At this point in my day, I am tired. Not sleepy or weary, but fall-asleep-sitting-up tired. I spend my days interacting, guiding, and corralling 130 middle school students. I hear language I don’t care to repeat and subtle put-downs rolling off innocent tongues with little thought to how those words fall on others’ ears. I stumble through the door, snuggle my two little boys for a bit, prepare dinner, wash dishes, make lunches, do baths, and snuggle again at bedtime. My head aches with a thousand things I wanted to say at work but couldn’t. My spirit withers under the stress of knowing that some of my students don’t go home to love and safety. So I hug my little ones a bit tighter and count my blessings, even when all my earthly body wants to do it collapse on my bed.
The more I count blessings, the more I see them all around me. In this week’s episode of When Calls the Heart, Bill Avery warns Abigail that her “greatest fault” is her kindness. He only sees the possible threat and vulnerability Abigail creates for herself. He doesn’t see the blessing that she is to others, or the blessing she receives by acting in kindness. Don’t get me wrong, I know that turning the other cheek can result in some serious outcomes, but more often than not, turning the other cheek and choosing to bless our friends and enemies with kindness builds a bridge of blessings that we never thought possible.
In offering your friendship, and giving kindness where others would turn a cold shoulder, we are living the second greatest commandment ever given: Matthew 22:37-38 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
To love another person, to choose their needs over your own, is one of the most important tasks God calls us to fulfill. By so doing, we begin to see sprouts of blessing emerge from the darkness. These become the blessings we count on those days when life becomes too much too handle.
Over the past years, Abigail could have turned a cold shoulder to Henry Gowen. In fact, she came near to giving up on his redemption, but at the beginning of season 4, she gave him another chance. What Abigail has yet to realize is that her kindness has come back as a blessing: Gowen protected Abigail from getting involved in the railroad’s schemes. He warned her to stay away from it. She understood, as Brian Bird put it, that “holding onto secret wounds, and hurts, and grudges is a recipe for disunity.” Through letting go of hurts, Abigail has built a bridge of blessings between herself, her town, and her nemesis.
We all know that Elizabeth blessed her students beyond even her own hopes and dreams. With the short stay of little Opal in this week’s episode, Elizabeth sees the bridge of blessings under construction in her own life. While choosing to care for Opal in her parents’ absence, Elizabeth sets her hurts aside to love her littlest neighbor. In return, Elizabeth receives a blessing as well. Opal reminds her that she is a blessing, and that “God is watching over Mountie Jack, too.”
How do we become the blessings that we wish to see in our own lives? How did Abigail leave behind the hurts and choose to love? How did Opal know the words to say that would bless her precious Miss Thatcher, the woman who had already been a blessing to so many? Simple. Brian Bird put it best when he said “Be an open book and let the people you love write in your pages.” The only way to build a bridge of blessings is to share our hurts and pain with others. Abigail didn’t hold onto the hurts of those early days in season one; she shared them in fellowship with a community who could love her through them. Now, Elizabeth hasn’t shut herself away from the world, hiding in a shadow of emptiness and fear. Instead, she continues to love her neighbor even in the midst of her own heartache. She shares her sadness with others who empathize, from Opal to Rosemary to Abigail.
This is a challenge to myself, and maybe to you, as well. Love your neighbor, nemesis or friend. With those you do love, be an open book. Share the pain and heartache, as well as the triumphs and joys. In the sharing, we learn to let go of the bad and hold onto the good. We build bridges of blessing, which we can reconstruct, stone by stone, when we count each one at night, on those days when we are near collapse and need to see God’s hand in our lives.