Today’s post is written by our Brave Artist Toni Imsen
I found myself in the dentist office waiting for my son’s appointment to be over. It was supposed to be a two hour appointment, which ended up being 5 HOURS. I was tired, hungry and temporarily isolated from the world because there was no internet available and only intermittent phone service where I was. There was no one in the waiting room but me.
In some ways it was great, as an introvert, I enjoy alone time, time to think. This day was different because I had a lot of work waiting for me this day and I was a little anxious. About a lot of things. I wasn’t sure why. Yet…
My son came out of his dentist office room, only for a few minutes so everyone could take a break from this dental marathon. It had been a really long time.
Then it happened. It took me off guard. It shouldn’t have.
One of the nurses came out and told Daniel, “I would like to buy you something to eat, what would you like? I’ll go anywhere for you.” Daniel was as surprised as I was. He took her up on her offer, as many of you know, boys don’t turn down food! The nurse went to one of his favorite places and brought him back his meal. She had no expectation of repayment or applause. It was straight up thoughtfulness and generosity. Daniel was very appreciative and thankful, so was I. He ate it and then went back in for more dentistry. We both commented on the kindness of this random act, for the rest of the day neither one of us could forget about it.
I thought to myself, “How refreshing to be considered and honored like that.” I began to cry sitting in that lobby. I am not much of a crier, so that was odd. And then I had a revelation, one I didn’t want to have.
I realized it had been a really long time since I felt like was on the RECEIVING end of a random act of kindness. One without STRINGS. An act of kindness without EXPECTATIONS. A thoughtful gesture minus any thoughts of FAVORS I may give in return.
I wasn’t expecting the punch-in-the-stomach reaction I had to that revelation. Tears really began to flow then. I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten.
It is a normal event for me to buy a meal for someone, to do something random without any thoughts of returned benefits, and I live a lifestyle where those things are more common than rare. So when this happened to me that day, I realized that some (by no means all or even many) of the people who’ve done things for me in this season of my life, have done so with a MOTIVE and AGENDA.
I felt so grieved. I felt so used. I felt like a commodity rather than a person.
There I said it. In print. The revelation. I’ve been on the wrong end of impure motives, selfish agendas, unreasonable expectations, and attitudes of entitlement. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts.
You would think, in my life of occupational church ministry that people would be kind, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.
Perhaps my own false expectations set me up. In fact, I am sure they did.
I wish I could say it was different. I wish I could say that all people were generous, thoughtful and had the best interest of others in mind. I wish I could make the assumption that people’s hearts are pure and genuine. I can’t even guarantee that about my own heart.
For the most part people are very kind and considerate and legitimately loving. But there are some… Not so much.
I by no means serve people with the idea that I should be rewarded or have some sort of favor because of what I do as a minister of God. I do so because of a love for God and a call to honor him with my life. If it were anywhere on my radar or in my heart to expect accolades or desire fame and credit, I would have chosen something different to do with my life, believe me, it is an often thankless and exhausting job. But, God chose ME, called ME and I answered. End of story. It has never been an easy road in all the 25 years of serving Christ. Nor did I expect it to be glamorous or comfortable.
Disappointment has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. And it did just that.
I apologize in advance to those I may be offending, thinking, “Wow, I was so kind to her, could she be referring to me?” If you are concerned about how I feel, it probably isn’t you. You still see me as a human being with a life and feelings. You probably don’t see me through a filter of what I can do for you. In fact, you are probably even surprised that this could even possibly be a reality, for anyone in my situation. I bless you and thank you for the genuine relationship we share.
As for me, I generally keep short accounts with God. I forgive others on a regular basis, keeping my heart offense free. As far as it is up to me, I am straight forward, direct with others and don’t play games (sometimes that is misinterpreted). I do make every intentional effort to keep the air clear with all people as much as possible.
I generally don’t sweat the small stuff and give people the benefit of the doubt. Frankly, I know, I can’t afford to have that weight as a spiritual noose around my neck and neither can anyone else. No one can expect to live in the fullness of life with that kind of bondage choking the life out of them. Life is too short and there is too much to celebrate to be caught up in nonsense and drama.
That is why I surprised I didn’t even know these things had been stockpiling and were more heavy on my heart than I could recognize or articulate. I didn’t know disappointment packed a punch and pain is sneaky. I did not expect the flood of emotions and bad experiences to flood my heart and mind that day in the dentist office.
I am actually glad those things made an appearance. It gave me the opportunity to unpack and discard baggage I couldn’t see, reconcile underlying issues I didn’t know were controlling me, and that experience propelled me to move forward unchained and filter free.
No one said living in this world with other people would be easy, but I can choose to release grace, extend kindness and live fear free. I choose to live consciously, engage purposefully and operate deliberately.
I can choose to smell the jasmine, enjoy the sunset, and receive the goodness that comes with freedom.
I can BE FREE.
Toni is an artist, an author and an activist who spends her time creating works of art to bring love and light to the world. She writes with a purpose to encourage and empower humanity. Toni married her wonderful husband in 1990, is the mother of 3 beautiful human beings, and the grandmother of 1. Toni is an ordained minister, a business leader, and a former homemaker. You may visit her website at Toniimsen.com.