I guessed her to be 17 or 18. Her earlobes had been stretched enough you could see through them. She had a piercing on her lip. And on her hip she carried a baby.
Sipping my soup, watching her, I couldn’t help but think that in a different time and place—under different circumstances—my heart would have been full of judgment. In the wrong frame of mind, I might have even made my feelings obvious.
What does it take to soften a heart hardened by judgment? Experiencing the very thing you judge.
Sometimes God has to knock us off the pedestal, bring us down to ground level, to show the true condition of our hearts. He’ll interrupt our cozy world and shake things up enough to get our attention.
We might fall into the trap of putting too much stock in our own efforts. As a parent, I had it all figured out. If I do A and B, well, naturally I’ll get to C. Instead, parenting one child in particular turned out to be more like a complicated algebraic formula.
The day I learned my then 17-year-old daughter was pregnant was more than a shaking of my world. It was like an earthquake—everything came crumbling down. Mixed in with the obvious concerns of what she was going to do, was what I was going to do when others found out. It didn’t take long for my mind to go there…concerns about how I was going to look as a mom.
What I had once cast judgment on, was now going to be cast upon us. And the judgment did happen—upon our family as a whole, myself as a mom and my daughter. But I’m happy to say that we experienced more grace than we did judgment. That’s how the church is supposed to function.
Judgment is something I still struggle with sometimes—I cannot lie. The human side of me can easily go there. But it doesn’t take long to remember our family’s journey. It reels me back in and reminds me of God’s goodness and grace.
Back to Panera Bread—because where else would I be sipping soup? As I watch this young mom place her baby in the high chair, sit down and interact with him…a smile starts inside and then transfers to my mouth. I doubt she gets many smiles her way. I’m honored to be in a place where I can offer it.
Who could use your smile today? Who could benefit from an encouraging word instead of a disparaging one? Parenting is hard enough without making it harder for others. One never knows where life will take them, so it’s better to err on the side of grace. After all, isn’t that the point of the cross?