In church today I was surrounded by families with young children and babies. I was entranced as always by the adorable babies, but also struck by the differences in parenting and the children. To my right was a gorgeous toddler in a mini suit, being cuddled and played with. He had a grin on his face all through church. On my left, was a family with energetic children, climbing all over the pews. The mother was clearly struggling and unhappy. To my shock she grabbed one of the toddlers hard on the arm, dragged him to sit on the pew, and hissed “Shut up!” in his face.
Sure, I felt indignant and was stunned that any mother could treat their child in such a menacing way, but I began to wonder, why had she reacted in that way? What had happened, to put her in such a negative place?
I received a prayer request recently for someone who was sinning as a result of putting herself in an obviously tempting position. I was taken aback by my reluctance to pray for her…to me, it seemed that she didn’t need prayer, she just needed to say no. Prayer wouldn’t change her situation, only her own decision to do the simple thing and take herself out of the tempting position would.
I talked this through with a wise friend, who pointed out:
The surface issue is never the issue.
And that was completely right. Maybe praying for her surface issue was ‘useless’ but I could still pray for her, for the deeper issues. For whatever she was lacking, or had been through, or had caused her to get into the situation in the first place.
Before we judge, let’s consider what might be going on to make them do or say that thing. We are so quick to condemn, but do we ever offer to help?
We are all expert judges, but amateur at loving.