The Strength of Kindness

July 12, 2016 5 Comments »
The Strength of Kindness

By Naomi Zacharias

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.20.29 PMI am a country girl at heart. I love the city with its bustle, skyscraper views, hotdog vendors, and tailored trench coats. But recently I have been reminded that the old oak trees, rustic fences, acres of pasture, daffodils, easy smiles, and cowboy hats of the South are ultimately for me. A good friend asked what I would be doing in an unrealistic life. (She admitted she would be a ninja, so that explains the creative bar we were aiming for.) Several days later when I was listening to one of my favorite singers, Willie Nelson, a smile came to my lips. I told my friend: I would be a classic country singer, wearing weathered jeans and antiqued brown cowboy boots with a smoldering bluesy voice like Lily Meola, singing a duet onstage with my pal Willie.

One thing I love about country music is the storytelling. I was listening to an artist I recently discovered as she sang the story of a horse with a wild and wounded spirit, rendering her no friend to any rider. Until one day a man from another town came to visit and tried something no one had. He sat quietly nearby, but no further. He offered her space, and he waited. Eventually the bruised mare hesitantly moved toward him. He assured her he wouldn’t hurt her and reached out his hand. The mustang lowered her head and her guard, and thus began their journey together.

It is a simple country kind of song, but a complex reality. It is a story that reminded me of my own. I haven’t written about this before. In part because some things I carry close to my heart out of respect for the sacred—either mourning something lost or celebrating something won, for both travel to profound depths within the soul. And in part out of reverence to the gift of privacy that we are all growing ever closer to forgoing entirely. I share now purposefully and with due care and respect for the details that will stay in the recesses of my heart, appropriately sheltered.

Fixing the Broken

I was the daughter of a public leader in ministry. I was full of hope, anticipation, and naivety. I experienced the death of divorce twice before I was 30. I was broken.

Several years later I traveled to Italy to write a book. I had come to terms with the life I had, though it was not the life I wanted. The experience of knowing hope that lands in demise, the profound sense of failure to succeed in something I deeply valued was a painful reality I still wished I could change. I did not seek love again. Yet through some seemingly random but divine events, I met someone who changed my life and the way I saw my life. There is a significant difference between the two. One is something he offered, the other is something he gave.

Today I was driving my little boy to school, and we were talking about heroes. He asked me what a hero was, and I said it was someone who does something extraordinary, something right and courageous and to help other people. “Who can you think of is a hero?” I expected him to name someone from PJ Masks, a favorite program about children who turn into superheroes. My son looked out the window thoughtfully and then he said, “Daddy.” I smiled and asked him what he sees in his daddy that is heroic. “He fixes things that are broken,” he answered. Yes, he does.

I do not mean it in the sense of a Hollywood script, where one person “fixes” another, because that really doesn’t happen. But a person can have the tremendous ability to influence another toward faith and hope, to fan the flame of an innate desire to choose to walk toward healing.

Handled with Care

There are hundreds of things I could tell you about my husband. What I have chosen to share here is a trait we underestimate. It is frequently overlooked and misunderstood. In a world growing ever cruel, it is a lost art.

My husband is kind. And that makes him exceptional. He chose to stand nearby in the field of my world and sorrow, somehow able to see the ghost of a spirit that once lived and the fiery fear that currently reigned and needed to be handled with care. His kindness stirred a frozen place in my heart that had lost hope—in my story, in love, and in myself.

When we got engaged, many people commented on how lucky I was. They likened him to a “kinsmen redeemer,” willing to take my past upon his back and extend a gracious love with an understood “in spite of.” Admittedly it did not feel good. While I genuinely agreed with a layer of that perspective, I had the distinct feeling they saw him as the better person willing to love the lesser person. Here is the reason why our relationship has lifted me toward healing rather than falling into the pitfall of shame: he has never once made me feel that way.

My husband has treated my story and my bruises with kindness. His intellect is sharp, and he could bench press our family (I know this because he actually has done it, accompanied by the thunderous laughter and sheer delight of our handful of toddlers). He carries physical and intellectual strength with the capacity to overwhelm me, but he chooses to use such strength to care for my heart.

A friend recently showed me an article written by Gary Thomas with recommended traits to look for in a spouse. The first on the list is kindness. I hadn’t seen this before. Perhaps we have forgotten or neglected its power, influence, and saving grace. This messy journey called life takes us through the exciting, the mundane, the beautiful, and the wearisome. We need kindness in them all. It continues to provide a balm to the cracks in my spirit, both old and new. No, I will never be without scars, but kindness has provided an unexpected luminosity to the previously sharp and angry lines of the breaks.

Bolder Than We Think

A few years ago I was enjoying dinner with friends. I described my husband’s parenting as kind. It was a compliment. I am grateful every day that the father of my children treats them with care; he would rather manifest his strength and authority in grace than through consequence. To my surprise, a dinner guest swiftly and strongly scolded me for publicly emasculating my husband.

Is it possible that in our earnest desire to protect against a legitimate concern for emasculation, we have overreached? By no means does kindness imply a lack of strength. On the contrary, it takes self-control to resist the impulses of our humanity and choose compassion, not merely when things are pleasant but when they are downright hard. It takes intention to extend a hand in the face of conflict. It requires maturity to offer kindness with sincerity rather than in manipulation. It takes wisdom to know what makes kindness distinct from passivity, for there is a grand difference. It requires discipline to demonstrate this throughout your life. It takes strength and confidence to put another’s well-being before personal interests. Kindness is critical to extending a love that enriches, emboldens, and endures. That is both masculine and feminine enough for all of us to admire, seek, and cultivate.

Through kindness the Kenites succeeded in saving their very lives; it so impacted King Saul that he warned the Kenites to flee so they would not be destroyed when he attacked the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:1-6). Rahab’s act of kindness won her the loyalty of Joshua’s spies, leading them to declare “our life for yours even to death,” and promising to show the same kindness to her family in the wake of battle (Joshua 2). Kindness is the second attribute listed for love in the famous passage of 1 Corinthians 13. It is named throughout Scripture as an attribute of God himself, including the beautiful Ephesians 2:5-7. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (English Standard Version).

Perhaps kindness is bolder than we think. To anyone seeking a hero, a friend, a partner, I would suggest that kindness makes the difference between a relationship that is life-giving and one that can leave you with wounds that long for healing.

My husband is a hero. Because he can hold and behold things that are broken. Because he knew even what couldn’t be fixed could still be loved and valued. He has that kind of kindness, that kind of vision. This has added beauty to my story, affecting the way I live with all of my story. It is helping this horse think I could run, and some days, be brave enough to try.

Naomi Zacharias is an author, speaker, and director of Wellspring International, the humanitarian arm of RZIM that provides international support for at-risk women and children.

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5 Comments

  1. Sieglinde England July 22, 2016 at 9:17 AM - Reply

    What a beautiful woman you are! This article brought me to tears. Kindness is one of the greatest of compliments!
    And, just so you know how valuable YOU are……..
    I was given a dream about you a couple of years ago. Because of that dream, I am now a supporter of Wellspring International. Thank you for your vulnerability, honesty and courage. This story has ministered to me on a personal level. And it will minister to many others.

    God bless you!

  2. Kristjana Cook July 22, 2016 at 1:41 PM - Reply

    What a beautiful piece of writing, Naomi! You regularly inspire me, and I am so blessed to know you. Your words of grace and strength in your vulnerability are a gift. I truly
    Believe that the more we share our scars and fears, the quicker they heal and become, in some ways, the strongest part of us. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story and thank you for the reminder that kindness is one of the greatest aspects of love!

  3. Tim Ramos July 22, 2016 at 4:05 PM - Reply

    “Is it possible that in our earnest desire to protect against a legitimate concern for emasculation, we have overreached? By no means does kindness imply a lack of strength. On the contrary, it takes self-control to resist the impulses of our humanity and choose compassion, not merely when things are pleasant but when they are downright hard.”

    Thank you for expressing this. Especially in a third-world country where I am from, even women who have had domineering and unreasonable husbands will judge men who seek to be kind to their spouses as browbeaten, weak and henpecked.

  4. STEPHANIE ANDERSON July 23, 2016 at 8:07 PM - Reply

    Naomi, I LOVE this writing; really LOVE IT!!

    I have a QUERY for you, because QUESTIONING is what I do. I LOVE your FATHER because ANSWERING QUERIES is what he does like NO OTHER.

    Perhaps when you pen the SACRED SEQUEL you might tackle the QUESTION that was gestating from the time you introduced the BROKEN HORSE that your life became, and the impact of your HORSE WHISPERER. I didn’t want the STORY to end as I looked ahead and saw that I was running out of WORDS.

    Thankfully and conveniently, you set up my QUESTION in your final words:

    “Because he knew EVEN WHAT COULDN’T BE FIXED could still be loved and valued. He has that kind of kindness, THAT KIND OF VISION. This has added beauty to my story, affecting THE WAY I LIVE WITH all of my story. IT IS HELPING this horse think I could run, and some days, be brave enough to try.”

    I admit to wanting to KNOW the END of the STORY that could very well have several chapters yet to be lived. My QUERY is nonetheless like that FIRE in my HEART of the JEREMIAH sort, and I would be WEARY of HOLDING it in, so here you have it:

    Is the BROKEN thing really something that “COULDN’T BE FIXED”? I would imagine that the COWBOY in the SONG, as he SAT QUIETLY, PATIENTLY and KINDLY, he did so with a KIND of VISION. His VISION would have been FULL RESTORATION to a WHOLENESS intended for this ANIMAL before DISTRUST became its NEW NORMAL. He just seems like a guy who would NEVER settle for ALMOST there.

    Man’s VISION is necessarily an ABBREVIATED version of G-D’s VISION for His CREATION. Beauty has been ADDED to your STORY and the HORSE has RESPONDED to the COWBOY’S touch. I LOVE your CHOICE of WORDS in the very LAST sentence where you wrote, “It s HELPING this HORSE …”

    I am reminded of King Jame’s-ese in all the many places where G-D’s CHARACTER is described by his ACTIONS in words such as: he SAVETH, DELIVERETH, HEALETH, CLEANSETH, HELPETH, etc. I’ll add a for instance here:

    “Then THEY CRY unto the LORD IN THEIR TROUBLE, and HE SAVETH them OUT OF THEIR DISTRESSES.” [Psalm 107:19]

    I love ALL of these places in the KING JAMES because they ENCOURAGE and REASSURE that He SAVES us ONCE and then He is straight away ready to SAVE US AGAIN, and this He does. He HEALS us, and is WILLING and ABLE to HEAL us again.

    In so MANY places it is RECORDED that what is BEST and INFALLIBLE at getting the attention of G-D is when His own people CRY OUT to HIM.

    When we CRY unto Him BELIEVING that He is WHO He says He is, and He can DO what He SAYS He CAN DO, then He is DELIGHTED in us.

    “COULDN’T BE FIXED, CAN’T BE FIXED, WON’T BE FIXED, CAN BE FIXED HALF-WAY” are not in the VOCABULARY of the G-D we SERVE.

    When we CRY out to HIM, believing that there is yet a BALM in GILEAD, He HELPETH, CLEANSETH, HEALETH, DELIVERETH and SAVETH us to the UTTERMOST.

    When we LET G-D BE G-D, the pressure is taken completely away from the HORSE WHISPERER!!

    It is DONE, in JESUS’ Name!!

    I’m EXCITED about the SEQUEL. Go and buy those BOOTS!!

    BLESSINGS, SHALOM & AGAPE!!

  5. Christine Clewell July 23, 2016 at 9:12 PM - Reply

    Dear Naomi,
    Thank you for sharing this powerful and critical message of kindness. I too was grateful to read that a servant of Christ like you would endure the “death of two divorces”. I have met few woman who have endured this kind of loss. Healing has come because the Lord has been faitful as I seek to serve Him with forgiveness for others, and myself. By God’s grace, I have experienced healing and friendship with these men, despite the dissolutons. So yes, beyond the sorrow, disappointments and recognizing brokeness, I am encouraged by your words for how the Lord still work His good in my life, and could provide a kind man who will minister love and value me, and my son. I will trust the Lord to work His good and perfect will for my life, and that of my son’s. Since my 19 year old son was a baby, I have been praying for him and who he will marry when that time comes. Kindness has been a recurring. priority item on my prayer list for who his wife should be. May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry for speaking the truth with authenticity and candor like that of your father. Thank you Naomi, and RZIM ministries.

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