She was running late. Could her morning have been more disastrous? It all began when the battery on her phone died, which meant her alarm didn’t go off.
“I’ve told you over and over again to get a real alarm clock,” were words she could already hear ringing in her ears. Her mother was quick to offer unsolicited advice. She always had been.
Throwing off her comforter, the second her bare feet hit the floor, the single mother of two was in a mad dash toward the kitchen to check the time on the microwave oven. How long had that darned light been blinking? At some point the power had obviously gone out, knocking her clock into oblivion. She had no choice.
“Mom, hey…my cell phone died and so my alarm didn’t go off. Can you believe it? I was just wondering…what time is it?” As she asked the question, her eyes were squinted tight. She knew her mother’s response was going to hit her like a brick in the head.
“It’s about high time for you to grow up, Sarah. You’re a single mom who needs a job so you can support your family. How many times have I told you that you need a real alarm clock? That interview today is important….”
Before her mother could continue, the twenty-something year old with long auburn hair, interrupted. “Uhhhh, mom, the time?”
“It’s eight-seventeen, which means you’ve got exactly forty three minutes to get to that interview.” The words weren’t spoken, but were spit at her through gritted teeth. Unlike Sarah who was currently unemployed, her mom’s current full time job seemed to be constantly reminding her that she was a big failure.
Gathering as much courage as she could muster, Sarah took a deep breath. “Mom, could I ask you to come watch the babies? I’m not going to have time to drop them off at day care.” Her heart was pounding. Time was running out and she needed her mother’s help.
Following what seemed to be a dramatic pause, her mom finally answered. “I might as well be their mother….I’d certainly make a better mother than you. Yes, I’ll be there.” Without saying good-bye, her mother hung up.
What her mother couldn’t see was how embarrassed she was that her husband had had an affair, the tremendous toll the divorce had taken on her, and how much her children were suffering because of it all. Sarah couldn’t recall the last time she’d had a full night of sleep…nor could she remember the last time she’d washed her hair. If it wasn’t one of the toddlers waking in the middle of the night, it was the other. They needed water, had wet their bed, had a bad dream, or just wanted to get up and play. Sarah was a walking zombie.
Sleep deprived and feeling worthless, Sarah pulled into the parking lot just on time…but found no empty spaces. Driving into the parking lot next door, there was one slot left, but a car had parked at an angle and had taken up most of the empty space. Carefully creeping into the spot, Sarah tore her skirt as she shimmied out of the six inch space that was left on both sides of her car.
As she opened the front door of the office building, she caught a quick glimpse of her reflection. What had happened ? She used to see beauty when she stared back at herself, but now saw unkempt hair, dark circles under her eyes, and a frumpy frame. Wiping a quick tear from her eye, she shook her head to clear her mind and entered the building. She had to have this job. With this salary along with the child support, Sarah could keep her home. Without it, she’d have to move in with her parents. “That can’t happen,” she whispered, racing to the second floor of the building.
Stretching out her hand, Sarah gently took the hand of the towering man before her. “I’m Sarah Johnson, here about the office job.” Forcing a smile, she did her best to appear warm, friendly, and capable.
Her heart dropped, though, when he told her there was no need for an interview. She was a few minutes late for the interview, and for her would-be boss, that told him all he needed to know about her character. She was ushered out before getting a chance to explain herself. To make it all worse, when she made it out to her car, someone had taken the time to leave a note on her windshield to express what a horrific driver she was to have parked in such a tight spot. In addition to several expletives the letter called her an idiot who didn’t deserve to be on the road. Crumpling up the paper in her hand, she sat in her car and cried. How could she go home and face her mother or her children?
Just as she was ready to bang her head on the steering wheel and scream, her cell phone buzzed. It was her neighbor, a middle-aged widow who loved to come visit her and bring fresh bread. Picking up the phone, she read the text. “Praying for you. No matter what happens today, just be reminded that God sees ahead and knows. He’s at work right now preparing a way for you. Trust Him. He believes in you and so do I.”
The question is this: Who are we? Sarah? Sarah’s mom? The Would-Be Boss? the person who left the note on her car? or the neighbor?
Do we lead with compassion and love? Or with Judgment?
There are so many lessons we can learn from the special needs community, but I think one of the most important is about judgment. They don’t judge. Ever. I guess when God created these amazing individuals, he just took the judgment gene right out of them. And you know what? They’re a lot happier than the rest of us. The key, I’ve come to believe, is that they don’t really have much of an expectation of others. Their primary expectation is for themselves, and they give 100% every day. If you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you…but if you’re not nice to them, they’ll still be nice to you. Because they’re kindhearted. It’s who they are regardless of who you are.
If you’re frumpy, grumpy, running late, or running on empty…they’ll never judge. Instead they’ll love you, flaws and all. And it’s powerful. There is something incredibly disarming about being in the presence of friends who always lead with love.
I once heard it expressed that “expectations are premeditated resentments”. And I believe it’s true. It’s our expectations that entrap us. Think about it this way…if we always imagine people have a reason for doing what they’re doing, as with the case of Sarah in this example, it’s much easier to lead with kindness. Which leads to a much better life for everyone. It’s not about encouraging people to be victims, but about erring on the side of forgiveness…and believing the best in people first.
Maybe that person who was late to the meeting had an alarm clock that didn’t go off as planned…perhaps their intentions were pure and they feel really horrible about being late.
Maybe the reason that person parked in the tight parking spot next to you, making your efforts to get into your car uncomfortable, was because there were no other spaces.
Maybe she’s a single mom, raising two young children on her own for the first time.
You get the idea.
Grace. Mercy. Redemption.
It’s who Jesus IS.
And Who we’re supposed to pattern our lives after.
In this process, will we sometimes give a free pass to some nasty, thoughtless, inconsiderate individuals? Of course. But who cares? What does it really matter? In the whole scheme of things, especially in light of eternity, what matters most is the “who” we choose to be.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. ~Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)
Just my rambling thoughts today.