For me, one of THE best feelings in all the world is genuinely seeking the good of another person. I mean, genuinely. Not because it’s the nice or good thing to do. Not because someone is making me. Not because I’m trying to save face or want people to think I’m a some special saint. Or because I’m terrified of appearing selfish, but simply because I sincerely care. Because I want the best for you. Because I want to see you succeed and be happy. Because I work for her good.
I wish this feeling was more familiar to me, but, if I’m honest, I’m too preoccupied. I’m distracted with self. I’m busy measuring and comparing. I point my finger and judge so that I feel better about myself. I’m jealous for love and affection. I want people to want ME on their team. I want people to see value in me. To choose me, adore ME.
A problem arises when I want these things more for myself than for another.
A German theologian and philosopher, Meister Eckhart, insisted that the entire goal of the spiritual life is compassion. Agreeing with him, Brennan Manning said, “Our culture says that ruthless competition is the key to success. Jesus says that ruthless compassion is the purpose of our journey.”
What a beautiful idea. A noble purpose.
Have you read the story from John 8? The words grip me every time. I smell the dirt. I imagine the crowd, growing… I see the fear in her guilty, darting eyes. I curiously wonder about this man Jesus who calmly traces his finger in the dirt while the Pharisees try to trap him with their question. These words ring, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” which meet stunned silence. Stones drop. Thud. Thud. At first slowly, then with more frequency. Thud thudthud thudthudthud. This adulterous woman no longer saw eyes murderously glaring, only backs of heads now.
Life-changing. This non-judgement.
If you look closely, I’m in that story. I’m one who grips a stone (with another one in my arsenal). I’m staring at the woman with narrow accusing eyes. I think, “How could she?” or “I’m glad I’m not like her.” However, there are precious grace moments when I loosen my grip and drop the stone. When I seek to understand. When I take steps to move towards her. When I choose patience. When I suspend judgment. When I embrace the humanness that we share which gives us common ground. When I realize she and I are strikingly similar people.
I remind myself that we’re not here to be perfect and because of that reality, I’ve received forgiveness. Lots of it; all the time. Forgiveness not only for me, but for her too. I want to know that forgiveness that seeps into the sin crevices in the secret spaces of my heart! Because the more I know it, the quicker I am to move toward others, not erect walls of judgement.
I appreciate the way Ann Voskamp words her thought here: “Judging others is a blindfold that blinds us to our own grime and blinds us to the grace which others are as eligible and entitled to as we are. If I have loved breathing in grace for me, how can I deny you the same oxygen? Who of us isn’t a hypocrite in metamorphosis? Who of us is who she wants to be — yet?”
I’ve been blind. I’ve been untrue to myself and others. I’ve denied people life-giving oxygen that is rightly theirs. All the while being a guilty hypocrite who is an undeserving recipient of Jesus’ non-judgement.
I want to be a woman, a friend, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter who fights for you to be your best you. Unbound. Beautiful. Free. To be a safe place. To release you from a prison of unfair, destructive (and often incorrect) labels. To encourage you in your giftedness and dreams. To be quick to show mercy and hold you by the arms of grace. In God’s upside down kingdom, ruthless compassion–not competition–is the purpose of our journey. This is my high hope for myself today, tomorrow, and for the next 60 years. And so the great pursuit ensues, by God’s grace…