I’m often guilty of thinking the world’s problems are solved by people simply making better choices for themselves. Most of the time, I can remember that not everyone has the autonomy and skills to do such a thing. Then, there are the moments where both options remind me of how easy it is to judge rather than show compassion.

Over the past six weeks I’ve been on the planning team for an event addressing the issues of homelessness. The event was a success last night with multiple elements including a meal, listening panel, main speaker and breakout sessions on how to get involved. We worked to create a safe space for people to come and give voice to their stories in relationship to homelessness.

One brave young woman* spoke about her experience being homeless. She’d been homeless most of her teenage years into adulthood after the death of her mother. Some family members gave her a place to stay, but those did not last. Eventually she was not only homeless, but also pregnant and homeless. This happened twice. I listened, teared up and walked away with a heavy heart. She was brave enough to share her story and I was caught up in judgment. Pregnant and Homeless? Twice?

While planning, I (and the whole team) focused on the opportunity to educate people about what is really happening in people’s lives as they deal with homelessness. My education came in discovering how easy it was for me to judge, even as I was tearing up in awe of a woman’s bravery.

Last night taught me that my tendency to judge is insidious. It is not always obvious and we must be careful of when our mind wanders down that road. To find my footsteps with Jesus, I’m reminded of this scripture. “We should stop judging one another; judge rather that you should not put anything before your brother or sister to make them stumble or fall” (Romans 14:13).

Might I be convicted of compassion rather than judgment.

* It is an incredible blessing to have the permission of this woman to share this bit of her story with you here. I’ve kept her name private, but trust that we can lift her to God in prayer without having it.

If you have questions about what judging means for a Christian, check out this post from Taizé.

Springing It

Our Patio

Our Patio with the Meyer Lemon Tree

Every morning and in the evenings when I can, you can find me sitting out on our back patio swing to watch the dogs play and hear the birds sing. It’s stunning, really. The robins are nearly constant in song from sunrise to sunset. The finches are building nests and I watch them quickly grab a string or stick from the yard before our two dogs dart towards them. Then, there is the occasional cardinal in the splendor of bright red feathers. We’ve got 9 different herbs this year and even a Meyer lemon tree with fragrant flowers. It’s my own little resting place.

As I type and swing, I know that pretty soon the sneezing will begin and my eyes will itch. It’s worth it, though, to have such beauty to enjoy. It’s seems like that’s the way of life. So much beauty in the midst of annoyances (like my allergies) and heartaches difficult to even speak aloud. We’ve just walked through the season of Lent with Holy Week and Good Friday’s death of Jesus. We woke up Easter Sunday singing “He is Risen.” (Ok, so maybe only I did that.) Death does not get the last word in the life of Jesus or in our lives. God’s outstretched hand of love is offered to us over and over again inviting us into the beauty of this life and the next.

It’s hard to focus on that beauty and life when the annoyances and heartaches cloud our vision. Eventually, sitting out here on the patio, I may get a headache from pollen. My eyes will itch. I should sneeze any second now. Those things will not get the best of me or the last word about the time I spend out here. I choose to celebrate the beauty. What do you let have the last word in your life?

My spiritual practice this Eastertide (the time in the church year between Easter and Pentecost) is to watch what I am saying about my life. I will be listening to how I talk about my everyday life in terms of Good Friday or in terms of Easter. Will I let the annoyances and even heartache have the final word or the beauty and meaning of Easter morning speak?