Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise one glory in wisdom; let not the mighty one boast in strength; let not the rich glory in wealth; but let those who glory, glory in this: that one understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
I don’t know about you, but if someone asked me if I really understood and knew God, I would be foolish to say yes. I suppose over the years I’ve learned something about God and myself, but to think about giving an unequivocal affirmation to that question makes me tremble.
In the passage from Jeremiah above I find a warning against boasting in my so-called wisdom, strength, or wealth (not that I have much any of those). Jeremiah knows that while we can’t possibly understand and know God like we might understand and know our spouses or children or friends, Jeremiah says that there are three things that tickle the Lord. He says that if we want to begin to understand God, then we should try observing, perhaps even practicing, the things that make God smile.
The first thing that tickles the Lord, that makes God smile, is when God’s grace moves us to act with loving kindness, not to our own household necessarily, but to the “unlikely other.” God delights in such kindness. It tickles God when we allow the Spirit to pour out God’s grace in kindness.
The second thing that tickles God, that makes God smile, is when God’s grace moves us to act with justice. Justice is a hard thing to understand in a world where injustice is accepted and commonplace. So before our hearts can be quickened by God for acts of justice, we have to awakened by God to the reality of injustice in our own hearts. “Take away my heart of stone, Lord, and give me a heart of flesh!”
The third thing that tickles God, that makes God smile, is when God’s grace moves us to desire righteousness. We can desire a lot of things, but when we desire goodness in light of what God has done for us, even though we’ll never be perfect, that’s where it starts. Righteousness means choosing to do the next right thing throughout the day. Then, at the end of the day, the reward is a sound and peaceful sleep.
So how does one know if, in doing those three things above, if God is actually smiling? Obviously we won’t see it directly. But we will see it coming back at us in the faces, the smiles, the demeanor, and the gratitude that people extend in return. Try it. You’ll see.
Rev. Dr. David Kaiser-Cross
For our neighbors:
God, grant me your grace to be aware and mindful of the impact I have on those around me this week, and allow me to experience your smile in the faces of those with whom I interact. Amen.