You judge. I judge. We are sinful. But above all, I believe we are called to love.
On Friday, the North Dakota Legislature passed a series of bills limiting and nearly making abortions illegal in North Dakota. Does that make you click out of this blog immediately? I know. It makes us uncomfortable. Many of us feel harsh judgement towards the bills. The truth is, I wish the North Dakota Legislature was making national headlines about sweeping property tax reform, their new early childhood education programs (which I testified on last week) or a rural revival in small business and jobs across our booming state. Those are not the headlines.
Abortion is the headline. It stirs emotions like no other issue. As I learned from my friend Aimee in her blog post Whisper, we have to share our stories, on either side of the issue. Aimee boldly shares her pro-life stance as the daughter of a single mom. Now I have other friends on either side of the issue are sharing their passions of pro-life or pro-choice.
I am not going to change your stance. Your mind is made up whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, I believe. What the North Dakota Legislature or our Governor chooses to do on the bills, I do not believe will change your personal opinion.
But I would ask for you to make the life choice to pray and show love rather than pass judgement.
Do not sling mud at either side of the issue. Everyone is passionate. Everyone thinks they know the best life choices. And we all judge.
Let me explain the judgement.
On Friday when the news broke, I read judgements people made in the comments of articles that hit mainstream headlines. I was traveling, reading on my phone. I was overcome with emotion, sitting in Ike’s in the Minneapolis airport as my flight was delayed. The comments hurt me and brought me back to being a pregnant senior in high school sixteen years ago.
Until you have had to make the choice, you do not know how hard the decision is.
I know the tales of life choices as pregnant teenagers from a couple of friends and me. We have exchanged our secrets and stories. We know the heartache, the guilt, the emotion and the backlash.It’s a hush-hush topic that we did not talk about with most family members or girlfriends and certainly not our boyfriends at the time. If there even was a boyfriend to talk to.
It is the fear of condemnation whether you choose adoption, abortion or to keep your baby that keeps a single mom silent I believe. Because no matter the choice, we feel judgement from the whispers, those that know, those that heard a rumor, those that see your baggy sweatshirt covering your baby bump, those that look at your ring finger or those that just flat-out tell you or write their judgement to you.
As a single, working mom and full-time college student in the church I grew up in, I was not allowed to teach Sunday School after I had a baby. I was not married. I bore The Scarlet Letter. I had just transferred back to my hometown university and was excited to get active in my home church again. I had not attended since my graduation from high school, when I was six months pregnant. But at my previous university, 1500 miles away from my home, I was very active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). I shared my testimony at area high schools and church youth groups. I was proud of my life decisions and boldly shared my faith. I had forgiven myself because I knew God had forgiven me.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
With the support of my family, I was raising my son. The most important thing was that my son was surrounded in love, not judgement.
But I couldn’t teach my two-year old son’s Sunday School class. It didn’t matter my testimony or my re-dedication to follow Jesus and my Christian faith. Forgiveness may have been granted by God but earthly consequences and judgement lived on for me.
The sins of church members of tax evasion, substance, physical or emotional abuse, gambling away a family’s life savings, pornography or adultery were not as visible. Those church goers could teach Sunday School.
The judgement hurt. I was filled with bitterness and became quick to judge myself.
If our sins are silent or hidden, we can often protect ourselves from earthly judgement. I could not change my past. My sins were not silent. I followed my mom’s advice, “Do the next thing.” I kept going.
In what can only be deemed a miracle in my life, with the help of my family and dedicated friends, the prayers of many and of course, from my faith, I decided to love. I let go of a weight of bitterness. It still took me most of my 20’s to truly learn to love but it started by letting go of the judgement I felt.
I loved God. I loved my son. I had to learn to love myself. I had to love others and daily I had to try not to pass the judgement onto others.
Judgement is everywhere. I still judge even when I am trying not to. I still do not show love like I should.
Yesterday, in the Minneapolis airport, I people watched. I wrote on my personal Facebook page: “Dress yourself with dignity, pride and respect. That is what I want to say to a lot of people walking through airports. At some point we have made it acceptable to dress sloppy or skimpy or both. How you dress yourself says something about who YOU are. Just because you are tired does not qualify you to wear pajamas as everyday clothes. I promise. Stepping off my small Sunday airport soapbox.” I was appalled at some of the lack of clothes or choice of clothes people were wearing in the airport. I did not think of myself passing judgement. I actually wished I could help some of them care for themselves or explain to a couple young girls the image they were portraying. But a former colleague friend wrote, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Yes I was judging. And I am judged.
Then I went onto to read a fellow North Dakota blogger’s, Jessie Veeder’s Sunday column in the Fargo Forum. She talked about the loss she has from being 30 years old, married to her high school sweetheart, living on her home ranch in western North Dakota and being asked in the grocery store line if she and her husband have children. A smile and a polite “No” is her answer. She wrote, “It’s just the easiest way to answer a question not intended to carry so much weight as inside us we re-live the reasons, deciding whether or not to explain – that we almost had a baby. Five times we thought we might. Five times the pregnancies were lost.”
We all carry the weight of being judged and the weight of judging others.
But as Jessie wrote yesterday, we need to “live the life we are given and not the one we do not have.”
It’s Holy Week for Christians, a great reminder of judgement and thankfully, forgiveness. I know when my judgement will come. I know where I am going because of His forgiveness of my sins.
“For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14
Everyday I sin. But the end of this earthly life, I do not want to be remembered as a sinner.
Instead, I wanted to be remembered for passionately standing up for what I believe in, for going where others may have never gone without passing judgement on for those that do not follow. The judgement will come.
I want to lead by example with love.
Update as of March 26, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.: North Dakota’s Governor Dalrymple has signed all the abortion related bills into law. Read more here.