This brought me up short. I love my mother. But I do not love taking care of her. The precious young woman who uttered these words is 25 years my junior, and her day (and night) job consists of taking care of her five month old twins who were born prematurely and have special needs.
I often experience an uncomfortable suspicion that I am not as good or Godly a person as I ought to be, and when I encounter such Holy Spirit fed sweetness as exhibited by Melinda's friend, I become certain of it.
This same young woman went on to say, ""I love your mom already and I haven't even met her. She has such a great way of expressing what she has to say."
In response to this kind comment I wrote the following message to my daughter via an email:
I appreciate your friend's kind words. Thank you for passing them along. I am, of course, more likable via a medium (my writing) in which one doesn't have to live with me from day-to-day. But there truly is a lot of me in the book, and because it was written with a daily prayer that it be for God's glory, the portion of me that is apparent through my writing is the part that will remain when God's refining fire gets done with me. So, your dear friend will recognize me right away when she meets me in Heaven, but stands a good chance of being unpleasantly surprised if she meets me before then! Meantime, it is sweet that she loves the person I will someday be. I love her back."
All of this brought to mind a truth the Lord has been speaking to me for some time; whenever we place our confidence in fellow human beings, we will eventually be disappointed. As a woman of God (sometimes) and a Christian author, I have more than once had the sad experience of seeing disillusionment in the eyes of someone who had admired me or looked to me as a role model. This can happen when I am overheard snapping at my husband, or being flippant, or responding with angry or hurtful words in response to some small hurt; but sometimes it happens through no sin of mine at all, merely as a reaction to the revelation that I am human. We don't like to see our role models fall from their pedestals.
A few years ago I learned that a pastor I overheard speaking harshly to his wife on a Saturday afternoon nevertheless had some Holy Spirit fueled instruction for me from the pulpit on the following Sunday morning. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the pool of perfect people from which God has to choose contains no members. Once we become legitimate members of the family of God through the forgiveness that is ours in Christ, God begins to use us for His Holy purposes even while He is in the process of burning away the dross. And so it becomes necessary for us to recognize that God can use imperfect people to instruct or to help us, and that He can use us--while we are yet sinners--to help others. We don't have to wait to be perfect to be of use to God, and we don't have to wait for our authority figures and role models to be perfect in order to learn from them. As Christians we are not perfect, we are only in the process of being perfected.
Scripture: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
"Far better to take refuge in God than to trust in people" (Psalm 118:9, The Message).