My mom received a note from a lady who had met me at a conference. I barely remember her, but I remember that day. I had only gotten one hour of sleep the night before and was praying for strength just to get through the conference. I didn’t really want to meet anyone, and I wanted to get home! To my surprise, the author of the note thought I was full of joy and helpfulness.
Here’s my sister and me holding some babies at a celebration in Fort Collins.
See, Lydia and I helped with her newborn baby. Personally, I have only a vague memory of it. The note said I was “Christlike” and “gracious.” But I certainly didn’t feel that way at the time.
That passage where Jesus talks about not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing has always confused me. One of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, meditates on this in The Cost of Discipleship:
“From whom are we to hide the visibility of our discipleship? Certainly not from other men, for we are told to let them see our light. No, we are to hide it from ourselves…we must be unaware of our own righteousness.
“…The Christian is a light unto the world, not because of any quality of his own, but only because he follows Christ and looks solely to him…If you do good, you must not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, you must be quite unconscious of it. Otherwise you are simply displaying your own virtue, and not that which has its source in Jesus Christ…the genuine work of love is always a hidden work.”
You know what I think? Amazing. God (not me) touched someone’s life. I wasn’t even aware of my own actions. I was behaving so that my right hand didn’t know what my left hand was doing. Come to think of it, we’re at our very best if we never realize that we even did a good work. I was just moving along, tired and praying for strength, and unbeknown to me, God’s graciousness won the day.
Bonhoeffer concludes with this:
“If we become conscious of our hidden virtue, we are forging our own reward, instead of that which God had intended to give us in his own good time.”
I’ve already received my full reward for what happened at that homeschool conference; it’s out in the open now. Perfect. Jesus said that those who parade their good works have already gotten praise from the world, but what is done in secret and is seen by God will be rewarded openly by Him. If I would have known what my right hand was doing, I would have likely been all puffed up and proud about it, and that would have been my reward. Far from perfect.
Sometimes God likes to teach me things with a hint of irony.