Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ten-Year Old B*tches, Sunday School, and Getting our Judgey On: A Little Chat About Motes and Beams

Grace: Mom, can people really get kicked out the church?

Me: Uh....well, um, yeah, I suppose if they do something really bad and it's not safe for other people at church to be around them...

Grace: Can I get kicked out of the church?

Me: What happened?

Grace: XX (Anonymous Child) said that the bishop can kick people out of church, and they can't come back, and he's going to kick me out because I don't go to the right Sunday School class.

Editorial comment here: Grace rarely ever goes to her "assigned" class, and it has quite a lot to do with XX, who is a little bee-yotch. It's not enough that she has to torment and harass my daughter IN the class; now she's appointed herself the God police to judge my daughter for avoiding the scene of emotional brutality? Cue the mama-bear claws now.

This was followed by a heart-to-heart talk about how Jesus Christ invites everyone--EVERYONE--to come to Him, and He's less concerned with technicalities like getting to the "right" Sunday School class, and more concerned with helping each of us be good and kind. We talked about how sometimes when we feel unhappy and miserable, we try to make other people feel bad, too, and that it says more about the person being mean than the victim of the meanness. We talked about who gets to have input in decisions like which Sunday School class to attend--that Grace gets a lot of input in the choice because it's her body & soul under discussion, that Mom gets a say because God assigned her to be Grace's mom & look out for her well-being--and because Mom loves Grace & cares for her--, that the Primary president and bishop get a little bit of a say because they accepted assignments from God to watch over the congregation, and they also love & care about Grace. And Anonymous Child XX gets zero say, because it's none of her damn business.

If there is one lousy, rotten thing that we church people are waaaaaay too good at, it's that all too often, we excel at judging, criticizing, and picking apart each others' perceived sins.

Here's the thing: I believe there are very limited, narrow circumstances where it's not only okay to pass some form of judgment; it's necessary and right. As a mom, I have the right and responsibility to use my judgment to protect my children. While I believe in redemption and forgiveness, I'm not going to knowingly leave my child alone with a convicted child predator because I want to be open-minded and tolerant. As a single woman, I sometimes make conscious decisions to not become involved with some men because their scars and brokenness are not a good fit with my scars and brokenness, and we would be very unhealthy together. I tend to avoid gossipy or negative people as much as I can, because I don't like the feeling that I have around them. I also generally avoid being around people who relish drama, because my life is quite busy enough for good and happy reasons, and I don't need extraneous uproar to distract me from the more important business of being a good mom, a good sister, a good daughter, and a good friend.

I have noticed that when I am feeling most critical toward others, I am always, ALWAYS feeling unhappy with myself. It's not about them; it's about me. I have noticed that when I am feeling chock full, brimming over with love, happy with myself and trusting God, I don't have the teeniest speck of judgment for others. I just love them.

Love is a whole different ball game from criticism. Love listens. Love wants to understand. Love doesn't condemn. Love points the way to healing and redemption. Love says, "I like being with you. I miss you. Tell me how I can help you. Help me understand your point of view." Love says, "Let's walk together,and help each other."

Love isn't always easy. It isn't intended to be. Love sent the most perfect, gentle and loving Man who ever lived to the cross. Thanks to His example, we have a blueprint for how to love each other.

Here's a surefire tip for navigating church life and home life and everything in between: if it's about fear, it's not of God. If it's about love, it's about God. And if you are wielding fear as a club to bring people to God....well, maybe stop and consider who is the author of fear and who is the author of peace and love, and maybe reconsider who you are following.

Fear asks what other people will think. Love asks what you & God think--because your opinion, thoughts, and feelings matter to Him.

Fear threatens shunning, rejection, and being kicked out. Love invites you in, all of you, even in your messy incompleteness.

Fear offers the damning illusion that other people's flaws somehow make you better. Love covers your flaws with mercy, and frees you to forgive the flaws of others and extend a helping hand.

Fear creates rigid rules and artificial boundaries under the false impression that forcing compliance will lead to safety. Love honors free will as one of the greatest gifts of God, and naturally leads to wise choices as love begets understanding.

Fear sees others' actions as reflecting on us. Love celebrates and encourages personal agency.

Fear leads to unhealthy dependence. Love leads to joyful interdependence.

Fear says that questioning is wrong and bad and scary. Love says that questions are the beginning of answers, and that no question is too big or tough for God, even if the question is screamed and hollered.

Fear says people do things because they are evil. Love says only God knows the heart, and people often do things out of deep hurt, longstanding pain, familial patterns, and ignorance. Love sets us free to learn and do better, and to allow others the same privilege.

Fear says you'll get in trouble. Love offers you help.

Fear makes us suspicious of others' motives and actions. Love knows we are all in this together, and love extends grace.

A couple of years ago, in a women's meeting at church, we were discussing ways that we could show love for each other. Sisters shared stories of kindnesses performed, loving words spoken, generous gifts received, and huge sacrifices made for each other. One sister offered the most profound and touching example. "As I look over my life," she said, "I am so grateful for the acts of service, large and small, that I have received. But I think the greatest kindness of all has come simply when others have refrained from judgment."


Here's to opening doors and hearts, living less in fear and more in love, to ignoring the motes and focusing more on the beams, and to extending more grace and forgiveness, even to little ten-year old bee-yotches--who probably need less of my momma-bear claws and more of my momma-bear love.

In the end, love always wins. Always.


Lewis Family said...

Ugh, so sorry. I know things like this have happened to my kids and they don't even tell me. I hope you talked to the parents at least once, even if they deny it, then at least they really do know. I would hate it if this were one of my kids doing the bullying and the other parent never told me. HUGS

Grace Ojuka said...

Love always wins!! You are doing great!

Michelle Bray said...

I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Tiauna Elise Noble said...

Wendy, may I please quote this post on my blog. The whole part of fear vs. love is beautiful! It stuck out to me, and there are many people I know who would benefit from hearing it. I will even reference it back to your blog. I truly appreciate all that you share.

mommymuse said...

Of course, Tiauna :). Thank you for reading my blog!