My husband woke me up at 5:20, sneaking around the bedroom getting ready for work. It’s Saturday, so I pretended to be asleep for a bit. And it didn’t work. So I decided to enjoy a new candle, some coffee, my newly premium (.99 for 3 months) Spotify, and the Word of God.
It’s strange how some mornings align with conviction (in a good way) across the board. I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about one of my favorite habits-it’s being everyone’s (specifically my husband’s) Holy Spirit. It’s so desperately easy for me to see all the ways everyone should change: be more loving, be kinder, be more open, less judgmental, etc etc. But it was the other day that I noticed, though I talk about this stuff a lot, it’s my husband who actually lives it. He’s more patient with our kids, generally more patient with me, and more giving with his time. People all love him. They never think he’s too much, or a hot head, or unkind. Meanwhile, I’m over here being a Pharisee.
Then this morning, my Bible reading was in Luke. The story of the Prodigal Son. I think I could eventually write a book on all of the lessons in this short story. But today I was struck by the Other Son. You know, the one who does all the right things, never leaves, keeps serving, but never gets his own party. He is so mad at the injustice of his philandering brother being celebrated, that he fails to see that someone who was drowning, has now been rescued. He’s the Pharisee. He should have the party. Me, too.
Then I picked up the book I’m reading, Befriend, (which by the way, has me in tears every morning, and I”m only on chapter 4-Thanks, Aunt Mary!). And he talks about the Prodigal son, but brings the reader’s attention not to the sons, but to the patient father who welcomes home his wayward son and also leaves his party to comfort and love the “good” son, the Pharisaical son who feels so slighted. He doesn’t lecture him like I would (Your brother is home, you idiot. Look Jesus works miracles, duh! Stop being a whiny baby-drink some wine). Instead, his words are gracious,
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Friends. I am a Pharisee. I judge the Pharisees while at the same time behaving just like them. Once I mentioned to an older man on our church staff that we should get a skateboard ramp so we could reach some neighborhood kids. He responded immediately with insurance concerns (almost middle aged me thinks that’s fair), but then he said “Plus we don’t want those kind of kids here.” This made me furious! And truthfully, I never forgave him. I was angry at him until the day he died. Because of that one comment, I let my heart be blackened and closed to him. This man was a good man in so many respects, but I never saw that because I judged him for being judgmental. I put him in a certain box and never let him out. I was his Pharisee.
I suspect many of us hang out in this horrid limbo-being judgmental and then judging others for their judgments. Forgetting that everyone is on their own journey toward redemption. Everyone has their sin hangups and their own prejudices. If you think this doesn’t apply to you-think of your last Facebook rant. If you’re too mature for Facebook rants, think of the last time someone else’s Facebook rant affected you. Or your last vent session to a close friend. We all have our list of “idiots,” people who we’ve deemed ourselves to be more enlightened than. For some, it’s people who have different political affiliations, for others, it’s socio-economic status. For some, it’s educational. For some, it’s the “less mature.” Most of us are guilty in some way.
But the irony is that we are all on our own journey to know God and know ourselves. We are all on our own journey to understand our sin quirks; to stop doing the things we do to hurt God and hurt others. We don’t mean to be this way…we don’t mean to hurt others, but we are all hurting, so it’s inevitable. And we just want people to get that and not judge us.
It’s a nasty cycle. And at the end of the day, Jesus hates it. Because he hung on a cross to save our wretched judgmental, know it all, holier than thou souls. And we forget, daily. He hung on a cross to reconcile relationships and redeem people to himself. To make them more like him, to save them.
He has grace for us. Always. Over and over. We judge, he forgives. We are unkind, he forgives. We hate, he saves us from ourselves. He throws a party when we squander his gifts and come home, humbled.
Love and grace. And I’m in the thick of it with you. Every day.