Last week was another amazing week at Mission Serve. Mission Serve is an organization that brings together student groups from multiple states to join together to impact people in need in various communities. Last week over 250 students and leaders gathered in Robbinsville, NC to help build handicap ramps, put new shingles on homes, and paint and repair as needed. It was an amazing week that proved what teenagers today are capable of.
During a special prayer service last week, we meditated on a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me and instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, let me grant pardon;
Where there is doubt; let me have faith
Where there is despair, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, let me be light
And where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
It’s a simple prayer, written over 800 years ago, but it still resonates powerfully for our world today. The most common reaction we have as people is to hate those who hate us, to return injury for injury. We get dragged under by waves of doubt, and allow despair to cloud our vision. St. Francis’ prayer is a reminder that our faith is not to be reactionary. If we wait to react to what the world around us does, we will end up making decisions that are not consistent with what we say we believe. The Christian life is a proactive life.
Loving those who hate us is only possible if we commit ahead of time to love. Our natural reaction when we are hated is to become defensive and to strike back. It’s only when we anticipate that hatred will come at times, and decide long before it arrives to meet it with love, that we have any chance of sowing love where hatred exists.
I would love for my life to be defined by peace, love, forgiveness, hope, light, and joy. But the only chance we have to embrace those things is to determine ahead of time that they will be our goal. An amazing thing about proactivity is that it eventually improves our reactivity. When we embrace joy and love and forgiveness over time, it begins to be our new normal. When that happens we are more likely to handle those unexpected challenges that life throws at us more effectively.