"You are heading in the right direction"
We’re in Front Royal, VA. This is a pretty special place. It’s flat-out beautiful here, and the Catholic community is like nothing I’ve ever seen. We may move here, but… we’re moving on for now, heading out of town by Friday (I think).
Last night I feel asleep after watching a netflix movie on the iphone (the only device that gets any bandwidth where we’re staying!) on the fold-out couch with Grace, Therese and Lilly (our dog). It was not the most comfortable night’s sleep I’ve had lately (but Lilly was a good foot-warmer)! I got up around 5:30am, which is pretty normal for me. I actually like getting up early, but it’s harder in the RV, ’cause I can’t just walk out to the kitchen and make coffee — the kids’ bedroom is the kitchen too.
Anyway, I started praying when I woke up. Actually… I was crying out to the Lord. Literally. I just repeated, over and over again, “Lord, I cry out to you!” I was still feeling bad from last night. I snapped at Grace, she felt bad, I felt bad, other’s reacted and felt bad, and our evening prayers had a dark cloud over them. I felt defeated by the enemy, like he was laughing at my attempts to stand up against him. Inside, I understood this and mentally refused to give ground, but my heart was low. It’s at these low times when the enemy comes in with every doubt, fear, etc. — he sees a crack, and opening, and throws everything at it: “what the hell are you doing in this RV with four daughters, a wife and two dogs? what a loser! and you’re homeless. and you think you’re going to help other people, have a ministry… ha! you can’t even get along with your family. heck, you can’t even pray with your family. what a joke.” Well, Henry Ford once said “If a man says he can, or if a man says he can’t, he’s right.” When I believe the enemy’s lies… he’s right. When I believe my God, when I believe my own heart, he’s wrong (and I’m right). The enemy is right there, always, giving his spin, his interpretation of everything that happens, isn’t he? On last night, on this whole RV trip, on my whole life.
Well, I’m feeling better this morning. Prayers have helped. Perhaps your prayers for me were the key. The darkness has passed… The bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, and “heart-fortifications” are melting away, revealing themselves as shadows, or built on shadows, dispelled by the Light. But I do have to be aware – I am under attack. I’m trying to remember that the enemy’s resistance gets stronger when we get closer to who we are and to fulfilling our assignment. He’d like to take me down, to take the teeth out of everything I’m doing and hope to do for the hearts of my family, the hearts of men, and… my own heart.
A friend of mine, Dr. George Burriss, taught me a very interesting theory about judging others. Although I am not 100% certain it is theologically “correct”, I use it as a working model anyway, and it’s very helpful. Here it is, in a nutshell (or my take on it, anyway):
We know that Jesus warns us very solemnly that we are not to judge others:
Luke 6:37-42: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Mat 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
But what is judgement? Dr. Burriss used the analogy of a court of law to illustrate. First, in a court of law, if you were to just walk up and sit in the judge’s seat, you’d be arrested or thrown out of court for contempt. That is, it’s not your place. And what does the man (or woman) who sits in the judges seat do? He/she does three things:
- determines motives
- declares innocence or guilt
- hands out punishment
Therefore, if we find ourselves doing any of these three things, we are in illicit judgement of another.
Of course this does not mean that we’re not to judge the actions of others. In fact, we must do this (e.g. that child steals or lies, so I won’t let my child play with her). What it means is that we can’t know the guilt/innocence or motives of another, i.e. we can’t know their heart (in fact we can’t even speculate about it), and it means we can’t punish them.
This has been very helpful for me. This means that I can say “that man told a lie”, but I can’t say “that man is a liar”. If I find myself judging motives or determining their guilt or innocence, I need to repent immediately, ask for forgiveness, and turn my attention to my own heart and why I felt like I needed to judge this person. I’m especially guilty of punishing others (I’m thinking of last night, when I decided to close up my heart against my wife… true, it was a thought/action designed to protect my heart, but it was also designed to punish her. that was my clue that I was in judgement)!
But here’s the unusual part of Dr. Burriss’ theory: he interprets Jesus’ warning against judgment as a warning to save us from the curse of judgement. He interprets “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” to mean that if you judge someone of a particular sin, you have been, are, or will be guilty of that very same sin. So, for example, if I judge someone as guilty of sexual sin, I’ve just cursed myself to be guilty of sexual sin. If I punish someone for being selfish, I’m cursing myself to be guilty of selfishness.
So… if I am judging motives, guilt or innocence, or punishing another, I’m falling under a curse, and I won’t be released of that curse or forgiven until I repent of my judgement, release the other person, and ask for a release from the curse myself, i.e. call on God’s mercy (and He’s just waiting to release me and give me His abundant mercy).
Why this teaching now? Well, I’m realizing that part of the bitterness I was experiencing in my own heart, as well as the bad feelings and the opening I gave to the enemy to attack me, was due in part to my judgement of my family and my wife. God… forgive me. For those who know me, it’s actually kind of humorous. Me, judging anyone of anything is pretty hilarious. Especially if you know how good my wife is!
Yes, it is all melting away. The fog is lifting, I can see the goodness of my wife’s heart, and the goodness of God’s heart towards me. Thank you.
Until next time,
Peace be with you!