Donna and a Pack of Cigarettes
Many years go I started a church plant in Cleveland, Tennessee just up the road from Chattanooga where I was living at the time. I was doing some home visits when I noticed a lady walking down the street. I drove past her on my way to a families home. Later that night, I came back down the same street and again I saw this lady, but this time she was sitting outside her home.
For some reason I had the feeling she was lonely and in need of something. So I rolled down my window and said, “Hey do you need anything?” She responded, “Yeah, some cigarettes.” Immediately this internal conflict went through my head on whether I should buy cigarettes for this woman. I'm not a smoker and I know how smoking impacts individuals and our overall public health. A few seconds go by and I yell, “Hop in.” She jumps in the car to head to the nearest convenient store. She says, "I’m not used to people being this nice." I responded saying, "Well I’m a minister." The woman said, “Oh, at first I thought you were a drug dealer because where I’m from that’s what they would ask.” I laughed thinking about the similarities of the two.
She tells me her name is Donna and she just moved to Cleveland from Michigan to be closer to her kids. She has seven kids, who all have been placed with her sister in town. Donna said none of her kids respected her as a mother. She just ended a bad relationship and was feeling lost and confused. By this time we were at the gas station so we went in and bought a pack of cigarettes.
On our way back Donna shared how she just doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. "I’m forty years old and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing or who I am." After a moment of silence, she said, "I came down here to be closer to my kids and I know that is something I want though."
This openness by Donna started a deep conversation about the dark times in our lives when we feel lost and how God works in the midst of the chaos. I prayed for her and Donna got out and returned to her home. I asked her if I could stop by and visit her sometime which she agreed to. Who would have ever thought that buying a pack of cigarettes for somebody would have opened the door to providing ministry to a woman in need?
Sometimes we get caught up on thinking about what the right thing to do is based on the morals and values we have been raised with. But we need to be open to understand how those morals and values can sometimes be hindrances to providing valued ministry to those in need. I'm not saying we should throw them away but we need to see past the surface and really identify peoples needs in the moment. There are people starving to know the divine in their life and we have to put down our own judgments and meet people where they are at.
Subjects of Judgment
Being the subject of judgement is painful. It often produces shame and guilt. Church folks historically have been known for being some of the most judgmental people there are. We have to understand in life judgments are going to happen. The problem is when we are judged in church it is compounded because those are people who we experience God with and through. The meaning can be projected to the thought God rejects who I am.
Some people believe calling others out will set them straight. However from what I have seen many times this pushes people into hiding. It creates a division in relationships and moves people further away from experiencing the divine in their life. If you have been the subject of judgment from a church I cannot fathom the deepness of your pain. I believe God is there with you and seeks to commune with you whenever you are ready.
I also believe your story matters! I believe being vulnerable and telling our story creates healing. Others need to know how you have felt and how you have been impacted. Interpersonal change comes through listening to personal stories. Again I do not know how deep that pain is but when you are ready I encourage you to share that story with someone.
If you don't know who, I would love to get to know you and hear your story. Click here to contact us. Please leave your story in the comment section or a way for me to get in touch with you.
Moving Beyond Judgment
The video above was produced by Gabrielle Bernstein. I loved her quote, "We use judgement to protect ourselves from the pain and fear of being alone." Much of what we do are protective factors for our own insecurities. When we lead with compassion judgment is put to rest. There is also a great article by Jill Weber, Ph.D titled "4 Ways to Stop Fearing Other People's Judgment" which gives great tips on what we can do to move beyond our fear of judgment.
God calls us into holistic relationships with others. We need not leave our pain at the door, or hide who we are. But compassionately share who we are in the moment the best that we can. Yes we are going to fall short, and most likely we will probably have some judgments along the way. But hopefully the compassion of Christ leads us to overcome those times and eliminate any fear, guilt, shame, or rejection that might come or be experienced. It is to this compassionate love that we are called.
Doctrine and Covenants 165 3d&e
d. Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
e. Oneness and equality in Christ do not mean uniformity. They mean Unity in Diversity and relating in Christ-like love to the circumstances of others as if they were one’s own. They also mean full opportunity for people to experience human worth and related rights, including expressing God-given giftedness in the church and society.
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This week assess your thoughts becoming aware of the judgments you have about yourself, others, and the environments in which you live.
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