Spices, staff and slow drivers–everyday opportunities on the way to loving life.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8 ESV – link)
Harmony, unity of mind, is a musical term describing how individual notes fit together to make something bigger. The Christian community should have a unity, a harmony within it. In verse 10 of this chapter Peter quoted from Psalm 34 saying those who wanted to love live and see good days should behave a certain way. Harmony among people is part of that. Easier said than done it is.
It also can be difficult to connect the word harmony to where we live our lives so let me relate a story that happens around our dinner table. One of my kids is 17 years old right now. He loves things hot and so his mama (grandmonther) for Christmas 2015 got him a spice grinder. “Pirates Bite” it was called. Click the link if you want the bite, but that strays. The point arises out of the lid that came with that little spice grinder. My son can be rather annoyed when the top is left off of the spice grinder, “as he has seen it many times” he emphasizes. Well, I have roasted coffee and know about the nuances of specialty beans, but I claim no knowledge of specialty spices. My notion, skeptical as it unfortunately is, whispers in my ear, “it is not important.” Well maybe it is and maybe it is not. What is important is harmony. It is much the better if I let him sing the melody of the closed spice grinder with me harmonizing by quietly, routinely, matter of factly helping in the closed spice grinder initiative.
What about sympathy? We have all heard of this and probably can come up with some words to describe it. On occasion though things are easier grasped that described so let me tell you another story of mine. I am a driven fellow. I don’t like to sit and “be” as my wife likes to call it. I can strive against it, but it is not my shape (otherwise why would I have a blog, etc.?) Anyway in one of my clinics (a prison actually) the day is set up so that when the work is done one can leave. I can find times where there are people who wish to come in and review nuances at great length. I think for some of them working through nuances are critical, but I just want to finish the clinic. Sympathy for me is an active thing. Sympathy in that circumstance requires a slowing down, a listening and a smiling. It can sometimes be a mask, but a mask worn because of lessons of God will eventually shape the face that way (I think C.S. Lewis described it that way).
What about compassion on the freeways of one’s town? A driver that is not moving along briskly should be in the right lane. “After all,” says my duty structured brain, “that’s the law!” Well, I have family members who do not progress down the street quickly. There are many people with a near infinite variety of circumstances which may keep them where I am trying to be. Compassion should mitigate anger. Compassion should lead to the gentle response with the rough edges or rough ways of others. If I can upon arriving behind a slow driver take a medium sized breath, lift the foot from the accelerator, remember verses like this one, pray and tell myself, “be as compassionate as absolutely possible,” an improvement develops; a situation better for the person and for myself will arrive. A seeing of good days and a loving of life is the more possible.
Tenderness, brotherly love, other things are a part of these lessons. They are to be life shapes, or maybe a way of shaping oneself to life’s events. Those shapes are not to be rigid but responsive; not ritual but ready.