Apparently yesterday morning several older ladies were talking about how brave and strong my wife was for bringing the kids to church after I had abandoned her and left the church.
At the time, I was in the sound booth in the back. I made the PowerPoint song service go.
Of course, part of me felt hurt—did they really think of me like that?—until I realized that these older ladies had seen generation after generation of people disappoint them. Not just that, but they had seen generation after generation of surprises in general. Some stuff just happens. Certainly it made me want to judge other people.
Mostly, it made me aware of myself: my own reputation and how jealous I am of keeping it. Reputation is a tenuous thing, and when I was younger I arrogantly rebuffed people who wanted to pin their expectations on me. But this is merely how all human society acts—to be, is to be regarded, conceived, imagined, and judged by others. That is what makes society society. If I want to walk upright, blameless before God and Man, then I must accept the judgment of others especially those older and more experienced.
Per Lamentation 3.40, 1 Corinthians 11.28, 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 13.5, and Galatians 6.4, my responsibility is to test myself. Per Imlac in Samuel Johnson's Rasselas, “Every man may by examining his own mind guess what passes in the minds of others”: it is no shame that in my own awareness of my frailty and human frailty, others are likewise aware of frailty enough to see it in me: truth is by its very nature objective and self-evident. People judge me, just like I judge other people, so I must first judge myself, as is normal and expected and built-in. But as a result, I must judge myself more strictly.1
There's nothing wrong with those older ladies. They're keeping me on my toes and trying to show love to my wife and children. They thought they saw a bad situation and wanted to wrap my family up in their love. They didn't even mention my “sin” to her out of their sensitivity! I thank God that he has molded me to consider my own flaws during a time like this rather than, as I would have in years past, felt indignant or angry. I thank God all the more for such love in our congregation. They loved me and my family, and felt sad, and wanted to help. In this very real world where people have very real problems, that help is the model of service. If I see someone suffering, loudly or quietly, I want to be as loving as those wonderful Christian ladies, those pillars of faith.
For example, before publishing this, I must agonize over every word to make sure I don't offend or cause someone to stumble. If I can't avoid those, I should scrap the whole thing. ↩