My soul has been keenly aware of something lately. You know when you get a new vehicle and then suddenly you start seeing them everywhere? Where you hadn’t ever before? Or you name your child something you thought was quite original only to discover that other moms at parks all across town are calling out the same thing? Once you become in tune with something, you see it. Once you are aware, you can’t help but miss it.
My eyes have been so open to judgement, as of late. I don’t know why. I can’t think of a moment it started but I sure can tell you that I wish there was a switch to flick it off because I would, like right. now.
Once you see it, you can’t stop. It’s everywhere. To be honest, it’s starting to make me feel a bit like those early days of pregnancy where the nausea just won’t subside. You can’t catch a break no matter what you do. It’s just always there.
I passed two women in the grocery store yesterday and they rolled their eyes and shook their heads at each other as they walked away from a young boy that worked at the store who, I assume, was trying to help them find something. But he didn’t know what Tahini was. This was the straw that broke my proverbial back. I wanted to walk over and stand at his defence. I wanted to ask the women if they’d ever been new at a job, slightly nervous and just wanting so bad to get it right, almost trying too hard so that you end up failing mightily. I wanted to know if they had ever made a mistake. I wanted to ask if they’ve ever felt demeaned. Ridiculed. Judged.
But I didn’t.
A few months back I was in a crowded parking lot waiting for someone to back out so I could take their spot. It caused the person behind me to have to wait roughly a minute. He was less than happy with me about this, I assure you. I met him face to face in the parking lot and he stared at me harshly as he walked past saying, while looking directly into my eyes, “You are not very smart, lady!”
I shrugged and told him that he was entitled to his opinion.
It’s moments like these that cause me to wonder what has happened to us. Have we been hurt so badly in our own lives that we can’t help but bring others down with us? Or have we become so incredibly entitled that we feel we need to make our thoughts known even when it’s hurtful? Are we simply so insecure that we need to belittle everyone around us to raise our self-importance level or entirely too secure that we can no longer see that it’s okay that people do things differently than we do?
It’s these very thoughts that have been going ’round and ’round in my head. These thoughts that have been forcing me to see how I treat people. Humans. Living and breathing , flesh and blood people that were placed on this earth by a loving God. A God who created each of us in His image and likeness. These people who are mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and aunties and uncles and friends and lovers. Each with a name. Each important to someone. Each important to Him.
The thought has been turning me around as I think about who I am and who I want to be.
All I can come up with is this. I want to be safe. A safe place. No matter what.
No. Matter. What.
To my friends; I want to be the one they call when they find out they’re pregnant and they really weren’t expecting this and they don’t quite know how to deal. I want to be the one they call when they realize they’ve crossed the line in a relationship. I want to be the one they can talk to when they’ve just found porn on their sons computer or that their daughter has been caught shoplifting. I want to be the one they come to when they feel like God is a farce and they don’t feel like believing anymore. I want to be the one who’s privy to the fact that they had an abortion, or they were charged with fraud, or tax evasion or any number of things.
To my boys; I want to be the one they come to when they’ve snuck their first drink of alcohol or were approached with weed in the school hall. I want to be the one they come to when they’re wrestling with walking away from the computer or clicking on the ads that berate them from the sidebar. I want them to be able to tell me that they’re thinking a homosexual lifestyle might be for them, they cheated on their exam or they went too far with their girlfriend. I want to be the one they tell when they scratch up the car or have to confess that the money in the front drawer that went missing, that was them. I want them to let me know when they doubt God and anything He might be calling them to. When they want to run instead of follow or even abandon altogether.
To my family; I want them to come to me when their conversations online have turned from friendship into an affair, I want them to know that they can come to me when they aren’t sure how they’re going to buy groceries next month because they just got fired for stealing from the company. I want them to talk to me when they are so mad at their kids they think they might harm them. I want them to let me know when the anti-depressants aren’t working anymore and they’re finding that wine is the only way to numb the pain, or sex, or money or power or shopping or yelling or hurting someone.
To the people I encounter in my everyday; I want them to know that they don’t have to answer that they’re good when they’re really not. I want them to be able to tell me that they’re frustrated by their daughter and they didn’t know their baby would be so difficult and they can’t believe that they’re left to raise their grandchild. I want them to be able to tell me that they got called into work on their day off and they aren’t that thrilled about it. I want to be the one they look at and divulge that their boyfriend just broke up with them, or that they’re dad just died or that the diagnoses is cancer. I want them to be able to say that their son decided that they want to be a girl or that they’re going to have to give the baby up or that University is just too hard and they’re ready to call it quits.
Why? Why do I want people to tell me all of these things?
Because I want them to know that I’m safe. That I will not judge them. That I am not someone who will roll my eyes or tell them they’re wrong or just being silly or how I can’t believe they did that. I want them to know that I will not convey an attitude that makes them feel like I’m somehow superior to them for what they’ve just divulged.
I want them to know that I understand brokenness. I understand bad decisions. I understand feeling lost and unsure and every emotion under the sun. I want them to know that I understand the human condition. I understand not wanting people to know. I understand how alone it feels and like you’d lose everyone you love if they knew the truth.
I want them to know that they won’t lose me. Because I get it. We’re all broken. We have all had that day that we hope nobody ever finds out about or that secret that we think will go with us to the grave. I want them to know it doesn’t have to be that way because shame and guilt, they won’t be caught in my eyes that are looking on to them.
I want them to know that I love them even more for being willing to be vulnerable. For being open enough to share. For being able to come to me with something. I want them to know that love is the only look they’ll get. Not judgement or pity. Not superiority. Not anger or disgust.
Life changes when you meet people who are broken. When brokenness has a name. A face. A story.
I just don’t think, if we look each one of us at our own lives, that we can sit by and condemn instead of extend our arms in love.
The stories I hear, they don’t surprise me anymore. I don’t think anyone can shock me. Because the more people you meet and the more stories you hear, the more you realize that while the details may be slightly different, we’re all so much the same. While the temptations and choices might be different, we’ve all made them for the good and not so good. Our worst day isn’t so far off from anyone else’s. The things we think we have to hide, we truly don’t, if we see that we’re all sinful, each one of us.
What if we made the choice to be the safe place. The place where condemnation wouldn’t abound but love would. The place where guilt and shame didn’t exist, but love did. Could we be a people who don’t belittle or begrudge, who smile instead of snap, who aren’t shocked by the stories? I truly believe it could change the world.