You know what I get tired of and am really just plain over? Judgement.
Seriously. And I’m not talking judgement in general, I’m talking about judging people in ministry. I’ve been in some form of ministry every year since I was 15-16 years old. It’s officially over half of my life now. And you know what? The amount of judgement I’ve seen in those years has been amazing. What is even more amazing has been the amount of it that I’ve seen in my older years as I’ve been serving full time.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that in my years of being a student ministries pastor I was the recipient of many parent phone calls because we had taken a not typical direction with our ministry. I even had one parent swear at me on the phone. Funnily enough we were able to finish the conversation on good terms and I kind of gave myself a pat on the back because I apparently had the ability to talk people down from the ledge of insanity to normal conversation.
I’ve had to learn how to be like a duck, and let things roll off. But, let me tell you, it’s HARD. It’s hard to be criticized. To be told that there is a different way you should be doing things. That you aren’t doing it “right” (whatever that is). That you don’t know what you’re talking about. ETC.
The crazy thing is that often these things, these bits of information that we’re supposed to abide by, come from people who have very little experience, if any, in the type of ministry that we’re involved in. Yet, when you tell them that they don’t understand they look at you like you’re crazy and that of course, you should accept their insight. We have had people tell us that their experience with one week missions trips gives them enough knowledge to tell us how we should do what we do every day. I’m sorry, did I miss something here? I see my shoes sitting by the door every day, yet I’m the only one walking in them. I don’t see you packing your bags and jumping in like we have. I don’t see you walking away from everything familiar, the people you love, the life you live to walk in those shoes every day. Yet you have a lot of ideas about what I should and should not be doing. In another culture. Where you don’t even speak the language.
Judgement is painful. In the last few years I look at the way our family has been criticized about some of the issues we’ve had to deal with, and I know that if someone else were in our shoes, they would probably have a lot less to say about the matter. Take the van arson and death threats. We’ve had a lot of people tell us what we should have done differently, how we could have avoided the situation etc. Always, these people have less information about the situation than we do, yet they feel they understand. When I sit and think about it the question I want to ask is, “If it was you, that woke up in the night and found your car on fire, but there was no 911 to call, what would you have done? And the next morning when you found the death threats, what then?” I think the responses would be very different. And that’s the problem – the expectations.
Judgement is driven by expectations. Expectations about what we think should happen in any given situation, and expectations about who we think people should be and how they should act and respond. And you know what? The truth is that when we have expectations we will always be let down. Always. Because no person can live up to the expectations of all the other people in their lives. It’s not humanly possible. Nor does God expect us to do that.
People, let’s get frank here. When it comes to judgment, there is only One who matters – God. He is the only one that has any right to expect anything from us. And the only reason is that he knows us intimately. He knows our hearts, our thoughts, our motivations, our intentions. Everything.
When we look critically at someone, especially those that are in ministry, we need to be careful about playing God. Yes, I just said that. When we judge people who are doing what God has called them to do we walk a very fine line of putting ourselves in the place of the Almighty. Why do I say that?
Well, consider the fact that my calling isn’t between me and you and all those other people out there. It’s between me, and GOD. God alone. God is the one that plants a call to service in the hearts of his children. He is the only one that truly understands his purpose for doing so. Even as the person receiving the call I have no idea what his plans are for me. For someone to get in there and tell me that I am not doing things right etc is actually pretty arrogant of them. It’s them saying that they know what God knows. And frankly, I hardly doubt that’s true. My call to Haiti was a two year process. It was a lot of conversations between me and God that usually consisted of me telling him he was crazy, it wasn’t the time, I wasn’t called into missions, I wasn’t missionary material. Two years of that. And then finally I woke up and let go and the peace that came with accepting that call in my life was amazing. God didn’t promise the road would be easy, he just said he’d be with me. He didn’t give me the list of things I needed to be before I could go, he just told me to go.
And why we think that we have the right to tell people what they should be in ministry is beyond me. And why we seem to think people serving are much different from those that stay “home” and work in a 9-5 job, go to church etc is crazy to me too. Aren’t we all called to be representatives of Christ to the world, wherever we are? Aren’t we all called to give up certain things, to be a model etc, not just those of us that are “in the field”? Don’t get me wrong, I know and believe that there are certain biblical standards that people in ministry are called to, but they are not much different than those that all believers are supposed to maintain.
What really gets me is that the judgment often comes in a way that leaves the person in ministry feeling inadequate. Like I said, I’ve had to learn how to be a duck and let things bead and roll off. It’s not easy. And, the most difficult thing is that I know the bible is full of examples of God calling imperfect people into roles of ministry. Paul, for example, is one of the greatest missionary examples out there. Yet Paul had no idea what he was doing. He simply followed the call God placed on him. He was a relatively new believer. He didn’t have the Bible as a guide. He didn’t get to go to 4 years of Bible school to learn how to be a missionary. He just went, and God helped him figure out the details as he went along. I’m sure there were times where Paul was what most people now a days would consider a big screw up of a missionary. Consider how much more difficult it is for today’s missionaries that are being called into foreign places where they need to learn languages, cultural norms, etc. They are big screw ups every day just by default. And then they get criticized on top of that – by the people that the Bible has called to support them. Wow, there’s something wrong with that.
We have had people say that we are not “real missionaries”. What does a real missionary look like, if you don’t mind me asking? Because, I did go to 4 years of Bible school, and I still don’t know what the definition of a “real” missionary is. The truth is, you don’t know what went into the call that I, or any other person serving in ministry, involved. When a judgment like that is made, it’s pretty offensive, and I would think that as offensive as it is to me, God is even more offended. Because when you say something like that, you are essentially telling God that he has no idea what he’s doing. And wow about that. When I look at the people that I know that are here in Haiti, the ones giving of themselves every day for the long haul, I see a pretty motley crew of people. I would say that at least 50% of them had no intentions of ever being in the mission field. When you talk to people to find out what they did before they were called into missions the responses are so incredibly varied. Caterer, mechanic, engineer, pastor, teacher, accountant, computer programer, camp maintenance, pilot, police officer, chiropractor… Many of us never planned to be here, but God had other ideas and we were obedient.
That obedience is what keeps us here. I know that when I look back over the last few years I very clearly see that. When I first came to Haiti I thought it was for a few years. That’s what I figured long term was. God had other things in mind. In the difficult things, in the hard things, in the heartbreaking things that we have gone through as a family in the last few years I have seen over and over how God has reaffirmed that calling in our lives – in my life. Chris has always been more sure. I have been the one that has wavered. But, I have also lost count of the times over the past few years when I have gotten to the end of myself and God has spoken into that. Often it involves one of those huge, snotty, gut wrenching ugly cries where I can’t even hardly stand on my own two feet. Where I feel completely emptied. Where I am asking “Why???” And when I get through that there is a peace that settles in and that still small voice that says, “Because I’m not done with you yet.” And then I know. I know that I am exactly where God wants me. That we are exactly where he wants us. And how can any man go up against that?
I think grace is a big factor here too. Where do we say, “Wow, I can’t even imagine what a day is like. A week. A month. A year. I have no idea what you struggle through just to get the very basics of life taken care of. The things I take for granted because I come from the developed world where there is infrastructure and I can understand the cultural workings. Where I have the support networks of my friends and family and church around me.” If God has called someone into ministry, isn’t it his job to convict and to direct and to teach? He does bring people in our path to help lead and guide, but there is a big difference between coming along side and criticizing and judging. Coming alongside someone involves asking questions, trying to understand, building a relationship and then based on that knowledge gained offering sound wisdom. Judging often happens with no context and no true understanding or desire to learn. When we are judgmental we are not giving people grace.
When I think about grace I think about the last few years of our lives. Wow, they have been HARD. We have shared some of the journey on here, but there will always be things we can’t share. When I look at some of those things I see the pain that our family has moved through, the vulnerability, the need for healing etc. When we were home we went for some post traumatic stress counseling. During one of my sessions our counselor said to me, “Any one of the things that you have gone through is enough to send someone over the edge. I’m amazed that you and Chris, after having gone through all of this, have been able to maintain such a high level of functionality. I don’t work with people like you.” She is an amazing woman that God put in our path at just the right time to help us heal.
I sometimes wonder how different the Christian world would look if we took a moment to stop and think more before we opened our mouths. Before we started throwing around judgment and criticism. I have seen ministries fall apart because of judgment and criticism. Seriously. What would happen if we took more time to be sensitive, to learn, to extend grace? What if we stopped thinking we knew better? What if we stopped acting like God. What if we encouraged instead? When I think of the relationships we have with others, and that I see others in our missionary circle having, they are often with people that “get” us. The people that want to take the time to learn, to support, to encourage, and in those relationships feed into us where God leads. I think that’s God honoring.
When you judge, it’s probably a good idea to consider what you’re judging. The action? The person? God? God’s call in that persons life. It’s a pretty fine line, my friends.