“Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, ‘Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?'” (John 7:50-51)
Sometimes the deepest condemnation comes from ourselves. I turned my phone over and rolled with my back to it on my nightstand. The bride would be annoyed, maybe even disappointed that our RSVP changed from yes to no. We were now officially those people with kids who flaked on catering numbers and chair counts for out-of-town wedding. My sighs turned into sobs as my husband awkwardly patted my back, six months after the birth of our third. They will understand. You can’t drive for eight hours with your health issues. Go easy on yourself. He had heard my sobs yesterday about unexplained pains, doctors re-visited. And the day before that.
Have you found yourself in a position of needing to cancel? To say no to your commitments? To ask someone to help on a project you thought you could bang out quickly? And maybe it’s because you’re suffering from a mental health breakdown or your body has flared up with issues, leaving you to feel like a total loser and helpless. Maybe it’s someone else’s story that’s impacting your ability to follow through, a sibling suffering from addiction who bottomed out, a beloved who lost their job and you’re stepping in to manage things at their household. You might not be able to even be heard, if the world even cared to listen.
Jesus was about as misunderstood as any human ever. I’m going to safely say the most misunderstood. Yes, we can see the Pharisees in today’s Gospel are rotten listeners and holding hearts of stone. But do I hear Him? Do I live the Gospel? Am I so consumed by my own woes and troubles, fussing over how I look to those around me? Bewailing my limitations like they’re the end of the world.
Before I drown in self-pity, maybe I can use this as an opportunity to give others in my life the benefit of the doubt when they cancel, quit, disappear. Jesus would want me to hear them out, and if they can’t speak on it, love them anyway. He died for those Pharisees, too, you know.
Are you condemning those around you without hearing them out, or loving them anyway? Healthy expectations and boundaries are important, but maybe issuing forgiveness can live alongside them, too.
Nell O’Leary is a recovering lawyer who blogs, sews, and speaks while tending to her husband and four kiddos in the great city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. She serves as Managing Editor for Blessed is She and can down a iced chai tea latte in no time flat. Find out more about her here.