Sometimes it seems too much then you make it through.
About eleven years ago, my niece came home and told my mother she was pregnant: our world imploded. She was our hope of success, and this broke our dream of promise and we couldn’t see how things could work out different. Why? Life had stories of girls whose lives stopped dead once they had children out of wedlock. Our hearts stopped.
One of the most difficult conversations she had was when a senior family member told her that she would never amount to more than her grandmother who didn’t go far because she too had a children young and alone. First off, that was based on a personal position. Second, there was no proof that the same mistake would be repeated or the outcome would be the same. Third, there was no proof that this would be her journey.
The look on her face as she told me the story and the break on her voices is etched in my mind. When she said that only thing that kept her from throwing herself in front of a moving bus was the knowledge that God would never fail her almost stopped my heart.
I have watched her navigate a difficult pregnancy, an emergency birth, and the journey to raise her daughter into a lovely young woman today. I marvel at the consistent goodness of God. This young lady has become a powerhouse of faith and life, breaking and rebuilding, heartache, and healing, hope and transformation. Yet it could have easily gone another way.
Why are we so hard on those who already know they are in the wrong and are hurting?
So often we assume that because people have “intentionally” committed sin, they should bear the brunt of the judgement and just deal with the drama. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they deal with the consequences or if they haven’t yet, the consequences will come but they shouldn’t have to deal with these things alone. My niece taught me to be compassionate, to listen and support even when I didn’t agree with her actions. She taught me to reserve judgment and listen to the person in trouble, to reserve my advise and allow the person own their situation then help them work it out.
So, I asked myself, how would I like to be treated if I had fallen flat on my face in public? Would I want to be shunned or would I want to be guided back to the path? Would I want to be in an accountability community or left to navigate my way out? I would love to have support and accountability, so I decided to be that. It wasn’t easy because I needed to get over my own prejudices and be open. I had to really put my opinions aside and LISTEN. What I heard and saw made tears fill my years.
- Hurt: Everyone was talking about and at them, yet no one was listening or talking to them. There is a demand to change or prove they are innocent. I saw many people shunned and thrown out of fellowship never return to their walk with God. I saw others tip over the edge into depression and mental health challenges or even substance abuse.
- Hopelessness: Many now think that God has judged them and won’t forgive them. Several look okay on the outside but they are so lost and have nothing to hope for in the future, how to provide for their children, that they would never find love and companionship.
- Heightened defensiveness: They are on edge all the time that every conversation meets with a hard stance or hard-line. They come across as unmovable because the pain and judgement in the past and as a way to protect themselves.
I keep asking myself, if there is another way we can deal with those who have fallen that does not segregate them from life but leads them down a different path. There must be standards in life or like an acquaintance said, rules of engagement but there must also be grace. I realised that after every fall, the fallen one knows they have lost their footing and they are already broken so it does not help them when we go shouting at them or shunning them. One thing I have always grappled with is the fact that the girl bears the brunt of the shunning and side-lining yet the young man also had a part to play.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov 22:6
- How can we be more compassionate?
- How can we provide places of true conviction, repentance and healing?
- How can we secure the future of others by supporting them for lasting change?
Every time I think I can judge someone’s actions I am reminded that the measure I use to judge others will be used against me. I also remember the call to be compassionate and be known by love. This doesn’t mean that I accept everything or not call out others. It just means that I temper myself with kindness and compassion for others even as I share the word of God with them.
I remember Jesus and woman accused of adultery. They forget that there was a man in the picture but were ready to stone her to death. All they wanted was Jesus’ approval of their intended action but alas. “So when they continued asking Him, He [a]raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7
He didn’t leave it there, when they had all left, Jesus turned his attention to the woman and said, “Woman, where are those accusers [j]of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go [k]and sin no more.” The instruction was clear and she was now accountable.
Couldn’t we be the same? I think we could and I am on the way to making that my mark by extending love not judgement but dealing with every situation in a manner that causes each of us to know God deeper and be transformed by that depth.