During the month of July, my husband took a sabbatical from his work at church so we could recalibrate, see where the Lord was leading, and spend some much-needed time together as a family. Each Sunday we chose a different church in the area to visit, driving sometimes as much as a half hour away, while I held his hand with the windows down, listening to the kids belt out their best rendition of "Uptown Funk" in the back seat. Being just another face in the crowd was a blessing, and if the kids went willingly to class and were well-behaved, we went out to lunch afterwards.
Eating at a restaurant is a rare treat, as we have a family of seven on a modest income. It's easily a $50+ event, and also, we have five kids.... Enough said, right? We have a hard enough time remaining seated and having any semblance of manners within the confines of our own home, let alone in the outside world.
But we decided to live on the wild side and attempt to go out to lunch without behaving like a herd of elephants. And you know what?? They did really well, especially the boys. They sat in their chairs, ate their food, and used inside voices like normal human beings.
Everyone was finally done eating, and it was becoming obvious that the troops weren't going to hold it together much longer. We were finishing up potty breaks and getting the check in an effort to head home before, you know, the apocalypse happened right before our very eyes. The littlest one, who had already gone to the bathroom, decided she needed to go again just before we left, so I took her while my husband paid and went with the rest of the kids to the car.
As soon as we joined them outside, I could tell something happened. He proceeded to tell me that after I walked away, the kids broke out into a loud rendition of "boots and pants and boots and pants," complete with clapping and stomping, all the way out to the car. The woman in the booth next to us, who had just sat down with her husband and two children, kindly informed him that she teaches her children to obey when they're in a restaurant, and he needed to control his.
To his credit, he didn't say anything and walked away on the heel of the beatbox train, but her snide, off-hand comment clawed at the ankle of my subconscious the rest of the day.
If only we could all be such perfect parents, is what I really wanted to go back and say. And yes, I'm sure they were loud in the moment, which, yes, isn't appropriate, but they were leaving. What really got me, though, was that she just sat down and judged our entire stay from a snippet.
What she didn't see was that we're terrified of taking our children to a restaurant for that very reason--for fear they will be so out of control that we would have to uproot everyone mid-meal and flee the scene, shamed and embarrassed. Consequently, we haven't done it in years.
What she didn't see was how well they behaved for the first 97% of our stay. How they ordered for themselves and told the waitress thank you, for everything. How they colored on their menus and played tic-tac-toe with daddy. How they shared fries and took care of each other.
What she didn't see, regardless of the exit strategy, was that for them? They did really well.
What she didn't see was how long it's taken us to get to this place. A road wrought with tears and embarrassment, missed opportunities, anger, and regrets. But today? Today they did really well.
That's the thing about judging: it takes a small snapshot in time and attempts to enlarge it to form the big picture, but the resulting image is always out of focus. It's inaccurate and blurry, lacking the fine detail necessary to see clearly and truly understand.
The fact is, we don't know where people have been, and only God knows where they're going. So, beloved, we must make room for the journey. We must allow people to be perfectly imperfect, because God only knows that maybe the imperfect is just a little less so than yesterday.
We must be patient with people as they wrestle, as they struggle to surrender, because a vice surrendered out of pressure to conform is still tethered to the heart. And it's human nature to pick it back up again, eventually. It's only when a person is given the sacred space to wrestle it out with God, to pursue other avenues and come up empty-handed, to see the depth of their own sin, that they can fully and with a clear conscience lay a struggle down with a joyful and repentant heart.
So today? Judge not, friends. Make room for the journey of others, and your own, as you walk in humility.
This post is part of a series I’m writing for the month of October called, Walking in Humility: Learning to Abide with God in the Everyday. If you’re interested in the reading the rest of the series, you can find it here. Enjoy!