May 28, 2014 - I absolutely love this time of the year in Michigan. We get to celebrate another winter being behind us, and there are great holidays to enjoy with family; such as Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, and my birthday.
Alright, so my birthday isn't a national holiday, but chances are you were very mindful of Mother's Day at least.
This year I watched as four generations of my family, enjoyed being with one another, great grandparents playing with their great grandkids.
As I was enjoying every minute of watching four generations interact with one another, I began to think about all the various people who have made a difference in my life.
I wish there was a special day to recognize the people who have given of themselves and invested into our lives beyond the usual holidays that place people into specific categories.
As I began to reflect even more deeply into the lives of those I truly admire, I began to realize each individual is vastly different from one another.
They are all individuals who represent different socio-economic statuses, educational levels, ethnicities, and home lives.
Although, there were many differences among them, there were also some common denominators as well. What they all shared in common was that they all invested a lot of quality time in my life, and displayed to me, love, grace, and forgiveness as needed.
I have learned an important lesson in life you can't give what you don't have. So, I am going to apply that same logic to the people who have had the greatest impact on my life.
In order to love, they must have received love, in order to invest time in someone's life, they need to have time to give, in order to forgive, they must have been forgiven.
The problem with my list was I knew there were some who didn't grow up with love in their homes.
Others had their past, constantly brought up before them, so how were they able to forgive?
I decided I needed answers to my questions and that could only be done by asking the individuals directly themselves, "how can you love after growing up in the home that showed you no love?"
"I am able to love because I have received the love that God gives."
The same type of answer came from a friend who had overcome a troubled past, "I am able to forgive because I understand just how forgiven I am."
I went through the list of the most influential people a second time and recognized they were all individuals who because they had received what they did not deserve from God, known as grace, they were able to extend to others what they might not have deserved too.
James 1:17 says: "every good gift comes from above."
God doesn't give bad gifts. The kind of stuff God gives; the love, joy, peace, forgiveness, grace, that is found in Him, is what was needed to overcome their lack in that area of their lives.
God had transformed their lives into the people they have become; forgiven people who forgive, loved people who love, healed people who no longer hurt, and who introduce people to the Great Healer of our souls.
I am grateful for the people whom God has redeemed, restored and used as beautiful reflections of His light and His love. So, I am wondering, who are the people who have impacted your life? How can we show our appreciation to them? Maybe we all should rally together and start a new Holiday, a You Made a Difference in My Life Day.
The Rev. Dr. Matthew Webster is pastor of First Congregational Church of Clarkston.