Today’s Blog is a guest post from my wife, Heather. Enjoy!
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14
Every once in a while I have been critical of someone’s shortcomings.
For example, I thought my amazing sister-in-law didn’t quite have the whole parenting thing under control when her son, who was born a year before my oldest, was going through a biting stage. While she was at her wits end, I just smiled and thought of all the books on parenting I had read and what a good teacher I was and wished I could pass my massive amounts of child-rearing knowledge on to her so that she could be at peace.
Fast forward a year later and my son Jonathan was biting everything and everyone in sight like a vampire shooting expresso. Lesson learned.
…until I noticed a friend’s dingy shower floor. My little home-making head swelled as I scrubbed and bleached that shower floor while house-sitting for her. When she returned and asked about how I got it so clean, I smugly replied, “I just scrubbed it.” Ugh. What a brat! Well, two weeks ago I was faced with a shower floor of my own that looked like a whole gang of wild monkeys and mud-soaked shaggy dogs had been having a party in there. It was a long, humbling scrub with chemicals that nearly burned my plastic gloves off before I could see fiberglass again.
Now it’s here again. Another reminder. This time right outside my front door.
You see, when we would go door to door inviting people to church, I always enjoyed looking at the different architecture, seeing great innovative decorating ideas, and retaining all the layouts I could from the landscaped yards we would pass. But there would always be that one house. Every neighborhood had one- a house that had a porch and walkway covered with dead leaves, pigeon feathers, sales ads, and cobwebs.
I would pity them as I walked away. Poor, wretched people who can’t even take the time to sweep in front of their door…pathetic. Seriously, we live in a desert. How hard is it to keep the leaves out of there. Once a year should do it. Southerners like me know that this is no way to welcome guests.
This morning, I hurried out of my house to grab the groceries before I headed off to work, also making a mental note to grab the leftover casserole for the kids’ lunches, and as I quickly closed my door, piles of leaves and debris swirled up and around my new black shoes like a mini tornado of shame.
Have I neglected my homemaking duties? No. (Well, yes. There is more laundry, but there’s always more laundry, that doesn’t count) I had just swept and blown away all the leaves (seriously, y’all we have ONE tree- one very small tree- in our front yard) a week and a half ago. But here they are again.
You, see, I never knew how windy the desert was. I never knew that differently designed entryways would handle this problem- well- differently. I never knew that a boxed entryway would have no escape route for all the random stuff that blows in. I never knew that. Not until my house had one.
And that is how I find that life is. I look at someone else’s porch with disdain, thinking proudly “I would never…”. It’s then that I can be sure that same downfall waits dismally in my future.
It’s easy to be critical of the single mom we see at the park and rest assured that she got herself into that situation. We are quick to tell our friend that if we were in charge of that ministry, we would fix all those issues. We watch disdainfully as another mom struggles to deal with her kid’s issues. A preacher or ministry leader who falls publicly sends us rushing to our phones rather than to our knees. When our husband crushes our daughter’s spirit, we sigh…we would never.
And on and on we go. “Humbly” thanking God that we are not as these other people are…people with dirty shower floors, biting children, and unswept porches.
I’m not saying that we can’t be wise and learn from other’s mistakes. Sin is sin- in my life and yours. A wise woman takes note of the wrong path and turns her feet in a different direction, but she also notes how easy it is to fall (I Cor. 10:12), and ultimately begs God for mercy and to “lead me not into temptation, but deliver me, O God!” More and more I find this petition on my prayer list. I am learning that I am not above any sin or failure no matter how beyond my reach it may seem right now.
So, now when a critical thought rushes eagerly across the entryway of my mind, I try to greet it at the door with a “God, be merciful to me a sinner” hello and goodbye. Because dare I welcome it in, it will quickly take up residence. And I just don’t have time for any more cleaning.