Monday, August 29, 2011

Our job is to love as we've been loved, not judge...

"Don't ever judge a man's conscience because you never know at what point along his journey you've encountered him." I heard that quote this morning and it got me pondering...

What you might see: The drunk on the corner begging for money so he can get his next fix.
What you might not have seen: He lost his wife and children in a car accident earlier this year, lost all hope and attempted to drown his sorrows in alcohol.

What you might see: The pregnant teenager who recently dropped out of school.
What you might not have seen: From the age of ten, her mother's boyfriends wouldn't keep their hands off of her. When she told her mother, instead of protecting her, her mother accused her of trying to steal her boyfriends.

What you might see: The guy yelling at his wife and kids.
What you might not have seen: Two months ago he was beating them up, repeating a cycle of abuse that happened to him in his own childhood. Now for the first time in his life, through therapy, he's learning to break the cycle.

What you might see: The chain smoker who can barely last a few minutes without a cigarette.
What you might not have seen: He used to be a heroin addict.

What you might see: A 300 pound woman who's having trouble fitting into the seat at the movie theater.
What you might not have seen: A year and a half ago she weighed 430 pounds.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. A man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7) We have limited vision and therefore do not make good judges. We have no idea where someone started or how far they've come. We don't know what kinds of sorrows they've had to bear or what it feels like to be in their shoes. Everyone is on a journey, and we're all at different places. We don't know what direction someone is moving in, and even if we did, sometimes a person's journey home begins in the opposite direction; like the prodigal son who had to come to the end of himself before he'd had enough and was ready to turn around. 

Unlike the pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus' day), Jesus was never offended by people's sin. Jesus saw people as harassed and helpless. He saw them in bondage, enslaved, needing to be rescued and set free. He was moved with compassion and invited them to come to Him so he could heal them. Jesus looked at them and loved them. When we catch a glimpse of someone in the middle of their story, do we come to a conclusion about their worth, or do we see them through Jesus' eyes?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Being Rescued From the Darkness... Not Just A One Time Thing!

I still remember a dream I had about 23 years ago. It was so vivid... I don't think I could ever forget it.  One warm spring afternoon while my son was napping, I stepped out on my deck, sat down in a lawn chair and dosed off. In my dream, I was walking through a forrest. After walking for a while, I came upon a clearing with a little cabin right in the center. As I walked out of the dense forest into the clearing, I noticed the intensity of the light. The light didn't feel warm and inviting to me, but painful. I hurried toward the cabin wanting some reprieve from the bright light. Once inside I felt the comfort of the darkness again. As I entered one of the rooms, the light began to seep through the blinds and burn my eyes. I ran to the next room and then the next, trying to escape the light, but it seemed to be everywhere. When I woke up, my eyes were soaked with tears. The sun was burning my eyes. I ran inside. 
Later I opened my bible and for the first time read this scripture... John 3:19... "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." Well that was a pretty clear message for me at that time in my life. God used that dream and that verse to shine light on some pretty painful things I had hidden. They were destroying me, and God in His grace wanted to set me free. 
He still continues to shine His light into some dark areas of my life. When His light exposes some truths in me, though it still feels uncomfortable and painful to see me as I really am, and a part of me wants to run back into the darkness and hide, I'm learning to embrace the light because it's the only real safe place. God doesn't use His light to expose things in me to embarrass or condemn me, there's no condemnation in Christ Jesus, but He shines His light on all the broken pieces of my life that sin has shattered so He can help me put them back together. He doesn't force me out of the darkness, but draws me out of the woods into his healing presence. He even provides a cabin to cover my shame and blinds to give me truth in doses that I can handle, so as not to overwhelm me with sorrow. His kindness leads me to repentance. He comes looking for me in my brokeness, not to shame or punish me, but to heal me and set me free. When He finds me, He takes me gently by the hand and walks me out of the woods... He loves me too much to leave me in the darkness.