Monday, October 18, 2010

love empowers II

 expectant teen moms

 These girls pictured above are all pregnant.

These girls are all going to become first-time mothers soon.

These girls are all teenagers.


The girls pictured below are already moms.

They all have one child.

They are also all teenagers.  

with their babies

What does that leave you thinking? What are you feeling toward them right now?

I learned I was pregnant when I was 16 years old. In one fell swoop I lost my virginity and got pregnant. (Join me in disbelief.) Every day of my senior year I got on a yellow school bus to ride to my 12th grade classes pregnant. My daughter Britt was born in March of my senior year of high school.

Four years after Britt's birth, single again, I got pregnant with Paige.  I wanted to find a way out of the shame of my second unplanned pregnancy as a single woman. I scheduled an abortion.  I canceled the abortion. I went to an adoption agency and met a family. I canceled the adoption plan. I felt crazy and afraid and ashamed. 

I'll pause here to ask the same questions.

What does that leave you thinking? What are your feelings toward me right now?

I believe our natural tendency is to fairly quickly choose one of two responses.

I'm not here to condemn anyone or their natural responses, I'm here to challenge our natural tendencies.

Do you feel pity? (That poor girl! Oh how horrible for her. What a shame! Her poor parents.)

Do you feel Judgment? (How could she be pregnant again? She is a slow learner. She is promiscuous. How could she consider abortion? She is messed up!)

It is very easy to choose to pity or judge someone.  It is entirely more difficult to choose to love them enough to work hard to meet them where they are and understand them. This is what is required to enter into relationship with people who are different from us. This is what is required in order to be love to those people we have very little in common with and to reach out to the hurting and lost among us. I am using pregnant teens as my example, but it could be anyone.

A song-writer/musician named Jason Gray said this:

"Both pity and judgment are too easy and are therefore the enemies of genuine understanding, which to some degree, requires that we enter into at least a portion of the struggle of those we would genuinely understand. But because that might be painful, and because we are allergic to pain, we flee to the less costly emotions of pity and judgment."

If you have ever experienced the judgment of a friend, relative, or acquaintance you know first-hand that judgment is both painful and counter-productive. Knowing that someone else thinks you are a loser doesn't do a lot to restore you.

If you have ever experienced the pity of a friend, relative, or acquaintance, you know first-hand that pity - while often rooted in genuine compassion - can also be counter-productive and rarely offers more than a pat on the back or a tender look.

In order to love and empower a Haitian woman  (or anyone stuck in despair/hurt) you've got to set aside your pity and set aside your judgment.  Pity won't do anything to help and judgment is not our place. (Matthew 7:1-3)

When it comes to Haiti I/we probably don't fully understand the cultural norms that put women at great risk for teen pregnancies. We do know women in Haiti daily face injustice at levels we cannot easily comprehend. When it comes to our own culture we often only see the symptoms of the hurting people among us. We rarely take the time to get beyond symptoms. Standing back and labeling the sin as the judge and jury does nothing to bring redemption.

God writes redemption stories. He writes them with the help of people. He used people like Mary Lakner who counseled me and helped me search past the symptom of promiscuity to get to the root causes. He used people like Merrill Porter who told me he loved me and thought no less of me. He used people at Crown College that said, "Yes" we welcome you to attend our private Christian college even though you are a divorced single mother of two. He used my parents who welcomed me back into their home.

For the Haitian teenage girls pictured above He uses people like Beth who offer hugs or new matching t-shirts or a cake on a birthday.  He uses people like Agathe and Winifred who spend time each week patiently teaching them how to care for their unborn babies even though they themselves are babies and don't listen very well.  He uses people like you, eager to love and serve - to give, to pray, to support, to encourage.

He is all about writing redemption stories.

Every person trapped into systems of injustice or cycles of desperation needs someone to believe in them - someone that won't give up.

For those of us that genuinely wish to help bring healing and restoration and redemption to the hurting among us, we're going to have to accept that it will require sacrifice.  It could be painful and disappointing. It will almost certainly be painful and disappointing. We need to be ready for a slow and laborious process. We may need to struggle alongside the people whom we don't really understand and then struggle some more until we finally come to a place of understanding and even empathy.

Truthfully, if we all stop to think about it, our closest relationships on earth are people who took the time to understand us.  The time they took did not necessarily lead to them approving of our choices or condoning what they saw.

The time they took just led to authentic relationship.  The authentic relationships led to feelings of being unconditionally loved and accepted.  Sometimes being unconditionally loved and accepted can lead us to Christ.  Once you've found Christ you've found a love that empowers like no other love.
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted. John 3:17

Come. And let everyone who hears these words say, "Come." And let those who thirst come. All who desire to drink, let them drink deeply from the water of life, as a gift. Revelation 22:17