So, early in the summer I had a wee revelation. Somewhere in my little brain a light turned on and I my eyes opened a little wider. I was discovering the importance of diversity in people. I was captivated as I walked down the street and people watched at my favorite local coffee house. My thought with every person I saw being... "what is their story?"
It is so small of me to think that people are not shaped by their life circumstances and social influences. As I asked God to open my eyes and give me a heart for His children like I have not experienced before I found that I had created my own fears. In my mind differences made someone less approachable when in reality someone who is different is more likely to challenge my perceptions and cause me to think more... thus growing more.
A friend of mine recommended a book to me about this time. It was made into a movie, though I have yet to see the film. "The Soloist" was another opportunity to challenge my "what is their story?" thought. In the book a brilliant man with a severe mental illness winds up playing at Julliard and then later on the streets of the ghetto.
My mom has been labeled as bipolar for ten plus years and it has taken me that long to discover that she has a story of her own. This summers circumstances (I will share more on that some day) allowed a greater understanding of how she developed her mental illness over the course of her life. It is so sad to think that people in her life purposefully abused her and made her to feel as less of a person. I hope some day that she will know how worthy of love she truly is.
It is easy then to think of judgment for those who chose to belittle her and take away her self-worth. Unfortunately and fortunately I have no right to that judgment. Unfortunately, because there are moments when I would like to tell someone that they deserve judgment and their actions are going to take them to a fiery place... and fortunately, because my actions occasionally merit the same thoughts and I know that God's grace so undeservedly abounds new every day.
So back to judgment. Why is it that I judge people as I see them each day? As I think about how I was raised (in my family and in the church), I see that it was taught to me to befriend those who are like me in faith and to stay away from those who had differences. It was said to me that if I was friends with kids who were different I would "get sucked in" to their crowd and be ruined forever.
So who did Jesus befriend? Did He find people that were like Him? Sure He spent time with the disciples... but were they really like Him? They were fishermen, a doctor, a tax collector, and several others occupations are unknown. He spent time with murderers and thieves, prostitutes and the sick.
I find it interesting that judgment was taught to my as part of my Christian upbringing and yet it so contradicts the lifestyle of my Jesus.
It is sad to me that I have lost several years of my life to narrow-minded thinking, however, as an eternal optimist I can turn it around and say that I am grateful for the grace that God shows me. That even though I chose to judge, He does not. He has taken away judgment with the gift of the Cross. Amazing! And I have the rest of my life to change that old way of thinking.
I hope that through new eyes, eyes that are similar to the Lords, I will be able to see and hear more of the stories of the people I come in contact with.
Ever person has a unique story. I challenge you (and myself) to find out someone's story before you stereotype them.