At the end of April, 29 of us gathered by Smith Mountain Lake to eat, drink, laugh, talk and simply be together. The first night, as we selected temporary tattoos to start off our time together, I looked at all of the options on the table and a small infinity sign caught my eye. Within the symbol was the word kindness, written in small cursive letters. After my annual announcement that these last for a week (and to think twice before putting it on your forehead), I chose neverending kindness. Kindness in the midst of infinity, on the inside of my wrist.
This year, we talked about friendship. We talked about what makes a good friend and how important a good friend is. We talked about how we struggle sometimes to be that good friend, and how we might be better. We talked about how friendships influence our faith and how our faith can so deeply influence our relationships.
I found myself glancing at my new tattoo more often. What makes a good friend? A lot of things, but kindness is right up there. Kindness is something everyone deserves, and kindness is something everyone can give. Every time I looked at my wrist, I was reminded of how important kindness is, and how I often fall short of it in my own relationships. By the time my tattoo rubbed off, I had formed a new intention to put kindness at the forefront of my own friendships: Always Kindness.
I wonder which tattoo you would have picked. Would it have been abundance scrawled on the top of your foot, or maybe It’s ok to not be ok on your forearm? Thankful, or love on your calf, or perhaps even I am enough in the center of your chest.
What word do you need to dwell on as the summer begins? Do you need a daily reminder of the abundance that God provides us? Do you need a reminder that, even in the depths of annoyance, to be kind? Do you need to trust more, or love more deeply?
Maybe you’re not ok, and need to know that’s ok. Or maybe you need the simplicity of the words “I am enough.” What word would speak to you in this very moment?
—The Reverend Whitney Burton
We worship a God who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
God never said, “Come to me, but with this proviso: don’t approach me until you’ve got all your ducks in a row and then maybe, just maybe, we will talk.”
Come as you are. In this year’s women’s retreat, we discussed how coming to friendships as we are – in our authenticity and vulnerability — is important to forming, deepening and sustaining them.
This approach is no less important to our friendship with God. We only need come as we are with God, our good shepherd. We don’t have to present our best selves, our mastery of this or that or our good deeds to God and hope, only then, that God will love us. Nor do we need hide our shame, failings or disappointments from our God. It’s the tax collector who beat his breast and cried out, “Have mercy on me, a sinner” who draws close to God (Luke 18:13). It’s the hemorrhaging woman who pleads, “if I but touch his clothes, I will be made well,” who is healed by Jesus (Mark 5:28).
Jesus met and loved people as they were: people who were sick with leprosy and fever, people who were paralyzed, people who were blind and mute; and his disciples, who doubted and were afraid – all people who were just like you and me. Jesus unequivocally meets and loves today all who approach him just as they are.
We can turn to God in confession, in thanksgiving, in adoration, and be assured we are met with a love that surpasses all understanding.