I saw a young man at church yesterday (actually, at first, I wasn’t even sure he was a man). He was tall and overweight. He was an African-American man with shiny, straight hair cut like Cleopatra’s. I fought the urge to stare along with my old habit of judging and walked on by.
It brought back a not particularly good memory from 5 or 6 years ago. Bryan and I went to the annual classic auto show on a bright Sunday afternoon in August. It was held in Frame Park in Waukesha on the Fox River. It was a lovely venue. I loved sharing time with him, and we both had a thing for classic cars. It had shaped up to be a joyous afternoon – until I ruined it.
A young man walked toward us. He had the classic Goth look – baggy jeans, a skull-decorated T-shirt, piercings, tattoos, hair dyed black. I looked at him, and I whispered to Bryan (or at least I thought I was whispering), “His mother must be so proud.” He heard me and gave Bryan a dirty look. Needless to say, Bryan was not happy with me, and I was completely ashamed of myself. I apologized to him quickly, but it cast a pall over an afternoon that I had looked forward to for a few weeks.
I had spent most of the boys’ childhood, teenage and early adult years trying to be a good role model. I didn’t smoke or use foul language, I’d never even tried smoking pot. I didn’t watch movies that celebrated evil, and after I accepted Christ as my personal Savior, I stopped watching soap operas.
We visited friends in West Bend one Saturday when the boys were about 9 and 10. They fed us lunch, and I sat down to chat with our friend, Connie. She gave me a wine cooler, which I don’t really care for and only drink half of. We told old stories and started to laugh. Stephen said, “Mommie’s drunk”. I wasn’t, of course, but for some reason that comment had a strong effect on me. Our boys never saw me drink again. My life revolved around all the “bad things” I no longer did or never did, and I took some odd sort of pride in that.
I thought those character traits, along with them being dragged unwillingly to church every Sunday, would have a positive effect on them, would give them heart for the Lord.
I was so wrong.
It took a switch to a mainstream Christian church to show me how wrong I really was. By being taught directly from the Bible each week, I learned what a Christian really looks like. It’s not so much about what we give up when we decide to follow Christ. It’s so much more about what we take on.
After 37 years in the Catholic church, I finally learned that God doesn’t care so much about whether or not I eat meat on Friday, but He does care about how I love. Do I show compassion? Do I treat people with mercy? Do I give to those who need help, who have less than I do? Do I spread His word? Can I forgive those who wrong me? Am I His hands and feet? Do people see Him when they look at or deal with me? Do I bring joy to their lives?
This was a revelation for me, one that I hope to keep growing with.