I’ve been doing this Beth Moore Bible study as of late, Breaking Free. It’s my second attempt through it, but it didn’t stick the first time, so I’m trying again. : ) It’s actually been incredible, even though I feel like I’m getting beat up. It’s like I said, Okay, change me God, and he said, Are you sure you’re ready? Alright, let’s go. I’ve never considered him to be quite so confrontational, but he is in fact kicking my butt, in the best sense of the phrase.
This week I was listening to Beth (yep, we’re on a first-name basis) talk about prejudice. She believes that it is one of those sins that gets passed through family lines but is accepted as part of “who we are” and never acknowledged to be the terrible thing that it is. As I listened, I thought, I wonder what’s on for next week. This one doesn’t really pertain to me. I’m one of the most accepting, tolerant, and non-judgmental people I’ve ever met. : ) Stopped in my thoughts I quickly whispered, God, what am I missing?
Thursdays at lunch I have to cover the reception desk – probably my least favorite hour of the week. We have a property management division and it never ceases to amaze me the people who walk through the doors. In fact, at our annual awards breakfast, the manager of the division held up a newspaper reading all of the bad headlines of crime and murder and arrest and said, “You know what my first thought is when I read these? It’s probably one of my tenants.” But I digress.
As I sat at the front desk a man came in looking for a sheet of paper left for him. As he walked towards me, I knew instantly that he must be visiting about an apartment. No way he was here to talk about buying a house. His clothes were ragged and dirty and hung larger than his overweight body, his hair unwashed, his teeth a dingy brown. As he spoke, I felt a wave of disgust wash over me. He was picking up an account leger to prove our accountant wrong about charges he owed. I rolled my eyes, handed him the leger, and returned to my computer screen even though he had stayed to chat. I nodded impatiently as he spoke until he got the hint and went on his way. As he walked out the door, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.
I had discovered my prejudice.
I desperately try to be a person who loves and accepts all people. I have felt judged for one reason or another for so much of my life that I want to be at the other end of the spectrum, extending grace and hope to anyone and everyone without judgment or presumption. But to think that I would not need that grace myself was a misjudgment in and of itself.
That man came back to argue his case. He kept thorough records of his payments and was able to prove our accountant wrong, to the benefit (his) of $390. He then stood and told me about his lovely wife, who had stood by his side through thick and thin. He told me to enjoy my day; to stay warm; to drive carefully. I laughed and conversed with him a few moments, suddenly intrigued by this man who I had judged so quickly.
Thank you, God, for the perspective.
I finished A Tree Grows In Brooklyn awhile back and it’s a new favorite. It has so much to say about poverty through the lives of this sweet poor family living in Brooklyn. One of my favorite moments was when the two children go into be vaccinated. Francie, the oldest, goes in first. The doctor lifts up her sleeve to reveal an arm covered in dirt. He turns to his nurse, shaking his head, “These poor people can’t even bathe themselves.” They both looked at Francie with pity and disgust. She understood but was confused. She and her brother had just come in from playing outside. Children were supposed to be dirty. She despised their looks. After receiving her shot she told the doctor and nurse, “My brother is coming in here next. He’ll be dirty just like me. But you don’t have to tell him since you already told me.”
The doctor and nurse stood there in shock, surprised she had understood their judgment. But they said nothing. They just shrugged and went on with their day.
Who knew that I could possess that same look of pity or disgust.
Oh that we could just love first, accept first, hope first.
If we could just listen before we judge – maybe the judgment would never come.