Friday, May 15, 2015

Are We All Just Stuck in High School?

"The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

I was never into labels or cliques in high school.  I never cared about who was who or what was what---in-crowd, out-crowd, didn't matter to me.  Everyone deserved my respect simply because they were a human being.  Even as a middle school science teacher when I had gang members sitting in my classroom, I didn't care.  I didn't treat them any differently than I treated any other student.  I loved them even though I didn't agree with their choices.  I respected them and genuinely cared for them and they knew it.  And they treated me with respect in return. 

My parents have always modeled loving people unconditionally.  They've always taught me to look past the exterior and the labels and focus on the person's heart.  I'm grateful for that.  I'm grateful that God has given me the eyes to see the good in everyone.  All throughout my life---as a high school student, as a teacher, as a wife and mom, as a leader---it's been an amazing gift.  And I know that at times I've had to look really hard to see the good in some people, but do you know what?  Every time, even when I thought that there was no good inside, when I took the time to look really closely, I would always find a little nugget of good to focus on.  

I'm grateful that God has given me the eyes to see beyond what others love people no matter who they are or aren't, no matter what choices they make or didn't make, no matter what job they have, no matter what color their skin is, no matter what they look like, no matter what they believe in, no matter what church they go to, I will always love others no matter what. 

And I believe to my core that most of us have that same desire, but we get stuck in the categories that society gives others.  We get stuck in our own "worlds", and lately God has challenged me to take a closer look at how we all tend to get stuck in those "high school" patterns of cliques and labels even today.  If you don't believe me, look around....

Don't we still have cliques?  Only now, we call them small groups, or work friends, or moms groups, or bible studies, or committees, or playdate groups, or sewing clubs, or even churches.

How often do we step outside our adult cliques to hang out with someone new?  How often do we love or serve someone outside of our "group"?

Don't we still have labels?  Only now we call them stay-at-home parent, working parent, single, divorced, homeschooling parent, public school parent, not a parent, unemployed, homeless, addict, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian, etc.

How often have you labeled someone based on their current "position in life"?  How often do see someone for what they are instead of who they are?

I'm guilty too.  Even though I love everyone, God has shown me how often I "hang out" with the same people over and over doing the same things over and over.  And don't get me wrong, it's never a bad thing to form close, loving, trusting relationships and friendships, but it's a big world out there with lots of people that long to be included, that need to feel God's love, that need to know that they belong somewhere, that need to know that they are seen, that need to know that they are not just a label nor are they just part of a clique that doesn't belong.   

On Monday night, God sent me on my first mission to serve a new group of people...people I have never met nor served before.  Their label?  "The homeless."  I took my six year old with me and our eyes were opened.  As each person walked passed us with dirty fingernails, torn clothes, and scuffed up shoes, I looked in their eyes.  I smiled and offered them a spoonful of baked beans.  They smiled back and said, "Yes, please.  Thank you so much."  

In that moment, they weren't just "the homeless" anymore to me.  They were no longer that label that I had given them.  They were moms with babies.  They were young men who enjoyed watching NBA basketball.   They were people who enjoyed the company and encouragement of others.  They were courageous.  They were grateful.  They were people with gifts and talents and hopes and dreams.  They were people created by, loved by, and valued by God.

See what happens when we drop the high school labels and really take the time to get to know someone for who they are and for how God created them to be? 

And so I challenge you...
  • Drop the labels.
  • Ignore the cliques.
  • Don't be quick to judge.
  • Get to know someone knew.
  • Look around more.
  • Visit a new church.
  • Serve a new group.
  • See the good in others.
  • Love everyone.
Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to see the labels that we give to others.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to love other human beings that I didn't know before.  Continue to open my eyes and understand the vastness of your love and see the commonalities that we all share.  Shine Your loving light into our lives and allow us to love others unconditionally and see the good that You have deposited in them.  In Jesus' name.  Amen. 

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