Grace-Filled Thinking

I married a man who loves to garage sale. Maybe that sounds strange, but the fact of the matter is, my husband likes a good deal, and will often wait on purchases, knowing he will most likely find it used in one of the many front yards we find ourselves in during the warm months. 

Three of Winnipeg's community yard sales have become traditions for us, and I've grown rather addicted to them. We rise early in the morning, have our traditional coffee, sandwich and doughnut holes at Tim Horton's, and start furiously racing from house to house, at least 30 minutes before official opening time. We've got it down to a science. Shop our hearts out until 11:30 or so, do some needed errands while in the city, and go home and crash - usually with a vehicle full of treasures.

The last two events this year have been a much needed, long-anticipated get away for us as a family. They've also held the side benefit of providing many of the continuing clothing needs for our almost-two-year-old. They satisfy Joel's deal-hunting love, and provide our home with cheaply priced items we would not normally buy otherwise. As already mentioned, they are also the source of a fun family date. 

They've also held their painful moments for me this Spring. It's impossible to ignore the tables full of little baby boy clothing, the expectant mama's walking everyone, and the inevitable question of "how many children do you have?" Still sporting a bit of post-partum tummy, I was asked earlier this month if I had a boy or a girl. Upon telling this stranger a boy, she gushed out her congratulations, assured me how much fun I must be having, and wished me well. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I longed to be enjoying my son, but wasn't....

Walking through Costco later, my heart ached close to bursting, and tears were just beneath the surface. As I pondered the many comments made to me by unsuspecting people, my heart hurt. I did not blame them -  they didn't know, yet the pain was still there because of the close reality of my loss. As I observed the people swarming about me, it suddenly struck me that none of them knew how close I was to tears right then. They had no clue. All they saw was a rather sad looking woman, madly dashing around, perhaps even a bit rudely, trying so hard to keep myself busy just to keep from falling apart.

Then it hit me. I didn't know their stories either. Here we were, hundreds of people crammed into one store with one objective, but walking through a completely different set of circumstances. For the most part, our minds were consumed with ourselves and our priorities, and the other thoughts we gave others was most likely fleeting ones of assumptions, judgements, and perhaps even criticisms.

That mom with a 4-year old that's having a meltdown in the middle of the isle. We know what's wrong there, right? The old man in the wheelchair who looks like he's about to bite someone's head off. The moon-eyed teenage couple showing far too much affection for what's appropriate in public. The metal clad young man who's obviously had too much of the wrong experiences this world has to offer.

We humans are pretty good at assessing up mankind in a glance, and putting them in their rightful places in our minds.

In that moment, as I stopped to ponder what people's first assumption would be of me at that moment, I longed with all my heart to be shown grace. I wanted to stand up on a clothing rack, and shout, "Don't you all know that I just buried my son! Don't judge me now, just be gentle!" But of course I didn't. I continued my mad dash for the month's bulk groceries, while at the same time a yearning rose up within me to be a grace-filled person, responding by the Spirit to the unseen needs and hurts around me.

How could I know that the woman with the 4-year old acting up had just received her as a foster child after being rescued from an abusive situation?

How could I see inside the soul of that old man, and understand the current pain and rejection he was experiencing at that moment because of strained and torn family relationships?

That young couple? Had I stopped to ponder the fact that maybe both of them came from broken and unloving home situations, and that neither of them had ever felt full acceptance from another human being before?

And that young man? Could I grasp in my finite mind his soul hunger and thirst for something of more lasting meaning, but his failure as of yet to find truth, and the disinterest of all those he knew other than to use him for their own ends?

Of course I could not know these things, and never will. Perhaps in some of these situations, our assumptions are correct and their story doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. But the fact of the matter is, there is only One who has enough knowledge to make the judgments and labels we so quickly put on others. My current situation was a reminder to me that things are not always as they appear on the outside, and we can so easily and unknowingly inflict wounds by the careless words and assumptions we make.

In pondering the remedy for this, I've been reminded of the importance of being in tune with the Holy Spirit, letting Him guide my thoughts and attitudes, and then trusting that the words that come out of my mouth are the correct ones for the situation. He is the only One that knows the complete story of each individual, and can guide us in our responses to others.

Try it today. Think again of that person down the street with the overgrown yard, the paint-peeled house, and the snotty-nosed dirty kids. Consider the fact that their story and upbringing is different than yours, and ask God how you can be a beacon of light and love in their life. That attitude of compassion vs. judgment will open more doors than you ever dreamed possible... 

2 comments:

  1. That was beautiful...I so love to see Compassion gushing out of a Christian in the way you have expressed it here. I love how it links ppl together. Jesus was full of compassion which made him soooo Amazing!!!! Btw, you are a good writer. :)

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  2. I enjoyed reading this... beautiful... and so true! May God give us His eyes to see, and His Heart for those around us...

    Been thinking of you... hope you had a good trip!!

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