So a thing happened this year…

We moved. Far away. From suburban Tennessee to Washington, D.C.

AND WE COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.

Awesome long story short, on the National Day of Mourning (November 9th, 2016), my husband was out-of-the-blue recruited for a job at an international non-profit here in D.C. WE JUMPED ON IT.

Fast-forward after a semester of me single parenting nine kids and studying for the LSAT and packing up our house in Tennessee, we loaded up the truck and headed to our new home in our nation’s capital and rejoined the husband/dad so this woman could have her sanity back.

Me and my baby on the 4th of July in our new hometown.

 

We belong here. City-living. Metropolitan life. International city. Walking distance to everything we could ever want. Museums. Monuments. Action. Diversity. Super rad photo opps. We love it. Absolutely love it.

And then another thing happened…

The seven kids still living at home (two 10th graders, an 8th grader, two 7th graders, a 6th grader, and a 2nd grader) all went to public school. All. Of. Them. For the first time in almost a decade, no child is home during the day. Which means for the first time in my entire life EVER, I am home alone. Sans children. All day long.

But I mentioned the LSAT. Because while the kids are in school, I’m working on law school applications for Fall 2018 admission. But it’s only Fall 2017 right now. So you get what I’m getting at, right?

I HAVE A WHOLE YEAR OF DOING WHATEVER THE HEAVEN I WANT TO, PEOPLE. HEAVEN. Yes. All the Heaven of it.

So I don’t care if I’m not 19. This is my Gap Year. My year off before I hit the ground running as a first-year law student at the age of 40. (Rule-following is apparently overrated.)

Which means it’s my Sabbath Year. MY year. Because the last decade? Adoptions and homeschooling and attachment disorders and therapists and SO.MANY.HARD.THINGS and I’m tired. I’m worn. And I am in recovery mode. A year of rest and relaxing and intentional peace. I’m almost 40 (October, baby). So I’m screwing the guilt and taking care of ME and doing all the things *I* want to do. Because I’m almost 40, dammit. Did you hear? And no one can tell me what to do.

So I am doing what I want this year. My Gap Year. My Sabbath.

I joined a gym. Orange Theory Fitness, anyone? I’M OBSESSED. Because, again, Almost 40 And Want My Body Back. I can and I will.

Headed to OTF just a few blocks away. I. LOVE. MY. CITY.

And like a proper teenager-almost-40-year-old, I hung a bulletin board in my bedroom corridor, complete with fashion tips, Oprah-esque quotes, photos, and other such magazine-cut-out inspirations. Because, again, Almost 40 And Doing Whatever Makes Me Happy.

Living my best life, you guys. Because my bulletin board tells me so.

 

And I’m doing something totally RAD to take advantage of this WHOLE YEAR OFF:

I’m visiting every single museum in D.C.

Every. Single. One.

Last count, there were 70. That’s 2-3 per week during my kids’ school year. So I’m doing it. All of them. Cool, right? TOTALLY. Yay, museums! My true love! Woo hoo!

And because I want to document my Gap Year D.C. Tour of Museums 2017-2018, I’m blogging them. I’m videoing and taking notes and pictures and I’m blogging.

So I’m going to stop talking now, because today was Museum #1. Which means I have a blog to write and a recap-response video to upload to the universe.

Oh, Gap Year. I so deserve you. And I’m gonna own you so good.

 

Dear Beautiful Human Beings in the LGBT Community,

I am at a loss as to how to begin. I have written and rewritten this in my head dozens of times since Sunday morning when we woke up to hear that over one hundred members of your community were slain and slaughtered. One hundred beautiful fellow human beings. I’ve wrestled and wept and prayed and questioned whether I had the right to even write this at all, and I truly don’t even know where to begin now that I need to translate those thoughts into words on my screen. But here goes…

I’m sitting here in my closet. Weeping. My bathroom hand towel (my regular go-to tear absorber whenever my heart is overwhelmed) is drenched, my stomach is sharply twisting in knots, and my tired eyes are puffy and red from the sobs. My heart is raw. My chest is heavy. I can hardly eat and can barely speak. I’m curled up on the stained carpet in my darkened walk-in closet. Alone. Accompanied only by my tears and my pleas and my prayers.

In my closet. My closet. Alone. The irony isn’t lost on me. I know it’s a place familiar to you, because it’s where we’ve relegated you. We as a society. As a community. And worst of all, as a church. You’ve been forced to hide there. To cry there. To be alone there. Accompanied only by your tears and your pleas and your prayers. And while my own tears are genuine and my heart pain is real and my thoughts are heavy and almost too much for actual written words, I know—please hear me—I know that they are no match for the volume of tears you’ve shed and the heart-wrenching pain you’ve curled up in while lying on the floor of your own metaphorical and literal closet.

So I’m here now with my laptop open, my 38-year-old Christian, suburban, white, straight, married self and mother of eleven (that’s a whole other story), writing to you. I hope you will hear me. I haven’t earned the place, I don’t deserve your ear, and you have no obligation to listen or even take me seriously. I get that. I give you that. No, scratch that. I can’t give what is already rightfully yours to deny. But I hope in your mercy you will allow me anyway to give this a go. (The injustice that I should expect you to give me mercy. I almost can’t even. Deep breath. Jesus.)

But this letter isn’t about me. I’m not the point. So I am coming to you with my hands extended—”just as I am,” as we like to traditionally sing, humbly asking you to accept my apology. My sincerest apology.

I’m so, so sorry. Not in the triteness of a 5-year-old’s forced apology for taking what didn’t belong to him or calling a friend a mean name, but a genuine, Oh-my-God-what-have-we-done, Father-forgive-us-we-know-not-what-we-do apology.

Because I’m. So. Sorry.

Now I know you’ve heard it before and it probably has never held much weight. And I don’t blame you at all. But maybe, just maybe, this apology can somehow by some prayer by some miracle of God’s love hold a little heavier in your heart than a pitiful, patronizing “you poor thing” spurred only by tragedy. Maybe, just maybe, you can receive this from me. From us.

I’ve been in the Christian “world” my entire life. My parents were ministers, I’ve always loved Jesus, and since I was a little kid have read the Bible with a passion to truly understand love, redemption, and what it looks like to live as humans loved by our Creator. I grew up in a left-leaning home politically (no pigeonholing us!), and one that embraced those on the fringe in society. I never learned to hate you, to fear you, to push you away. So when the church began to, I truly didn’t understand. I couldn’t fathom it or reconcile it with the Jesus I know. It has always, always made me angry.

But that’s irrelevant. Because not only am I making this about me again (why do we tend to do that in our apologies?!), but because I belong to a much larger family—the family of God—that does exactly what Jesus didn’t do, that has learned to hate you, fear you, push you away. My family, Christians, have by and large rejected you. And I am so, so sorry.

As I was pouring out my weeping heart to my husband earlier this evening (I tend to do this), I told him that I don’t know what God is doing in me, why I am so broken and torn over this tragedy in Orlando more than any other, why I have been experiencing for the last several months such acute sadness and sheer sorrow for the treatment of transgendered persons and the ostracization of the entire LGBT community, why I feel so convicted and remorseful, why I am grieving so deeply for an entire people group. But I believe that maybe it’s God crying his tears through my eyes on behalf of all Christians, because I’m feeling a physical pain that won’t subside and an overwhelming need to ask you to forgive us. It’s like a fire in my bones, and I can’t keep silent. Perhaps God has been stirring this in me so that I could write this today to post for you as you weep even now in this moment in history. Perhaps it is “for such a time as this.”

I can’t believe what we’ve done to you. I can’t believe we’ve left you out. I can’t believe we’ve told you NO. I can’t believe we’ve okayed that. But we have. And I can’t believe that even though I never set out to intentionally hurt you and never spoke a word directly against you and never overtly told you you aren’t welcome in my family, in my church, in God’s Kingdom, I’ve sinned against you by omission. I’ve left you out. I never grabbed you by the hand and brought you in. I never went out of my way to say directly to your face that YOU ARE WELCOME HERE. You belong. Because if I belong, so do you. And I haven’t placed the priority on that to let you know. I haven’t made it a priority to let you know you matter. So I’m here to say I’m so, so, sorry.

I wish I would have known sooner. I wish I would have seen. And to be clear, my own blindness is not your fault. You have been letting us know for decades. And it’s not that we didn’t know you were there. Or that you didn’t get our attention in appropriate ways. We were simply too self-focused to pay attention, and when we did, we didn’t care. We were too self-righteous to accept you. So we dismissed you. We feared you. We turned you away in disgust. And so I’m here to speak for us all and apologize.

I think it’s just like this. I have eleven kids. (Like I said, that’s a whole other story.) We live in a neighborhood with a ton of kids, kids who are always playing together outside, in a field, at our house, on our driveway, and at each other’s homes. If one day I found out that my kids had been excluding a boy down the street, that they had told him he can’t come to our house, that he can’t play here, that he isn’t allowed in our home while all the other neighborhood kids were welcome, that he can’t play with our family, as a member of this family (and especially as the mom), I would be livid. Absolutely livid at my family. And I would ache for that sweet little boy, for the rejection he’s experienced and pain he’s been living with, pain brought on my members of my own family. I would ache so deep an ache that I wouldn’t stop there—I couldn’t.

As soon as I made this discovery, as soon as my eyes were opened to this injustice and hurt, I would do two things: First, I would go to my kids and tell them how awful it is what they’ve done; how they’ve hurt an innocent boy who just wanted to be their friend, who just wanted to play, who just wanted to be treated as any other, who just wanted to belong. I would scold them and correct them and make it very clear to them how awful and unacceptable their treatment of this child is. That no one deserves that kind of rejection. That he has just as much right to our home and family as any other neighborhood kid. And that I don’t care how different they think he is.

But next? I would go to him. I would go so fast to him and tell him how so very sorry I am that members of my own family hurt him so deeply. I would listen to his pain and see his tears and offer my apology. I wouldn’t blame him for not fitting in; I wouldn’t tell him to change; I wouldn’t try to explain away the injury. I would apologize. Genuinely and deeply apologize.

So to you, beautiful people in the LGBT community, I am here as a member of God’s family, extending my heartfelt apology to you, our neighbors, asking you to forgive us, begging you to give us the mercy our family has failed to give you.

I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry our sorrys ring hollow.

I’m sorry it’s taken a tragedy to wake us up from our self-induced slumber.

I’m sorry we’ve shut the doors to the church to you because in our arrogance we’ve thought you less than us.

I’m sorry that it’s been “us vs. them.” Versus you.

I’m sorry that we haven’t called you to the shared table.

I’m sorry we’ve offered condemnation which contradicts any messages of love.

I’m sorry that we’ve pointed out what we see as flaws in you when really we just don’t want anyone to see the flaws in us.

I’m sorry we’ve been the worst of hyprocrites.

I’m sorry we’ve blamed you for our failed marriages as if your civil rights somehow impact our own.

I’m sorry we’ve charged you with the moral decay of society.

I’m sorry we’ve made a part of who you are reason to reject you in your entirety.

I’m sorry we don’t make sense.

I’m sorry we’ve told you that you have to change before God will accept you, when Lord knows most of us are quite comfortable not changing at all.

I’m sorry we’ve denied you the right to worship at the altar of God when we know it’s only by grace that we are there in the first place.

Izzy beach

I’m sorry that we sing about “wave after wave” of God’s love sweeping over us while leaving you watching from the shoreline.beach

I’m sorry that we couldn’t have cared less.

I’m sorry that we have been selfish with God’s mercy. That we want all the forgiveness in the universe from God but ask for none from you.

I’m sorry that we haven’t been sorry.

I’m sorry that you’ve had to convince yourself that life is worth living.

I’m sorry that we’ve played God by shutting the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in your face and making it hell for you on earth.

I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that we claim to love you but ignore you when you say you don’t feel it.

I’m sorry that we’ve made you hide in dark places and seek God on your own to the point that you question if God is even there and if he is if he really loves you or thinks you’re worth anything.

I’m sorry that we have treated you less than human.

I’m sorry you’ve had to be brave when you only wanted to be yourself.

I’m sorry that we have cared more about rules and interpretations and behaviors than actually really caring.

I’m sorry that you don’t feel safe.

I’m sorry that you live in fear.

I’m sorry that we’ve turned our churches into clubs.

I’m sorry the name of Jesus has been used to exclude you while we sing about the name of Jesus, oh the name of Jesus, being the sweetest name we know.

I’m sorry our often pitiful behavior has made you want nothing of the Jesus we claim to follow.

I’m sorry.

I’m so, so sorry. Please forgive us. Often, as Jesus pointed out, we just do not know what we do.

And I know it’s never enough to make up for the pain for the hurt for the loss for the fear for the rejection for the confusion and doubt and depression and anger and loneliness. It’s not enough.

But I’m sorry nonetheless.

There’s nothing you need to say in return. Nothing that you owe us. Nothing we are expecting you to do. But I hope you can receive this, and in even the smallest way, I pray it starts to heal a place deep inside of you.

And let me speak on behalf of the family of God and all of my brothers and sisters, most especially when they’ve we’ve not represented the family well, I hope that you know just how much I truly care and want you in. I want you in the door. We want you in. WE WANT YOU ALL IN. EVERY. LAST. ONE. OF. YOUR. VALUABLE. PRECIOUS. BEAUTIFUL. SELVES.

And I hope, finally, that the truths in this song penetrate to the very core of who you are, that you know (as my 14-year-old daughter and regular and vocal advocate for you sang from our church stage tonight) that God’s love is a wave crashing over you, that he is for you and not against you, and that he makes you brave. The “champion of Heaven” has “made a way for ALL to enter in.”

Thank you for listening. Thank you for not giving up on us. And thank you for being you.

kidsbeach

Come on out and come on in. Come join us in the waves. Because nobody—NOBODY—belongs in a closet.

And, you are so truly loved. Out there on the shore and way out here deep in the waters. You are loved.

❤❤❤

-heidi, a follower of Jesus trying her best in Tennessee

 

 

 

[Edited 4/23/16 to add a note from a friend who is the mom of a transgendered child:
“Just by way of education, I would like to share with you that “transgenders” and “transgendered” are terms that the community doesn’t use. In the same way autistic kids wouldn’t be called ‘autistics’ or people with Down Syndrome wouldn’t be ‘Down Syndromed.’ For trans people it feels like they are diminished to and defined by that one aspect of who they are. Trans or transgender people/men/women/children/youth is the phrasing that is preferred.” Thank you, friend, for helping to educate the public. Language matters.


{This week Target announced it would allow all of its employees and customers to use the public restroom of whichever gender they identify with. And then my Facebook exploded and suddenly suburban moms everywhere are publicly pretending that shopping at Wal-Mart is morally superior and just as relaxing. (Y’all, that’s laughable in every way thinkable.) So then I wrote a comment on a Facebook post, but that got too long, so I turned it into an actual Facebook post, but that got too long, so I turned it into this. Which is why you’re here reading this instead of on my Facebook page posting smiley faces or debating gender issues with me. So shall we?}

 

Listen. I get trying to be safe. I get not wanting harm to come to your kid just because you were in Target and they really had to go. Because as we and Annie all know, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Especially when you’re five years old. But last time I had a five-year-old (oh, I mean like now), I didn’t let him run into a public bathroom by himself anyway (he can’t even reach the paper towels, y’know), so I’m feeling like it’s all a little irrelevant because we DON’T SEND OUR HELPLESS LITTLE ONES INTO PUBLIC BATHROOMS ANYWAY). But that’s beside the point. I guess.

target
Because the REAL thing is, the real thing is this: All of this hype and fear and hysteria…It really comes down to the discomfort and “ew” factor we at large feel about men dressing as women. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s be real with each other. Because unless we’re transgendered ourselves, we just can’t relate to it nor imagine it. And it might even (probably even?) feels a bit gross to us. Maybe it feels a bit perverted. Maybe we just can’t wrap our heads around it. Because maybe we’re not transgendered. But it’s situations like these that I allow myself to be stretched. To have my knee-jerk reactions kept in check. To listen to the voices of those whom I rarely hear in my little suburban bubble. Because I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to misunderstand or not understand at all. I don’t want to be like the masses all riled up in widespread panic about something we just don’t get. That I don’t get. I don’t want to have emotional reactions where I don’t need to.
 
Bottom line, we’re freaking out because we don’t get it. (And isn’t that so typical of us humans?) And so we do what we always do when we don’t get it and can’t relate: We get publicly outraged about issues that truly didn’t bother us a day or week ago. Issues that we didn’t even know about or give two seconds of thought to before we heard it on the news or talk radio or on Facebook. Before our pastor or our friend or our mother-in-law tsk-tsk’d about it. Before a loud-mouthed politician screamed about people different from us. Before someone told us to BE AFRAID. BE VERY, VERY AFRAID.
 
But the truth is, whether you want to believe it or not, transgendered persons have existed for longer than there have been public bathrooms. They’ve been around since, well, genitalia and culture and gender identities and all that human complexity have been around. SO LIKE FOREVER. But very few knew and no one cared. And your kids didn’t get raped by men dressed like women in the bathroom at your favorite retailer. Because if they did? It would be ALL THE NEWS and ALL THE FACEBOOK POSTS.
 
No, they got raped on dates with boyfriends who wouldn’t accept the word NO. They got molested by drunk uncles at family reunions. They were violated by coaches you trusted. They were molested at church by Sunday school teachers. Groped by siblings under the threat of secrecy. Assaulted by family friends.
 
But acknowledging all of THAT is terrifying. It means that our kids are actually less safe than we are comfortable with. That’s the real truth. We can’t actually protect them like we want to. Our safeguards are only as safe as the temptation to do evil is in a perpetrator. And that bothers us. And maybe we haven’t even thought about it consciously, but it at least sits there in the backalleys of our subconscious. For those of us who found our own selves victimized by perpetrators, maybe it triggers fears that we deep down don’t want to deal with while all the same we really do.
 
So we invoke an age-old tactic when we don’t want to confront the fears within us. We project. We scapegoat. We convince ourselves that the transgendered community or gays or Muslims or Mexicans or whoever the current enemy-du-jour might be, we tell ourselves that they’re the real threat. We listen to obnoxious wannabes with lots of money and too many microphones and really bad hair. We believe what someone we knew in high school says on Facebook because they believed what someone they knew in middle school said…on Facebook. And if we could just get rid of that threat—those threats—our kids would be safe. Finally. Whew.
 
Except they’re not. It’s not that easy. If it were, we could just eliminate “transgendered persons” and “gays” and all would be roses and rainbows again. (Oh, wait. Not the rainbows. Rainbows = bad. My bad.)
 
But I, for one, am tired of the media and politicians and hyped up fearmongers telling me whom to fear, whom to keep my kids from, what to be afraid of, where to shop and not to shop. Whether they be transgendered persons or Muslims or gays or atheists or (sorry, my fellow homeschoolers) the public schools (gasp!). I just won’t do it. I REFUSE TO OBEY YOUR OWN FEAR.
 
I am an intelligent woman. I get dressed on my own. I choose my own hair color. (I choose many of them, actually.) I decide when I will go back to school. I get to pick whether I will stay home or go to work. I decide if I want drive-thru or made-from scratch at home. I choose where to worship. How to vote. What to believe. And how to live my life and raise my own kids. I do things of my own volition. And so do you. Which means, I can decide whom and what to fear…all on my own. And you can too.
 
And even then…I will not choose fear. I WILL NOT DO IT. And you can’t make me.
 
Yes, duh, I will try to protect my kids in rational, realistic, and responsible ways. And no, duh, I will not be blindly stupid nor stupidly blind. I will be wise. I will be calm. I will be intelligent. And that means not reacting to hype and cooperating with hysteria. History proves that is rarely the wise option. Can I get a witness?
 
So care to join me or care to not. What you do is up to YOU. But as for me and my family, we’re going to choose calm. We will not give in to your fears.
 
Now if you are REALLY wanting to get riled up, because, y’know, innocent children and all that upsets you, let me point to you some REAL threats affecting kids RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE:

 

1) Hundreds of Ethiopian Kids Kidnapped in Raid

2) Children Killed by Gun Violence in the United States

3) How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain

4) How Make Your Mark Ministries is Changing the Lives of Street Boys —kids who are actually raped every night. I know, because I’ve met them. On the street. In the middle of the night.

5) Children Found Sewing Clothes for you to buy from…Wal-Mart (oops)

6) How You Can Help Combat Human Trafficking —It’s happening in your backyard. In the dollar store. In place, like, you know, Target.

Of course, those are just a few. Six of a slew of threats against our children. Six actual issues actually taking place in our actual neighborhoods or actual cities or even just a hop across the ocean. But these are actual, real things actually really happening like FOR REAL. These aren’t imagined. They’re certainly not made much of by the media. But they’re REAL nonetheless. Maybe even moreso. Did I mention they’re actually real?
Whatcha gonna do?
So you care about your kids. Great. You care about children. Wonderful. Now stop obeying someone else’s fears and go do something about kids living in real fear.
Go back to your retail therapy at Target. Go grab your red plastic cart. Pick up your Starbucks. Use the bathroom if you need to pee because that whatever-mocha-latte-frappacino-whatever-you-call-it-I-don’t-know-because-I-don’t-drink-coffee runs right through you. You know you can’t stay away, anyway. It’s TARGET, after all. And not even your very best friend believes you when you say you’re boycotting that place.
targetbasket
And the next time you feel that all-too-human knee-jerk reaction rising up inside your fear-prone body, STOP IT RIGHT THERE. Set a better example for your kids. Set a better standard for yourself. Speak out against it even.
Back right on up out of that faux firestorm. Don’t contribute to the panic. There’s enough to fear in this world. Enough to really get angry about and do something about. Don’t manufacture reasons to be afraid, and FOR! THE! LOVE! don’t EVER submit to anyone else’s urgings on why you should be.
You with me?
Whew. It’s Friday. And now I really need to go to Target.
(And I might even have to pee there.)
targetball

My cutie at age 3. He probably had to pee there. He probably DID pee there. And there might or might not have been a transgendered person in the stall next to us. I DON’T KNOW. And that’s the point.

 Note from my friend Aimee:
“…While you are spot on that people are reacting out of disgust to the idea of men dressing up as women, the transgendered people I’ve met see this as a totally different thing. There are men and women who dress in alternate gendered clothing. And there are men and women who understand themselves to be alternately gendered. I know you know this, but others reading your post may not. Not trying to needless parse wording, but this seems an important distinction to my transgendered friends.”
Thank you, Aimee, for clarifying this for all my readers.

Everyone is an expert and no one has a soul.

While holed up in an attic for two years of her short life, Anne Frank famously penned in her diary, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” And I really want to believe that. The eternal optimist in me who sees the potential for good in even the worst of people—I cried when Osama bin Laden was killed and I will always shed tears when the death penalty is carried out—really wants to believe that. But lately, you guys, if I’m being honest, I really just don’t know.

Seems that you can’t jump on Facebook or read a news story on CNN or hear about a tragedy without being assaulted by the reality that people, well, they can just be plain mean. Judgmental. Hateful. Flat out cruel.

For the love, FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS, what has happened?

Now, I realize this is nothing new under the sun, as nothing really is. But with social media, 24/7 news cycles, and the internet so close to our fingertips that our thoughts give birth to publicized opinions the moment they are conceived, suddenly the exposure to the meanness has soared a few gazillion notches, and the feeling-freeness to verbally vomit is at an all-time high in human history.

And all of a sudden we have a new phenomenon that is bound to obliterate any trace of compassion and empathy and bring humanity to its basest, most uncaring state: Because now, everyone is an expert. On EVERYTHING.

Every blogger has a theory. Every Twitterer has a thought. Every Facebooker has an opinion. On EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Heck, we’re even experts concerning, or most especially concerning, situations and circumstances with which we have a total of, well, absolutely zero personal experience whatsoever.

Check it out:

Courtesy of the horrific revelations about the Duggar family, everyone is now an expert on sexual abuse within a family—except most of us won’t deal with that. Jim Bob and Michelle are neglectful, horrible parents who covered up abuse to protect their image and make a buck or two, so say the masses. And now we’re all experts on large families, homeschoolers, those too religious, and those who don’t believe in birth control—except we’re not.

Courtesy of Bruce Jenner’s public transformation into Caitlyn, everyone is now an expert about the struggles of a transgender individual—except most of us won’t deal with that. He/She will always be a man, isn’t really a woman, is simply an attention whore. And now we’re all experts on the causes, the sinfulness, the angst, the inner turmoil—except we’re not.

Baby dies after being left in a hot car? The mom is selfish, pathetic, and deserves to have her children taken away. And we’re all experts on responsible parenting—except we’re not.

A woman is killed by a lion through an open window during a photographic safari? Even though she was an accomplished 29-year-old who traveled to South Africa to raise money for anti-poaching organizations, she’s clearly a total idiot who had it coming, survival of the fittest had its way, and she deserved to die for ignoring the posted warnings. And now we’re all experts on safety on safaris—except we’re not.

Mexican immigrants die while trying to cross the border into freedom? They are law-breakers with no respect for the rules. And we’re all experts on the plight of the poor foreigner—except we’re not.

Those in poverty use food stamps to pay for soda? They are lazy, good-for-nothing leeches who are milking the system and duping taxpayers. And we’re all experts on the struggles of generational poverty—except we’re not.

A 20-something-year-old texts while driving and kills his best friend in the passenger seat? He deserves to rot in prison for taking his friend’s life due to his own selfishness and narcissism. And now we’re all experts on justice and retribution for those who text and drive—except we’re not. {But we are lucky hypocrites, that’s for sure.}

Today it’s one thing. Tomorrow it’ll be something else. And the day after that yet another thing altogether.

AND IT’S ALL CRAZY AND DOWNRIGHT ARROGANT AND ENTIRELY MEANINGLESS, because if everyone were really an expert on anything, we’d see far more compassion and way less chatter. Far more love and way less condemnation. Far more understanding and far fewer opinions.

Sexual abuse. Gender identity issues. Mental health struggles. Affairs. Suicide. Wayward children. Addictions. Those might not be what you’re facing today and might not have been part of your story. But one day something painful or horrific will take you by surprise and all of your prior know-it-allness will fall by the wayside and you’ll be flat on your face begging Jesus for mercy. And you’ll need it.

And you’ll fall into a heap when what the public is condemning is the very tragedy you’re presently facing. You’ll eat your words when the judgment you meted out eats you up inside. You won’t have a safe place to fall into when it’s your child who made the awful choice. When it’s your husband who committed the crime. When it’s your loved one who had the affair. Who broke the law. Who succumbed to addiction. Who suffered from post-partum psychosis. Who was conquered by mental illness and took his own life. Who fell asleep at the wheel and killed a bystander.

You’ll be humbled by your own arrogance when it’s your son who feels like a girl. When it’s your daughter who tells you she’s a lesbian. When it’s your brother convicted for child molestation. When it’s your husband outed as a pedophile. When it’s your dad busted for embezzlement. When it’s your sister who left your niece in the hot car.

Caution

The day will come. It always does. And woe to the “experts” on that day.

When you’re in your own desert, your own wasteland, your lips parched and your mouth dry, begging for just a drop of water to touch your tongue. Only none will come. And you’ll regret every time you failed to spare some for another. Your misery will be compounded by your lack of compassion for others. Your pain will be expounded by your own piety in the past. And your hypocrisy will hound you as you hunker down in humility—humility forced upon you not by your own choosing but by an unforeseen tragedy.

“So people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled.” –Isaiah 5:15

So STOP your judgment, your ridicule, your demeaning of others’ misery. STOP blogging as if you know. STOP stating your opinion as if it’s the truth in stone. STOP using your words to elevate your pedestal. STOP preaching as if you have the expertise. STOP the self-promotion and self-righteous stances. Shut up with your sanctified sermons about struggles you don’t face and deal with your own hidden sins and secret sorrows. Get off your moral high horse and actually kneel down to wash the feet of those dirtied and blistered by life—yes, even by their own foolish choices.

Instead? Reach down and grab the hand of one more vulnerable. Someone in pain. Someone who needs to know they’re not alone. Offer solidarity. Offer hope. Offer healing and freedom and acceptance and safety.

Hands Compassion

And be mercy.

Be love.

Be Jesus.

We’re not all experts, that’s for sure. But we’re all in need. Every last one of us.

O, Compassion, where art thou?

 

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. –Psalm 112:4

“Here are the values I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
–Ellen Degeneres