God seems to like the layered look – at least, when He tells us what to put on, there are many “garments” involved. What I notice is that they are all outward looking, that is, about others. So as we dress ourselves, we are putting on qualities or attributes that have us focused on others. A person focused on himself is never happy. We were made to be a blessing to God and to others. And when we are, we experience happiness.
Compassion is the first item we are to put on. It is defined in the dictionary as: “a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” There is compassion concerning the big things in life (such as poverty, slavery, human trafficking, abortion) that might move us to action, whether contributing money, time or energy to help or deal with the suffering of others, but there is compassion concerning things of daily life – compassion for a friend, co-worker, or fellow student who is going through some difficulty that might make us give up our plans and spend time listening or helping instead.
Or how about a family member? You know, those closest to us whom we take for granted? A husband who has been at the daily grind of work all week and simply wants to stay home, while the wife has been in the house all week and wants to get out! Can we have compassion on his situation and give up our “wants” with grace, so that he can rest up and recharge? Or a sick child who has us up in the night – of course we’re going to take care of him/her, but can I have compassion for their suffering and not resent my lack of sleep? It’s in these less glamorous situations that we can choose to “wear,” to “put on” compassion.
Kindness is pretty self-explanatory. I think we know when we have acted kindly, or the opposite, in a mean way. Our words, our oh-so-powerful words, can be kind or mean, resulting in “bringing life” or “bringing death” to people.
Humility and meekness are closely related – in the dictionary, the synonyms for both are much the same. They are the opposite of boastful, proud, making much of oneself.
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines “meek” as: “having or showing a quiet and gentle nature : not wanting to fight or argue with other people,” and “humble” as: “not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people.”
The Bible actually says that God opposes the proud, and gives grace to the humble. There’s motivation for you! Who wants God to be opposing us? Having God give us grace is far the better choice!
Some ways to “put on” these characteristics are: not insisting on our own way, not correcting others about details when they are telling about something that happened, “No it wasn’t four years ago, it was five!” (Does it really matter? Does it change the point of the story?). Or how about when your husband says as you leave your house, “Drive carefully!” and instead of saying in an annoyed voice “I always do!” or “I haven’t killed our kids, yet!” or just wondering “Does he really think if he doesn’t tell me to drive carefully, I will drive recklessly?”, you say, “Thanks, I will”.
The next “garment”that we are to put on is patience. This is defined as “able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people” I think this can only be “put on” by trusting God. Trusting God that even though you are stuck behind a slow driver, that it’s going to be okay. Looking to God for that difficult situation that doesn’t seem to be going away or getting better quickly. Trusting God that He “has it,” He is in control and His timing is perfect. Looking to God to help you deal with (and even love) that difficult person, and trusting that He is in fact using him/her in your life to make you reflect God better.
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” I love that the Bible is so real and practical! If we have anything to do with people – if we live with people, if we work with people, there are times when we will have to “bear” with them, ’cause they are annoying us, and we will have to “forgive” them, because they wrong us in some way, be it big or small. It’s just what happens. So we bear with them, we put up with them, even as they are to bear with us! And we forgive them. Period. Because God has forgiven us so much more!
A few years ago, I had my children memorize Colossians 3: 12 – 17. I told them if we just lived out those verses, we would be living in an ideal world. We could begin today. Since I wrote Part I of this blog last week, I have been asking God each morning to help me put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, to help me bear with others and forgive them. I guess you can ask my family how I am doing. 🙂
(The next garment we are to put on is love, but that will have to wait for next time!)