Working in the garden earlier this week, with my trusty littlest sidekick, we had a very exciting visitor, complete with his own mobile home and, while we attempted to name our little friend, he will forever be known, quite simply, as Snail. He may not have been very big, or moving very fast, but his short visit taught us a very worthwhile lesson.
As we watched the little Snail slide across the grass, we noticed that he was leaving a shiny trail behind him, showing very clearly the path that he had travelled. We may not be snails, but, in some ways we are like them. We may not have tenticles or carry our houses on our backs, but we leave our own little trails wherever we go, too. But, what kind of trails do we leave?
I’m sure there are times when we leave trails that show us at our very best and in a way, they are a bit like the one the Snail leaves, bright and shiny. Those are the times when we are kind and patient, when we behave they way we should and we leave the best impression we can.
But, I bet there are probably also times that we would like to be able to go back and wash away the trail we’ve left, making it disappear as though it had never been there in the first place. The times when we get angry or huffy; when we throw a tantrum, or say or do mean things. The times when we think more about ourselves than other people. Times, when we look back on them, that we really wish we could do differently.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all done things we are glad that we did but, there are also times that I’m sure we all regret. So, what can we do to help us leave a trail that we are proud of and don’t mind others seeing?
When Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, he wanted to give the people advice on how they should live and so, he helped them to think about how they should behave by comparing it to something they would understand and something we can too: getting dressed!
In The Message translation of Colossians 3 verses 12 – 14, here’s what we read:
‘So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.’
The instructions aren’t complicated, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to follow, because sin makes us want to do everything to please ourselves. It can be really easy for us to think that we deserve to have our own way, that God has no right to tell us how to treat anyone and that He couldn’t possibly understand how we feel when someone lets us down, hurts us, annoys or angers us, but in Ephesians 4 verse 32, Paul reminded the people, and us too, of a very important reason for being kind and forgiving:
‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God forgave you.’
There’s the thing we so easily forget: God forgives us constantly, even when we let him down and don’t act or behave or speak or think as we should – He loved us so much that He allowed Jesus to take the punishment that should have been ours, even before we were born, knowing that we would mess up and let Him down. How can He tell us to be kind and loving and forgiving to those around us? Because He is kind and loving and forgiving to us. Every. Single. Day! How grateful we should be for His continual love and forgiveness.
So, if we want to leave a trail behind us that we are proud of, as well as remembering to ‘dress’ in all the right ways and to be loving and forgiving, I think Matthew 7 verse 12 probably gives us the simplest, most straightforward lesson in how we should act:
‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’
Let’s do our best, every day, to be like the Snail and, let’s leave behind a little trail that glistens in the sunlight and shows that even though we may not be perfect, we are doing the very best that we can to live a life of love.