All of us have life lessons. I've said this before. I don't know what your life lessons are but I see my own. One is that I am called to not judge others. Everytime I err on this, everytime I have a judgment, something happens that forces me to see and do differently, to overcome it. Every time. Some of the judgments I've had I find truly shaming now, so it is hard for me to share them with you, but I'll give you one example: I used to judge people who were caught in situations in which they had no idea what their spouses were up to. "How could they be so blind?" I thought. For example, we hear stories of women whose husbands are married to more than one spouse. The women are unaware that there is another 'wife' out there, mostly because their husbands work involves travel so they just trust and assume when their husband is away that he is on business. I used to judge that. Until I found myself in that situation of being completely unaware of things my husband had been doing. I learned. Again. I can't judge others. I think other people have the same opportunity to learn this lesson, but some choose not to. Too many people condemn something harshly only to be caught in the act of doing it themselves. They had a choice at some point: learn not to judge, to have compassion for that which was hard for them to accept in themselves; or move into a fierce and violent denial that not only injured themselves but injured others too. Not all of us learn our lessons. And, as I said, I think we each have different lessons to learn.
One of my other life lessons, another one that I think others share, too, is the call to be brave. I read somewhere that being brave does not mean to be without fear. Being brave, rather, is acting in the face of our fear. And the truth is we all have different fears, so what it means to be brave will be different for each person. But for me, today and everyday, this is a lesson that is hard and not easy. Because the thing that I fear most (and I realize this may sound shallow to some of you, but it is my fear) is not being liked. Of course there are people who don't like me. There are even people whom I believe hate me. The most evil person I know (and yes, I use that word in this case) is someone who preys on the weaknesses of others. He's done this with others in different ways, found the weaknesses in others and used them to destroy the other. In my case, he saw me coming a mile away and worked hard to discredit me, to make sure I was "not liked" by those under his influence. I was powerless in the face of his charm and charisma to stop it because he forced those who wanted to be in that shiny light of his to choose between us. He used lies (like another charismatic leader we all know) but because he had this pull, this charismatic attraction, it was easy to believe his lies and harder for those blinded by his light to see truth. You would think that because I survived that, that I could have gotten past my fear of being disliked. Add to that living through a public scandal and humiliation and experiencing cruelty beyond belief from neighbors and community members and again, you would think that I would have gotten over my fear. But in fact, those situations only intensified my fear. Yes, I survived both of those situations, but I did not come away unscathed. I am all too aware of the damage that other people's dislike can do, especially when it intensifies into hatred and has a goal of the destruction of another attached to it.
But it is in the face of this fear that I am called to be brave. I have a prophetic calling: a call to speak out against injustice and unkindness and cruelty. That looks like standing up for those who are poor, those who are oppressed, those who are silenced and threatened and put down. I do this, but in a small way. I say things in sermons and on Facebook and other places, but I limit my audience: not posting much to all of my "friends" (I often leave out the ones who wouldn't agree with what I have to say on certain issues), and I post even less to "public". I don't want the hate coming my way. I've been there, done that, am DONE with it. I use the excuses in my own mind (one I discredit all the time when others use it), "I'm not going to change anybody with something I say on FB" for example. But again, I know that's a BS excuse. Jesus, my model for what we are called to do and be in the world, does not ever refrain from speaking truth because he believes he won't convince someone else. He speaks truth, knowing he will be killed for it and choosing to do it anyway.
I hear the call to be brave. To speak the voice of love towards the loveless, to stand beside and up for those who would be treated badly. I hear it, I follow it, but I am struggling to follow it in the fuller way I feel God calling me to do.
I write this in public for two reasons.
First, I am hoping for support in trying to face my fear. I am hoping for your encouragement and your strength to enable me to push on when I am scared. We cannot get support until we let others know where it is needed. So I am putting out there that this is my fear and my need.
Second, I am hoping that my sharing this with you will allow you, too, to think about both your life lessons and all of our calls to be brave. I am hoping that it will motivate you to also be brave, and to be honest with yourselves about what your life lessons might be and how you might learn them with grace, openness, love and trust. That is my hope, that is my wish for you.
Peace to you all as we face this day's lessons.