I like reading signs. Well, there are some signs I would rather not see like “Detour Ahead” or “Lane Closed Be Prepared to Stop.” Then there are the more humorous signs which make me smile. I wonder who came up with the ideas for signs like this much less being able to get approval to post them.
Then there are signs to which I have quite another reaction. Sometimes I try to ignore them or react in ways that make me wonder about the type of person I have become in recovery.
Within three blocks of my church, there are people who I regularly see holding signs asking for money. I have never stopped to offer them any money or food. I have not taken the time to share a word of encourage or the information about our church’s food pantry. And I have never stopped to invite them to church – even while I am on the way there myself!
It bothers me I can show such apparent disregard for others who give every appearance of being in a state of suffering. As I wonder why I can act in such a way my conclusions make me uncomfortable with what I see. Sometimes it is a daunting task for me to see aspects of my personality I would rather be able to just ignore or even deny. The truth is, however, that how I act is like wearing a sign that indicates where I am in recovery.
I envision my sign as one of those sandwich signs with messages on the front and the back. The front would say something like: I care about you but:
- You could help yourself if you wanted
- I am too busy to stop
- Someone else will stop so I will not
And on the back it says
- I HAVE JUDGED YOU AND AM GLAD I AM NOT LIKE YOU!
How did I get this way? I have talked with others who agree with me that stopping and offering help will probably do little more than encourage the people with the signs just to keep on doing the same thing maybe even try just the harder. So part of me feels justified in how I am reacting.
But I know another person who reminds me by how she lives her life, that I need to accept I do not know everything about others. This person, let’s call her Ruby, told me we do not know why some people make the choices they do or how they ended up in the situations they find themselves. Because of this, we need to avoid rushing to judgement just because of what we believe or how we live.
One example Ruby shared with was a time when she saw an apparent “street” person. As she watched this person, obviously not thinking the thoughts I admitted to before, Ruby noticed him starting to move with the music being played nearby. Much to her amazement, he began to dance. I understand Ruby is quite a good dancer. She was surprised how accomplished this man was in his dancing. In fact, she was thinking of getting up to dance with him, but another onlooker had already taken that opportunity. Sometimes we need to avoid forming an opinion of others on what we think we see.
I learned in my recovery I am a flawed person with no right to take any credit for any of the positives in my life. As soon as I begin to do that, my old patterns of thinking begin to grow and even if I do not drink, my attitudes become much the same as when I was caught in my active addiction. I am thankful that God puts people like Ruby, and others, in my life to pull me up short.
Much to my chagrin, and maybe even shame, as far as I know, Ruby is not a Christian and yet she has the whole thing about judging others in a better perspective than I do. I am not saying I cannot learn things from people who may not know Jesus as their Savior. I am saying I have the perfect motivation to see people from the most positive perspective. When he paid for all my sins, Jesus set me free; free to live my life as he did, in service to him and others.
Jesus did not spend his life judging those less fortunate, rather he reached out to them in service, offering them what they needed. He pointed out their shortcomings to help them understand what they really needed – and he did what was best to help them. And the best thing he did for them was to pay for their sins and give them a way to heaven if they believe in him.
Maybe that’s what I can do for those persons with the signs, help them find what they really need to change their lives. In doing so. I may need to help them see that like me, there are things in their lives that do not line up with the Bible. But first, I need to ask for forgiveness from my Savior, thank him for the Rubys in my life and rewrite my sign. For now, maybe the best message I can write on my sign is: I see you have problems – can I offer you some real help?
I will let you know how that goes and hope you come back to find out.
I will wait you.