About fifteen years ago, I lost my mind for about three months. The reason I say that is because for that three months, I made some of the poorest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. And one of those decisions was to get involved in a relationship with a young man who decided that he had the right to hit me. The very first time he hit me, I tried to run, but he caught me and held me down until he had doled out the punishment he felt I deserved. For three months, I allowed this to continue.
For about a year after that, I remained single. I stayed home and licked my wounds. Tried to reestablish myself as the good girl with the level head. I worked hard at my full time job, went to community college part time, and volunteered about forty hours a week. Went to church three times a week. And thought I had healed.
The next fall, I started dating Owen. Owen was a big bear of a guy. He was a football player—strong, tall, broad shoulders, thick arms, and solid hands. But he really had a gentle heart. I knew I would never face beatings from him. Yet, at the oddest times, when he would move a hand too quickly or come up beside me unexpectedly, I would flinch or pull away out of an instinctive fear—like a puppy that’s been beaten. It had only taken three months to teach me that fear and over a year of “healing” hadn’t taken it away.
Recently, a minister-friend was expressing to me some of his frustration about the reaction of unchurched folks to his faith. Specifically, he shared how he’s tired of getting accused of being judgmental by people who, in his perspective, are judging him for his faith. As a Christian, this is disheartening. We, as Christians, aren’t perfect. People—especially those who aren’t Christians—are going to sometimes see our faults amplified way more than any good motives or intentions we have. But on the other hand, as one who has been judged by folks in the church, I was able to say to my minister-friend, ”It doesn’t matter how much folks judge you, misunderstand you, ridicule you, hate you, persecute you, spit at you—you don’t have the luxury of stomping away mad. You are called to love.”
What we sow, we reap. For so long, religious folks have sowed judgment into the world. Why does the church now expect not to reap that judgment, in return?
If all we ever show the world is judgment, that is what they’re going to come to expect. What if we choose to show them unconditional love instead?
How do I tell a child I love her when she doesn’t know love? How do I expect her to trust me when all she has ever known is broken trust? I prove it. I earn it. I remind them over and over again with words, actions, hugs, and kisses. –Katie Davis, from Kisses from Katie (emphasis mine)
Let’s go out and love one another.