From Bullied to Judgmental and Beyond (Part 2)

Everyone has a story and a reason to be loved. That is the second lesson that I learned from being bullied ad then being judgmental. See no one can earn this right and no human being gave it to them. The fact is: God made every single human being on the face of the earth in His image and He loves them. That fact alone is enough to make us want to love each other no matter what. But what does that love look like? How can we love the person who cut is off on the highway, someone who is nothing like us, the person who is on the complete opposite side of the political aisle, or even someone trying to kill us? Simple but not easy. We should take after the single greatest representation of love, Jesus on the cross.

 

There comes a point when being bullied or without friends that one tries to find their worth in things besides people and friends. Unfortunately many people can’t even find that and instead find themselves worthless and thus deem themselves unworthy to live. Is that their fault? Some people would say yes. I say no. As a Christian it is literally my duty to tell everyone how much they are loved by Christ and how worthy they are to live. Christ died to give them that worth. Christ died so that everyone might serve a purpose and have value in the kingdom of the Lord. So we should act like it. I’m not talking like acting like we are entitled. I’m talking about acting in ways that treat others like they are entitled.

 

Think back to the last time someone cut you off while driving. Were they on their phone? Perhaps they were just not paying attention. Now think about how you reacted. Did you scream to no avail at your windshield? Or maybe you flipped them the bird and commented on how they are such a terrible driver even though you only saw a snap shot of their life of driving. Where is the love? Where is the grace? We have all cut someone off before, hopefully not on purpose just to make their day worse. I know I have been late, not paying attention, or just been in too much of a hurry and cut a few people off in my time behind the wheel. Jesus has grace for that, and we should too.

 

Too often we set ourselves above Jesus and think that others don’t deserve our grace, patience, or love. We get mad at the driver who cut us off saying they should have left sooner to not be late or maybe should have paid more attention in driving school. We get upset at the person taking forever in line at the grocery store because they can’t figure out how to use the keypad for their credit card.

 

Yet we rarely know their story. We don’t know if maybe they’re late to a family emergency or maybe just having a bad day. Perhaps that phone call is a stressed out daughter or son who is struggling being away at college. Maybe they’ve used cash for years and are paying by card for the first time. There are endless scenarios for endless situation in which people could benefit from our patience and grace. Some are farfetched and some are more reasonable. But even if there is no reasonable excuse, what does getting angry and having no grace do? We are still called to love and forgive even if the other person has no idea what they have done. Jesus does not call us to be loved or forgiven. We are called to love (John 13:34-35) and forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). He gave us grace abundantly so that we can share it with the world (1 Timothy 1:12-15).

 

As someone who often felt bullied and judge I came to know firsthand that there is always a story behind why someone does what they do. Even if that thing is a mistake or quirk, it is more than likely that I have something similar or probable even worse that others give me grace for. So who am I to lose my cool or be frustrated with them because they do something that I don’t understand or perhaps even disagree with?

 

Jesus had love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace for the men who put Him to death on the cross. He knew that they had no idea what they were doing or why, yet he still forgave them (Luke 23:34). His life was being ended, yet he loved the men who were killing Him. That is the kind of love we need in the world today. We live in a time where people call each other idiots, morons, and pretty much hate each other because they live different lifestyles, can’t agree on small issues, or one of them simply can’t remember to take out the trash. People make things too personal. They think others are out to get them or make their life worse. It is time for us, specifically Christians, to stand up and look to Jesus. It is time to be the bigger people and give grace and forgiveness even when our transgressors are oblivious to our pain. After all, in the end holding on to the pain and keeping a grudge only hurts us, not them. Their day isn’t ruined but our week might be.

 

The truth is we never know someone’s full story. They could be having anything from a bad day, to a bad week, even up to a bad life, and it probably isn’t entirely their fault. Many people will say that’s tough luck, life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, we’ve all been knocked down and it’s time to suck it up. Well I say it isn’t time to suck it up. It’s time to deal love and grace. Think about that one time you had a bad day and someone did something that just showed that they cared and understood. Maybe they bought you an ice cream as a child or perhaps a beer as an adult. It wasn’t a major deal but it was something that said, “Hey I see you’re hurting and I understand.” We need to do that with grace. So the next time someone goes off on you, don’t get angry back at them, something painful could have set them off. The next time someone doesn’t do their dishes, think about how rough their day or week has been and how tired they might be. It is time that we stop expecting people to live a certain way, do certain things, and/or give us the respect we think we deserve. Instead, it is time to give grace and show them love because we don’t know what they might be going through.

 

In the end it is all about having patience with others and loving them no matter what they do to us. Yeah there is a very high possibility that nothing is wrong and the other person is just being a jerk. If they are a brother or sister in Christ we should talk it out with them at a later time. But in that moment we need to lay down our pride and either go the extra mile, let them cut us off, or just stand there to get yelled at. Jesus let the Romans kill him so that we might receive the Father’s love, grace, and be at peace with Him. It is time that we do the same for others. Jesus said that, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). So yeah, the ultimate love is to die so that someone else may live. However, it is important to remember that this verse does not need to be taken literally to still ring true. Laying down one’s life can come in many forms and fashions. It means to sacrifice something in your life so that others may have something to gain in theirs. That could be anything from time, to effort, to resources, to our pride. People are different. People react to things differently. This world will not come to see Jesus if we as Christians get mad or upset at the people we encounter and disagree with. They are not perfect and neither are we. So we must love because He first loved us ((1 John 4:19) and we love Him by obeying Him and loving others), and then take the grace given to us and extend it to others.

From Bullied to Judgmental and Beyond (Part 1)

As someone who was bullied and didn’t really have a lot of friends from about the 3rd grade until sophomore year of high school I learned a thing or two about being judged. I didn’t have the coolest clothes or backpack and I certainly didn’t hang out with the cool kids on the weekend doing whatever they did. Instead I worried about people staring at my big ears or if someone would find my lunch box at the bottom of my bag, because apparently a metal Hot Wheels lunch box wasn’t cool in the 5th grade. With that, I became very conscious of everything I did and how people might judge me. In turn, I began to look at others the same way. In fact I still struggle with judging people today. Whether it is the guy tatted up buying Bud Ice at Walmart or the guy driving an old beat up Honda Civic with huge speakers and no muffler, I have an opinion about them, their life story, and why they were so much worse off than me. It can make me miserable, and it used to be pretty bad.

 

To be honest I don’t really remember when I started to have a change of heart. Maybe it was when an already tight group of friends let me hang out with them after my date ditched me at MORP my senior year. Perhaps it was when I became best friends with my roommate freshman year of college after we both weireded each other out in our first impressions.  Either way, God put people in my life to teach me two simple lessons: I’m not better than anyone because we are all different and unique, and everyone has a story with a reason to be loved.

 

To address the first lesson about me not being better than anyone I should reference my being bullied. See while I was never physically bullied, psychologically I was fighting a losing battle against other kids, myself, and the devil. Despite being decently athletic I wasn’t friends with the cool kids so I was always picked close to last, wasn’t invited to sit with them at lunch, and I definitely was not picked up with them in carpool to do fun things after school. Wow writing about that now seems so petty, but weird and nerdy little Chuck took those things hard. I saw them as signs of rejection. I told myself I wasn’t wanted by my peers, and the devil reminded me about it constantly. So I tried to fit in.

 

I tried to beat the system. In my mind if I did the things that the cool kids did that I would magically fit in, get picked, and have lots of friends. But as I’m sure you can guess I couldn’t beat the system. I was constantly reminded how much of a nerd I was, or how I just wasn’t good enough. At this point I realized I couldn’t beat the system but maybe I could change it. Surely I wasn’t the nerdiest, or the biggest goody two shoes, or the weirdest Christian around. There had to be others that were less cool than me. Indeed there were, and I made sure that I found them. I didn’t do it to prove to others that I wasn’t the worst. I did it to prove to myself that I had more worth than someone else. In my head I put others down, found their quirks and thought “at least I don’t do that”, and just in general mentally bullied them to make myself feel better.

 

Needless to say, my pain was only temporarily relieved. I did not gain anything. The devil was still there to remind me of how I didn’t fit in, even when my peers didn’t. But things started to change when I got to high school. Part of it was that my relationship with God grew exponentially as I really began to claim my faith as my own and realize that I am His child no matter what. The other part was that I found acceptance in a random group of friends. God placed Mackenzie, Mac, Ashley, Dalton, Emily, and Brooks in my life for many things, but the one thing that always stands out was that they accepted me for who I was, and there were no questions asked. I mean yeah I had made more and more friends in high school, even a couple girlfriends too, and those friend groups were awesome. But this new one was special. Here was a group that had been friends forever, and they just let me be a part of their group no questions asked. No judgement. (Also shout out to Mac for letting me dance with Ashley after I was left high and dry, true bro.)

 

It was through those budding friendships that I realized that I don’t need to build myself up over others so that I can feel like I’m worth something or prove something to anyone. There is no need to assume that someone else is dumb because they cannot do something that I can do or are ignorant about a certain subject. (Note: it is oaky to be ignorant because it simply means you don’t know that you don’t know.) In fact, that thought process has become something that I absolutely loathe. I cannot stand when someone makes fun of someone for not being able to do something. Now those who know me know that yeah I will make a joke if you don’t know how to do something that might be a little basic. However, right after I make that joke, I will do anything to help you figure out how to do whatever it is that you are struggling with. After all that is what Christ has done with us. Here we are hopeless sinners in need of a savior and instead of laughing at us because we don’t know the way to heaven Jesus shows us the way. He takes us by the hand and guides us.

 

I really wish that more people were like that today. In fact, that reminds me of one of my pet peeves: people who make fun of others in the gym. Whether it is the fat person trying to get in shape, the person who doesn’t know how to do an exercise properly, or someone who can’t lift much weight, not everyone is a gym rat. So stop recording them on snapchat and posting their valiant efforts and painful fails because it’s not funny. Think of the courage it took for them to come to the gym, maybe even for the first time. Everyone started somewhere, so why not go help them out and teach them what you know so that they can get started on the path to their goals?

 

Sorry about that mini rant. It just really highlights my point. We each have a different set of talents, goals, abilities, and tastes given to us by God, and throughout our life we learn things based on how we were raised to prepare us to do His will. That means that as a city boy I might not fix as many engines or ride as many dirt bikes as my country counterpart. But does that make me any lesser of a man or a child of God? Absolutely not. That is what makes me different. My skills are in sports and politics. That’s where my calling is. So does it matter how fast I can rebuild the front end of a car or do drywall? While I’d love to be able to do both, the answer is no.

 

But there is someone out there who could rebuild the front end of a car in a weekend and patch up some drywall on their lunch break and that’s awesome. That’s what they’re good at. Just as I wouldn’t want them to look down upon me and make fun of me for not being able to fix a set of disk brakes, I shouldn’t look down on them for not being able to kick a soccer ball very far. We have different skills. We all do. So let’s stop looking at our neighbor and thinking that wow I might be dumb but at least I know how to *insert task you think is simple* because to some people it might not be. We all fail at something, and when we do we would love to see a friendly face staring back at us saying that it’s okay and to not be embarrassed. No one wants to be laughed at and called an idiot simply because they were ignorant. We all could use a little more love and compassion. So go out and make a difference in someone’s life. Be there to support not to demean.

 

Now in closing I think that it is very important that I highlight one thing, well two things. First I will talk about the second lesson in a second blog post so stay tuned. But as far as the first lesson goes remember this: in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about how murder begins in the heart just like adultery (Matthew 5:21-30). In the passage he explains the new covenant and that you don’t have to actually kill someone to have committed a sin equivalent to murder, “You have heard the it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement. But I say to you whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement.” That same concept applies to judging others and bullying them. Just like I mentally bullied people in middle school so that I could feel better about myself, when we think of someone as a lesser person for failing or being ignorant, we are still sinning against God because they are made in His image just like us. Also, trust me; it does not make you feel better about yourself in the long term. So to Kassandra Shands-Cherry, Harmony Tarrant, Braden Dunford, Ramond Motely, and anyone else that I bullied but have woefully forgotten, if you ever read this blog post I’m sorry and I hope that you can forgive me. You never knew my thoughts but trust me they weren’t nice and I’m sorry. To the rest of you, go out and be Jesus to the world. Be that helping and compassionate hand someone needs. Show others how to change a tire, and while you’re at it show them the way to eternal life: to the Father through the Son.

I Wouldn’t Repent, God Wouldn’t Reveal

As much as this blog is a way for me to share the gospel with the world, it is also a manner in which God helps me to assess my own heart as a Christian. He forces me to look in the mirror and make sure I see a follower of Christ staring back. If I had I looked in the mirror as I was writing this week’s original post, I’m not sure what I would have seen.

For the past month I have been reading a book by Stephen and Alex Kendrick entitled “The Battle Plan for Prayer” and it is based on the movie War Room. It has really been eye opening to me about prayer, what it truly is about and how it really works. In one of the lessons they talk about how we often block our own prayers from being heard because our sin is too great and we have not repented. In a way, that happened to me this week.

As I felt the tug to return to blogging after taking time off to spend with the family while I was home in the states, I wondered what I was going to talk about. I wondered what God would reveal to me and place on my heart. Well a rough few weeks at the academy gave me plenty of options. It was not rough from the stand point that I thought I was struggling, but instead I saw the calamity around me and thought, man some people need to hear a lesson. So I sat down and began to type away.

As usual I was typing crazy amounts as thoughts and feelings just flowed from my brain to the keyboard. People asked about the blog and I said it was coming along well for a 2016 debut. Yet something was wrong. I hit a block. I got halfway through a post and writer’s block smacked me. I reread what I wrote and it was terrible. I was all over the place and some of the things I said were questionable. So I switched topics. That was even worse as I could barely get a paragraph out. So I switched topics again. Same result. I repeated the process until I had run out of things that were on my mind. Then I decided I would simply not post this week since obviously I had nothing to say.

Then as I closed my computer it hit me. Go back and read the last line of the previous paragraph. What’s the fifth to last word? I. I had made the post about me. See the things at the academy had given me great fuel. The things that had happened made me angry; they had offended me, and I was writing out of that anger. I was not allowing God to use me as a tool. I was using the tool God have given me for my own selfish purpose. I wanted to toot my own horn, to show others how they were wrong, to be a keyboard warrior and get written revenge, and to most of all gain views.

If I had looked in the mirror in that moment I would not have seen a Christian showing the love of Christ to the world. I would have seen a Christian who was out for revenge because he had succumbed to temptation and hatred.

With that I confess to you that tonight’s blog post will simply be this confession: that I have allowed the hatred, anger, and bitterness that I harbored in my heart to get in the way of my communication with God. I could not hear Him and write for Him because I was too concerned with my personal agenda. I was blocked by sin. In the beginning I did not care that people would not see Christ. All I cared about was myself. I was basically trying to use the Lord’s name in vain by attaching His name to my sin filled post. Thankfully He stopped me, because listen to what James says in chapter 1 verse 26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Wow that hits deep. If I had written that post it would have been worthless. Not only that but my beliefs would be worthless as well. Pretty much the post and I would not have mattered in the slightest to God or His will or His plan for eternity. I would be speaking with a split tongue. Straight up hypocrite.

I truly believe that God gave me writer’s block. It was He who saved me from myself. See God is the one who gives me ideas, guides my fingers on the keyboard, and helps me to post what it is that people need to hear. So when I begin to abuse that power and privilege so that I might gain some twisted sense of satisfaction, I am glad He steps in and blocks me. Literally that’s what it felt like. It was like all of the ideas were on the tip of my tongue but I just could not get them out. For a total of 4 hours maybe, I tried and tried to capture the ideas and get them on paper. Yet I could not reach them, my mind would not move. God had blocked me. He allowed me to feel as if the answer was there but didn’t allow me to reach it. Like Moses and the Promised Land, I could not enter because I was not right with Him.

I was not right with Him because I was so entrenched in sin that I did not even think to repent. I had become comfortable in it and did not see a reason to change. When that happens, God cannot use me for His will. See God is perfect. Everything about Him, from His appearance to His decisions, is perfect. Because of this He cannot deal with or associate with anything that is imperfect (Isaiah 59:2). So when we sin, He cannot be with us or communicate with us. Communication is blocked. Thankfully we have the Christ. Jesus died and rose to pay the price for our sins so that we may be made perfect and blameless in the eyes of God. We need that because we cannot come anywhere close to perfection on our own. Now that being said, we must accept said gift and repent (Romans 10:9). After we repent, and only after, will we be cleansed, made perfect by the death and resurrection of Christ, and able to be used by God (Hebrews 10:14).

In my case this week, I had not repented and let go of the bitterness I harbored in my heart. Therefore I was trying to proclaim the truth of the Gospel while hating the people I was writing to and about. It makes no sense. God could not use that post and nor would he help me write it. It would be tainted with sin and with imperfections. Only after He revealed my sin to me and I repented could he and did He use me as a vessel for His will.

Hopefully you have learned something from my life experience. (In this case my sin.) I know that I have. When we fail to repent of ours sins we cannot be used by God. There are no ifs and or buts about it. It is simply impossible for the perfect God of the universe to use and communicate with those who have not repented of their sins. Even worse he cannot work with those who are dwelling in and comfortable with their sins. Sin is a literal blockade against God. He needs a clean heart, a pure heart to do His will. Now, note that this does not mean we must live perfect lives. That my friends, is impossible. Instead he asks that we give our hearts to Him, and put our faith in Him and in His son, Jesus Christ. That action, coupled with our repentance for our sins will cleanse us so that He might use us.

So there you have it. My first post of 2016 is just me laying my sin out there. It’s real. It’s honest, and I hope it was what you needed to hear. Maybe you doubted if you were the only person struggling to hear God above the roar of your own sin. Maybe you doubted if Christians ever confessed their sins to others. Or maybe you were just wondering if God really can make an influence in our moment to moment actions and decisions. Well the answers are: no you’re not alone because it’s almost a guarantee that someone else sins like you, yes Christians do (or at least they should) tell others about their sin so that they might have accountability, and yes God does make a difference if we let Him.