By Katrine Calder
Last October one of my good friends committed suicide unexpectedly. She was a vet who was struggling with her mental health and had been working with Vetlife, a charity who work with vets who struggle in this area, particularly with suicidal thoughts. In response to her death an ethical clothing company Smith and Webb released a jumper with the words “Be Kind” on it. With £5 from every sale going to the Vetlife charity. It has taken until last month for me to be able to buy and wear this jumper.
This has been my first experience of grief. I have been very fortunate to not have lost any family. Still having all my grandparents. But God is good. It was a Sunday morning when I received the news and one of my immediate instincts was a desire to be in church. We didn’t go to Stonehaven but to the evening service to give me some time to get myself together. What a ridiculous thought. To feel too broken to expose yourself to your church family and a desire to hide your pain. But I wanted to be before my God who loves us, who ultimately loved my friend more than I did and who knows my pain.
The first time I wore the jumper a friend and I were getting on a plane. We were the last people on the delayed flight and my friend and the flight attendant began to have a slightly tense discussion. We were standing in the middle of the aisle with everyone looking at us. And my immediate thought was “stop this, I am wearing my ‘Be Kind’ jumper and we are creating a scene.” I tried to ease the situation, smiled lots and was kind. But it did challenge me. As Christians are we not always meant to be salt and light? But as I was physically labelled, I felt convicted. Had I not been wearing the jumper I most likely would have slid awkwardly into my seat. Then probably had a moan to my friend about the ridiculous situation. It is definitely not the best jumper to wear if you’re going to complain at a restaurant!
I have been shocked by how often I think of my friend significantly every day. But in my grief I keep giving it to Him. Keep trusting that He is in control and He is good. And it has made me aware and empathetic of those going through so much worse than this.
It is so hard in situations that we don’t understand. Why did that happen God? In a broken world how can God use this for his good? For his glory? Romans 8:28 says: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him”. This was a verse I struggled with in the past. Not really believing it to be true. But a few years ago, God showed me how he absolutely can use bad situations for his glory, with even worse situations than this. God’s desire obviously was not for this to happen. I have submitted it to Him, sought Him and asked Him to use it. I think that has been key, saying “God I am broken, I don’t understand, but use this, teach me.” I have had conversations with friends about my faith. Even my ability to deal with grief “better” than friends has led them to ask ‘why?’ and given me an opportunity to point to God; to be honest about how He is healing my pain, how I trust He is in control. I trust Him with what I can’t understanding, and leave it at his feet.
Being kind is hard. When frustrated at work or in a rush or tired I find it particularly hard. I am naturally selfish. But I want to be light. I want to reflect God to those around me and it is something we can practice to get better at. I work on call as a vet and some people do phone at silly times in the night with silly questions. But I try and say to myself – be kind, they are just worried, have compassion. In little daily interactions with people at supermarket checkouts we can be kind. Ask them about their day, try to make their day better. Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit, although for some reason I tend to think of kindness as one of the less important ones. Patience is definitely something I struggle with and desire more. Kindness is something I have been practising.
If from all of this, through discipline and God’s grace, I can become kinder, then truly God has used this for his glory.
Katrine and her husband Scott attend the Stonehaven site. Katrine is a vet who has specialised in orthopaedic surgery. She has a very hyper Cocker Spaniel called River. She is a foodie, something being married to a chef has cultivated. In church her passion is for the prophetic and building healthy marriages.