their grief for Helen’s handicaps and their fear of Helen’s rages kept them from disciplining her. Anne was a fiery Irish woman who would have none of that. She was determined to teach Helen how to live in a world where no one gets everything they want and only work and determination bring happiness. Where are teachers like Anne Sullivan today —God knows we need them!
Interestingly enough “kindness and Goodness” may not always appear as such to an onlooker, because both are focused on truth (true friendliness and moral righteousness). Sometimes Kindness is ruthlessly honest and goodness is harsh. Patience is persistent in love and sometimes love is tough. Think of the tough love of Jesus for Peter when He said to him “Get behind me Satan”( Matthew 16:21-26). Was Jesus not kind or good to Peter? Was He not patient with him? Of course He was, but Peter needed to be “sifted like wheat” to be made ready for his calling into leadership (Luke 22:31-34). The fact that Jesus came back and re-confronted Peter after His resurrection shows His patience with His friend. The goodness and kindness of Jesus is also shown in how He confronts Peter— although ruthlessly honest and rather harsh (John 21:4-7, 15-19). Peter never forgot the lesson! Helen Keller never forgot the lessons from Anne Sullivan ether, of them Helen said :“I was like an unconscious clod of earth. There was nothing in me except the instinct to eat, drink and sleep. My days were a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation, without interest or joy. Then suddenly… my brain felt the impact of another mind, and I awoke to language, to knowledge, to love… I was lifted from nothingness to human life”. The kindness, gentleness, and patience of Anne Sullivan, although unorthodox, broke through to Helen and later opened her heart to Christ: Helen Keller’s religious instruction came from the great preacher Philip Brooks. He told her about God and what was done for us in Jesus Christ. She listened awhile and then said, “Mr. Brooks, I knew all that before, but now I know God’s name.” God speaks to us all—even through our deafness and blindness— if we will be still then we will know He is God (Psalm 46:10). Kindness, Gentleness and Patience leads us and others to repentance — which leads to Christ and to the fruit of the Holy Spirit who fills us.
“Don’t Be Anxious” Philippians 4:6-7
Believers— we are told to be anxious (impatient) for nothing, but in all situations, rather inflicted by self, by others or by fate, we are not to rage, wallow in self-pity, or fret— We are to pray, petition and thank God— To be still. Rejoice, so that your gentleness is evident. Let His Spirit rule you—Allow His peace to come.