There are some people who are fortunate enough not to have screwed up in some major way. I am not one of those people. And this is a blessing. I understand temptation. I understand not being treated with compassion. I understand being misunderstood. I understand being the outcast. And so I understand the importance of looking at people and situations through merciful eyes.
This morning, I read a story. Mom #1 saw Mom #2 in Starbucks. Mom #1 is very motherly. And this is cool. But, she saw Mom #2 with a baby. This baby was in a baby seat with a bottle propped up next to her. When the baby fussed, Mom #2, who was busy on her phone, rocked the baby with her foot. This pretty much enraged Mom #1.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for giving proper and healthy attention to your babies. But, Mom #1 really had no idea of what Mom #2 or her life is like. And the baby wasn't being abused in any sense of the word. For all we know, Mom #2 went home from the Starbucks and played with the baby for the rest of the day.
And to risk beating the whole Lena Dunham thing to death, I think if Jesus met her along the way, he would just wrap her up in a big hug. Why? Because Jesus understands women. He understands their hearts, their hurts, their circumstances, their perspective. When you read the stories in the Bible, you discover that women were often drawn to Jesus -- even and especially women who were living in what we might call "troublesome" circumstances. Why might this be? Certainly not because he sent them angry and hurtful Tweets when they offended his sense of values. Maybe it was because he gave them real love -- something that they may have never really known. And, if you are a Christian, it is your job to reflect some of this kind of love to women, even women who might offend you in some way.
I also read another story this morning. One woman -- a married mother of 6 -- told another woman about the extra-marital affair that she had fallen into and how she had become pregnant through that relationship. She described how she almost got an abortion, but didn't end up doing so. And she shared a picture of the little baby boy to whom she had given birth. Now, the woman to whom the "sinful" woman told her story might have been very judgmental about the whole thing. Her attitude may have been -- "How could you, a married Christian lady, have done such a thing? And how could you have even contemplated having an abortion?" I have known people who would have brought this attitude to the table. But, the woman who listened really listened. And she looked through merciful eyes at the woman who had fallen. And she wrapped her in her arms. And I bet that she would have been compassionate even if the woman who had failed in her vows had gone through with the abortion. Because that woman who listened is a real Christian. And she knows that real Christians must always have compassion. It is only through compassion that people are drawn to the good, drawn to love.
When I was teaching high school, many years ago, there was a lovely little blond girl in my class. She was 15 years old and she had just moved from out-of-state to live with her father, as her parents were divorced. One day, in the middle of class, she leapt from her seat and told me she had to go. And there was a young man waiting for her at the door. I said something like, "But, it's the middle of class." And she replied, "I'm going to get a pregnancy test." She then quickly left with the young man. I was a fairly new teacher, and I was fairly stunned.
The next day, she was not present, and I was very concerned.
Upon her return two days later, I brought her into my office, and gently asked her what had happened. She said, "I had an abortion. I was 16 weeks." I cannot begin to tell you how I felt. It turns out that she had gone to a party, gotten drunk, and had sex with the young man who had been waiting for her at my door. Fifteen years old she was. A lovely, sweet girl. I just wrapped her in my arms and said, "Well, you know, God loves you. And he can forgive anything." "I know," she said. And her demeanor reflected quite a sadness and an aloneness. I was the only person who knew about her abortion, besides the young man and the medical personnel. Eventually, her father did find out about her situation, which ended up being a good thing. He showed her great love and support.
I happened to get pregnant with my first child that school year. And this sweet young woman kind of became my little helpmate at school -- always wanting to make sure that I was comfortable and had everything I needed. Nothing has ever been more touching to me as the way she treated me when I was expecting.
So, when people act in ways or say things that some may view as "offensive" or "sinful," let us try to look with merciful eyes. From where inside of them are these words and actions coming? Is it a place of pain? Is it a place that fears rejection? A place that is dying for a listening ear, for some understanding?
Can we, next time we hear someone say something that cuts at what we might value most in our lives, keep still and quiet in our hearts and souls, and really listen -- not just to what is being said, but to what is being left unsaid?