Judgmental Pier Fishing & My Red-Headed Monster
An Ohio friend has been graciously checking out my study break blogs, and sent this email of questions: “When did we all, as Christians, decide to be judgmental of others to the detriment of examining ourselves? And collectively, why does it so frequently feel Christians are more bent on being crusaders instead of just simply touching those around them and showing love?” Great questions.
Last night we ventured out to a pier immediately after our family beach photo shoot. There were locals doing some night fishing. This is fascinating stuff for us non-anglers. One larger lady lay stretched out on a bench with cigarette in hand. Her fishing pole was sitting idle as husband and daughter threw their hopeful lines in the dark waters.
Every one of us, except for Morgan (my red-headed monster), walked quickly by the weirdly comfortable mother laying sole claim to her bench. Quick, internal assessments caused for even quicker walking — as in “right on by.” Why do we do that? What determines our determinations of inferiority for some and ascribed value to others?
Once I had passed into a personal comfort safety zone for some pier fishing observation, I immediately overheard Morgan engaging the mom and daughter. Morgan curiously discovered how this family had not lived in one place for more than two years. The mom had just survived a stroke. She thinks cigarettes keep her younger looking. She once met Michael Jackson in New York City in the back hallway of a shared motel. She had five other biological children. One adopted child had just tragically died. And on and on Morgan’s description of her new friend’s life was regurgitated back to us… once we were safely back in the van. Morgan had harvested a story from one of God’s creation.
Remember, Morgan was all dressed up in her cute, little, green & white dress — fresh from our family photo shoot. She did look a little out of place on the fishing pier, but nobody seemed to be judging her — especially the fishing mom and daughter. They were excited to talk to Morgan. I was proud of my daughter. She’s reading Timothy Keller’s “Encounters With Jesus” for this year’s study break. And therein may lie the secret to her engaging, pier fishing conversation. Any exposure to Keller’s writings is exposure to the Gospel.
Perhaps our judgmental harshness and our crusading bends come from a lack of Gospel saturation in our lives. Beyond our salvation experience based solely on the work of Jesus, our Gospel wakefulness, according to Jared Wilson, “…makes a million subsequent echoes of the incarnation, is to make sacraments of our moments, infusing the spiritual into the ordinary and treating the ordinary as spiritual.” Gospel wakefulness is palpably treasuring the person and story and work of Jesus in all moments of life. Living in such ways would change “This is the day the Lord has made…” from a quirky little worship song to the rhythm of the Living Word into our daily lives.
Without an all-absorbing passion for the redemptive, all-sufficient work of Jesus, we are left with theologies, opinions, and good works to help save us. We are left to the anemic, numbing Sunday morning experiences trying to infuse us with emotional fortitude to keep fighting and doing. With this as our hope and strategy, is it any wonder so many are exhausted and lack any sense of Biblical rest or peace? We’ve forgotten, or have been programmed to diminish, the real work of Jesus that’s already been done. Jared Wilson, in his wonderful book, “Gospel Wakefulness” writes, “Our role as new creations, then, is not to achieve the holiness of God but to enjoy it.” This would be worship. This would be freedom. THIS would be living in Gospel wakefulness.
Is it any wonder we become judgmental? Our pagan striving to either save ourselves or cajole God to get what we want has elevated our efforts to the detriment of others we deem less significant. Is it any wonder we crusade for righteous causes when Jesus has become relegated to Sunday morning pep talks to make us better and more self-righteous people? Our western religion really has become more about us than the radiant beauty of Jesus. The challenge is still to lose ourselves in Jesus, and to find ourselves in His better story. This is Gospel saturated. Gospel wakefulness.
When we are Gospel saturated, we love. We talk to anybody on any fishing pier… even if you’re a red-headed monster. We stop judging because the ultimate Judge took on our penalty un-payable by any of our efforts.
How do we gain a gospel wakefulness? Only the Holy Spirit can do such a deep work, and it’s usually attached to some level of brokenness. This is necessary deconstruction to finally destroy any idol placed above Jesus.
This morning I watched a boat full of guys reel in a huge Tarpon. I heard the gang of five whoop it up when the 100-pound fish leaped out of the water as the hook was set. It was 7:11 a.m. I mused they must be feeling lucky, when they should be soaking in grace and providence. I wondered if they were just as elated a hour later when they finally pulled the monster on board. We’re they cussin’ or were they praisin’ for tasting and seeing the glory of God on the fourth of a very beautiful and free July? But what was I doing? (see how easy we drift to judgment?) Was I tasting and seeing the glory of Jesus in my ocean side morning cup of coffee? Would I view any passerby with loving gospel eyes like Morgan, or would I crusade for the things I deemed right and proven by my self-righteous efforts? I want to be more like my red-headed monster who, washed with the gospel, loves any old person on a pier. I want to be less like judgmental me, and let Jesus do His continual work of salvation and redemption with and through me. I want to have a gospel wakefulness. How about you?