Someone I respect very much said that when you listen to a sermon, the people who hear it are the people who probably don’t need to work on that particular subject, it is the people who don’t hear, or who hope that someone else hears it — those are the people who should be listening with themselves in mind. This same pastor also used to say that when you throw a stick into a pack of dogs, the one who yelps is the one who got hit.
I certainly agree with certain aspects of both these narratives. I’ve been the person who doesn’t hear when I needed to, and the dog who yelps when someone calls me out. But I’ve been the person throwing a stick into a pack of dogs and the yelper may or may not have needed the wake-up call, that doesn’t excuse me from being the jerk who threw a stick and hoped it hit the guy.
We talked about how guilty and overwhelmed I feel most of the time. Some of my guilt is fed by legitimate sin that I need to repent of, sin I’m probably oppressively aware of and have a hard time forgiving myself for even when the other person forgives me. But a lot of it are lies I’m telling myself. I feel guilty that someone did this or that and maybe I should have stepped in and not allowed them sin. Shouldn’t I be more aware and a better friend? I feel guilty for feeling guilty for what was done to me as a kid. Shouldn’t I be more resilient? I feel guilty that those people may know that I’m still struggling with the consequences of their sin against me because I talk about it to my husband, to my therapist, and online? Shouldn’t I be able to get over this quietly as to not make them feel bad? Sane people forgive and forget. WTH, right? My therapist shakes his head a lot at me and asks me if I would ever tell my children the things that I tell myself. I laugh and cry a lot in his office.
I don’t usually compare writing to blogging. They are completely different styles. I am not a writer, I am a blogger. Should I ever, God forbid, try to turn my blogs into a book or write a book, the result would be disastrous. For the most part, I write extensive facebook thoughts or journal entries. I can’t present a subject in a report form because I don’t always know where I am going or what I am thinking or what needs to be said. I learn as I type, I edit as time permits and keep going. I don’t have the time to be an accomplished writer who only publishes papers that are coherent and presentation worthy.
I don’t know anyone as well as I know myself. I’m working on my list of things to change in myself, to take responsibility for, and to create boundaries with and stop other habits. I share most of this. I’m talking about real situations that happened in my life because if they happened to me, it probably happened to someone else. We all need to know we aren’t alone. Naturally, sometimes the things I write about include experiences with other people. I make it a point to protect their identity, I don’t intentionally point a finger at them and there are certain people and my experiences with them are 100% off limit. I’m not afraid of sharing my sins, but it is not my place to shame others for theirs. But yes, some people do come up anonymously. As long as the other party hasn’t talked about the rift, then nobody else would know who I am talking about. I check in periodically with a trusted friend to make sure I am successful at protecting certain parties on my blog. It hasn’t been an issue yet.
I know it is impossible for everyone to know to know me well enough to assume the best or understand why I talk about certain stuff, my opinions, my experiences. And I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty when anyone makes outrageous claims or picks fights with me. I shouldn’t feel guilty when someone rejects me or gets angry with me or blocks me. I can only control myself. I am not responsible for or in control of what other adults think and do. I study what happened. If I am in the wrong, I do what it takes to make it right. I’m not afraid of asking for forgiveness and I’m not a person who hides from responsibilities. But for everyone else, I’m not the accountability police, I don’t have time, the will or the energy to be the ideal person who is always above reproach.
Which brings me to a verse I’ve been thinking about. The verse is Matthew 13:57, “And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” I am not a prophetess, I don’t want to be and I certainly never claimed to be one. But the narrative holds true. Being a person who tries not to fall into certain camps unless absolutely necessary, who loathes the mob mindset, who tries to be friends with everyone as I am able under God — well, what happens is that very few people encourage me because very few people can see beyond our differences and focus on what really matters. We belong to the same family, we are children of God, we all have been given the same job to do before God comes again. We are different but we need one another. People are made for community. I need encouragement from the Holy Spirit, of course, but also from people I know who know me in real life.
Today, I drove past several homeless people in Spokane. I didn’t have any cash on me today because I just turned in my baby bottle for the crisis pregnancy center fundraiser. I feel a bit guilty that I don’t have anything for these folks, but I remind myself that I can’t do everything at once. I drove past several younger guys, pretty clean cut and I wondered if this was becoming a normal reflection of our society. Young men asking for help instead of becoming the kind of men who help others. There was a meth head, he wasn’t doing well and I felt guilty again for not being able to help. Then there was this guy, he wasn’t pacing up and down or holding a sign in my face. He was clean, but obviously had fallen on hard times. He wasn’t aggressive or angsty. But he made eye contact and smiled and I smiled back. And then he didn’t make any more contact (eye or otherwise) throughout the red light I was stopped at. I know in that simple act we encouraged one another. We acknowledged that we are both people, on the same planet, in completely different situations, but that wasn’t something that needed to prevent us from showing respect and kindness. It was weird. Why is this such a rare occurrence? Why do we withhold praise and easily criticize? Why do we choose to see the bad stuff in technicolor and hear the anger louder than we hear the joy? I think we may be making a decision and we don’t even know it. We are making the wrong decision, the one that hurts ourselves and others. We can’t understand why people are such a mess and we don’t think we are part of the problem.
I know I am tangeting now. I’m thinking and the words come out all muddled and backward. I’m not a good communicator. I’m working on it, but I refuse to feel guilty about that.