I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a particular individual in my life. She is mostly a kind, loyal, caring, considerate, and faithful lover of God.
On the one hand.
On the other, I have had daily opportunities to observe her world over the last year. As we’ve shared our lives over Facebook and email, I find she devotes an amazing amount of her time and energy mocking, scorning, laughing at, openly ridiculing others she encounters in her community and online.
She passes along shock talk – “news” of the day, unvetted for accuracy or authenticity…think of the online equivalents of newspaper tabloids from which most of us attempt to avert our eyes while standing in the grocery line – with questions and comments like, “Have you seen this? What do you think? Do you believe this? Does she really think this looks good? What on earth was she thinking? This girl must hate herself to dye her hair that color. It just makes my heart hurt.”
I share her last sentiment.
The stories or, worse, the pictures, presumably serve to support her perspective on some issue of the day. Pick one: Race relations, immigration policy, Islamist terror threats, people who look different, people who dress different, issues of human suffering of all kinds.
As a person of words, many come to mind in immediate response. I’ve so far held my tongue/pen/keyboard. Thankfully, I have found a button at the top right of all Facebook posts that allows me to block specific types of posts that she chooses to share, allowing me to avoid the temptation of response altogether.
And before I go further, while you’re probably rolling your eyes wondering why I don’t just cut her from my list of FB friends, she’s a relative. I haven’t wanted to ruffle the calm waters of our extended family relations. Still, it sometimes feels as though I could/should do/say something….maybe?
Her vitriol is so evident some days that I have picked up the phone a couple of times to call and chat with her and learn if there’s something in particular that is making her so unhappy. These calls haven’t seemed to be especially helpful. It’s highly likely that I’m not gifted in the particular way needed in order to reach out to her verbally. It certainly never feels like a comfortable calling, but more like an unwelcome obligation.
So, I pray. Prayer’s a powerful act.
I pray for her and others like her. Unfortunately, she’s not unusual.
And yet, it seems sometimes I should do more, go further, try harder, understand better.
I talked with my husband this morning (bless him and thanks to God for speaking to me through him.) He suggested that I read verses from the book of James.
James describes our tongues this way:
…the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
…Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.
As I read these verses I realized they weren’t just describing others’ tongues, they were speaking to me, too.
I hope you’ll all consider offering your counsel on this. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and suggestions…and, if not those, your prayers.
I read on in James and he offers us some direction:
… If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom… wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others…
I always want to be this way, but there are so many times that I try and fail.
[Wisdom] is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
I can feel myself breathing deeper and beginning to stand down metaphorically from my very high horse.
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
It’s not mine to judge. Thank heaven.
So I pray. It’s a powerful act.
I pray that His goodness touches her heart and fills her being so full that her first thoughts consider kindly those who are not like her;
I pray that her first feelings are feelings of compassion for others’ unknown and misunderstood burdens…that her first act is to pray for them.
I pray for myself and for each of us. It’s a powerful act.
I pray we learn how to see others not as foreigners in our country or in our community, our tribe, our family…that we not see others as foreign to our selves. I pray that we choose instead to open our hearts to the unity in which God created us.
I pray we each attempt to fathom, if only dimly, the brotherhood and sisterhood—the family—into which we have all been created by our One Father, our One Creator.
I pray His forgiveness for forgetting our roles. He created us in love, intending that we greet one another—no matter our differences or affronts or provocations—that we reach out and greet one another in love.
He intended that we embrace one another as joint heirs of His kingdom —each of us uniquely loved by Him, each uniquely gifted by His grace, each uniquely chosen and shared with others as gifts from our perfect Benefactor.
So I pray. It’s a powerful act.