So a week ago, some strange man walks into my backyard and invites my 3 youngest children to "come off the porch and go play with my kids." There were no children in sight. I was right there. Looking out the living room window. And I could not see where he stood, carefully out of my line of sight. It still gives me chills to think about the might have beens.
Not 12 hours before that, God had prompted Tony in the middle of the night to pray for protection over his family. Right before they went outside, we had the "what do you do if a stranger comes in the yard talk".
I truly believe God sent angels in response to Tony's prayer, to prompt me to have that talk, to prompt Lydia to say, "I think we should go inside", to prompt Will to take Madi by the hand and say, "Yes, we have to go inside." That man ran away like he was being chased when they came inside. Pretty sure he was.
In the days afterwards, my concern was warning people in the area that a "predator" was out there, lurking. I was ready to take a baseball bat to him if he ever came back in our yard. We called the police, checked websites for registered child sex offenders in our area, showed the kids pictures to see if they recognized any of them...We were prepared to fight.
But this little thought began working it's way into my brain. Who was this man? Not just who was he so I can keep my children away from him, but who IS he? And why? What had created this compulsion in him? What had been done to him? He was a child once. As a matter of fact, he still is. God's child. Here I am, a professed follower of Christ, passing judgement on this man because his intentions scared me.
I had done everything but what I should have done. I should have prayed for him.
I cannot imagine the depths of sorrow a parent goes through whose child suffers at the hands of someone else. And yet I can.
One of my children almost died of malnutrition because a birth parent did not feed them. Yet I pray for the salvation of that woman because I know she is a precious child of God, who loves her.
One of my children still struggles to trust that there will always be food in front of them after having to forage for food in trash cans at age 3. Yet I pray that God will keep those parents off the streets and safe.
Several of our children fear that one day they will wake up and we will not be there. And I pray for those birth parents. I pray that God will make them hate rather than desire drugs. I pray that He will bring their hearts close to him.
But I pray for them because I know them. Not personally, but I know their story. Sexually abused as young children by family members. Verbally abused by parents. Physically abused. I hate what my children have experienced but I understand why it happened. Because it was done before. The cycle continued. I can pray and love them and understand.
But this stranger. This man who invaded my world. I do not know his story. I never even saw his face. It is easy to hate him. It is easy to judge. But that's not my job. No one elected me God. I don't get to judge him. Yes, I should protect my children from harm, but that doesn't give me the right to hate.
That's really hard though. Love someone who had ill intentions towards me or mine? I still really would like to hit him with a stick.
I've always been in awe of people who can forgive huge crimes against them. The parents of a slain child, while they want the perpetrator to go to jail to protect others, turn to God to help them forgive. Man, I don't know if I could be that big. I know, hate is really poison and forgiveness heals you know the other person. I can see that because I began to see every strange man as a possible predator. I saw dark everywhere. I still don't know how I could have found forgiveness if he had actually gotten one of my kids. Certainly not on my own. Only with God.
In the book, The Shack**, the main character has suffered the loss of his youngest child in a violent way. Since then he has turned his back on all happiness and lived this sort of half life, eaten up by hate for this person. He has this sort of dream where he meets God. The part of it that struck me is when he is asked to sit in the judgement seat for God and judge others, including the man who killed his child, he finds that God loves that killer. He loves His child, despite the horrendous sin they committed.
**Note: I'm not telling you to read it or saying I agree with the theology in The Shack - I don't. Just a story with a fitting example.
Just as God loved the Egyptians that he washed away in the Red Sea to protect the Israelites. Just as He loves the man who robbed some local banks recently. Just as he loved the prostitute, Haggar, in spite of her running back to prostitution over and over. Just as he loves the man who hurt his children in a rage. Just as he loves the meth addicted birth parents. Just as he loves my neighbor, who in her elderly years drives her car through my yard to say hello, almost running Madi over. Just as he loves me when I yell at my children, don't follow through on what I will say I do, or one of a million other sins I've committed. He loves the grocery store cashier who was rude and looks as if she's worked longer than she should, for more years than she should. The one I judged because I wanted her to hurry up.
And he loves that strange man who came into my yard.
I asked God a while back to help me see people as He sees them; Love them as He loves them.
But that was before this man. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Because while I can try to love the grocery cashier, can I love a thief who steals from me? Can I love an abuser who hurts a child? Can I love a molester who steals into my yard with the intent to steal my child? Can I look at them with love, not judgement? Can I see inside to what has been done to them?
Maybe they were the abused child that no one ever rescued.
Maybe they were my son or daughter a couple decades ago and there was not social worker or foster family or adoptive home to find refuge in.
I wrote the other day about not judging ourselves against others. Not assuming too much about the perfection we see in someone else. That's a lot easier than not judging someone we see as "the bad guy".
I know I will protect my children to my last breath. And most of me still wants to run into that man while I have a bat in hand. But with all of my heart I will pray for him, that God will heal whatever has been done to him to set him on this road. A road I am sure he does not want to travel, but may not know another path. And I will TRY to leave the judging to God.
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one my receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 2:12