The wonderful bliss of childhood. As children, we are allowed to run and play with no worries or cares in the world. We didn’t care who our friends were as long as we had someone to play with. I was a very happy child, an eternal optimist. I even won the “Good Smileage” aware in the 4th grade, indicative of a trait that I would continue to exercise for years to come. In fact, I was often asked by friends why I smiled all the time. When I was little, I didn’t really know and I didn’t have an answer. It was years later, however, when I was a teenager in the church, heavily involved in all that I could and being immersed in a budding spiritual life because of my family, friends, and the church itself, that I began to figure out why it was that I smiled and was happy all the time. It was my junior year when I had a moment of clarity and finally truly understood the sacrifice Jesus made for me and everyone. With all of these blessings, what reason did I have not to love life. I had realized that it was God who was showing his love through me, and that was why I was smiling and happy all the time.
As I became an adult, thrust into the real world, that sunny disposition changed. Reality sometimes hits me full force. I take a look at the world we live in and I don’t understand what is going on. The hate and despair in this world is palpable. I feel it every time I watch the news or check out Facebook and it bothers me at my core. The wars, dealing with ISIS and terrorists, and the injustices going on overseas are bad enough, but even a look closer to home will reveal that same hate and despair, school shootings, crime, violence, even cruelty to animals and lack of respect for our environment. As I try to understand the reasons for this hate in my very human and finite mind, the only things I come up with are greed and selfishness. The world has become a very self-centered place. It’s all about me and getting mine. It’s everywhere. I don’t like how you dress, how you look, how you live, so I am going to bully you until you change or leave one way or another. You made fun of me, hurt my feelings, damaged my ego, wronged my family; I will punish you. When did guns/taking someone’s life become the optimal choice for retribution? When did it become “cool” to bully someone so much that they leave school or worse? How are people going to view all Christians when a few known believers are seen on social media harshly judging groups or people? With everything going on today, life has almost become disposable. Anything gets in my way, I’ll just get rid of it.
I began to question: What could I do with this huge global problem? How do I as a Christian even begin to think about combatting the hate I see every day? My questions turned to prayers when I asked God to intervene and that’s when God began shedding some light on me as a person and I realized I did have some work I could do to make myself a better person and hopefully make people feel loved one small step at a time. I also felt an overwhelming desire to share this lesson I have begun to learn and work on…so here I am.
The concept God began showing me is pretty small and simplistic, and most of us have probably heard it more than once, but it can be difficult to achieve. I know in my heart that I could never truly hate someone or wish someone harm or worse, but like the scripture talked about, I fall into the trap of judgment, usually snap judgments about people according to how they look, talk, act, etc. One thing God began showing me is the fact that while I do attempt to not treat people differently according to my snap judgments, I do sometimes in very subtle ways. I realized I might avoid eye contact or make a conversation very short. I began to even think about what my face is portraying as someone approaches. When someone is approaching me, what is showing on my face? Am I smiling and looking friendly or is my look one of concern, disdain, fear, indifference? Am I turning them off to me? If they know I’m a Christian, am I turning them off to the church, Christianity? People of faith are put under so much scrutiny that something as small as the look on our faces can make or break an interaction.
If you didn’t know already, I am a nurse. I work on labor and delivery. God has used this arena to teach me this lesson because I am more likely to come into contact with people that make me uncomfortable and cultures I am unfamiliar with and my snap judgments are made. In nursing school we actually learned about what I like to call the “gross face.” Anyone who works in the healthcare field knows what I am referring to. (Show gross face, lip curl eyebrow furl) In the healthcare field, we deal with a lot of unpleasant things and we cannot let our feelings about them show. Imagine a patient in the hospital, already scared and their caregiver walks in and immediately puts on the gross face or lets their feelings about the patient’s life, condition, circumstances or appearance show. That patient would not feel cared for at all. I’m pretty sure Jesus did not have a “gross face” on when he healed the lepers or when someone touched his cloak for healing. When he visited the tax collectors and prostitutes he didn’t say “Ugh, my dad made me come, let’s get this over with.” He did these things with compassion and love.
We are naturally drawn to people who look, act, speak, believe and feel like we do. They are the people we call friends and want to spend most of our time with, me included. This is the same where I work. I get along great with the patients that I have things in common with. It is a wonderful assignment and I usually feel like I bonded with the patient and her family. However, there are days when I don’t get the patient that I relate to.
Walking into a patient’s room one day, I found her to be twice my size and every other word out of her mouth was a loud swear word. I was immediately intimidated and kept our initial conversation short. I left the room wondering how I was going to relate to this patient who was definitely not “my kind of people.” I didn’t really come up with an answer, so every time I went in the room, I just made sure to watch my face and tried to talk with the patient as best I could. Throughout the day, I found out that I had taken care of her with one of her other deliveries and she was glad it was me again, so low and behold I had already made a positive impression on her. We discussed other things and I ended up relating to her just fine. She became more real to me. Even though she expressed her feelings in a different way, they were feelings I have had. Taking care of her was a great experience. After my shift, I remember this little voice whispering in my ear, “See, you were wrong.” I smiled and knew who it was! God has put me in a lot of these situations and each time, that still small voice has been there to tell me I was wrong. I have found I actually like these experiences better. To realize that I can make that much of a difference by what my face and actions show, and relate to people who are different than me is truly a reminder that actions speak louder than words to make a positive impact.
“So, Laurie”, you’re probably saying, “what does this mean for us? Most of us aren’t taking care of patients daily.” I have a story for you. This is taken from the hrtwarming.com, a website that posts uplifting stories. It was posted November 17th, 2014.
A young girl walks into a coffee shop in the winter. She gets some looks from the patrons and the cashier because she has bright purple hair, multiple piercings, a leather jacket and ripped jeans. She has a scowl on her face that makes the cashier nervous.
“Can I help you?” The cashier asks the girl.
“I’d like 5 of the largest coffees you have and 10 of your ham and cheese sandwiches.”
“Will that be all?”
The cashier tells the young girl the total and to her surprise, the girl pulls out a $100 bill. The cashier, suspicious, checks to make sure the bill is real. It is and she hands her the bag of sandwiches. She gives the girl her changes and tells her the coffees will be out in a moment. The cashier continues to watch the girl as she glares at anyone who looks at her and notices her looking at the tip jar as she brings the coffee out.
The young girl asks, “Your tip jar says the money goes to you guys. Are any of you in college?”
The cashier answers, “Yes, I’m going to Rochester Institute of Technology. A few others are in college as well.”
“Good for you”, the young girl says as she pulls out the change she just received as well as a few more $20 bills and stuffs them into the jar. She salutes the cashier jokingly before walking out. The cashier is stunned and chases after her. She finds the young girl on a street corner talking to some homeless people and handing out the sandwiches and coffee.
“Excuse me!” the cashier shouts
“I’m sorry, did I forget something?” asks the girl
“No, but you just tipped us over $100 and you’re giving away a lot of food.”
The girl answers, “Oh yeah, my dad is crazy rich. I feel like I can do more if I actually interact with people instead of just signing a check for charity. Every Friday, I gather everyone I see who needs a good meal and buy it for them. She smiles brightly at the cashier. “I may be young, but I can make a difference. I usually hand out flyers for homeless shelters or soup kitchens too.”
Without another word the young girl walks off silently. The cashier couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the week. It goes to show you that appearances aren’t everything!
Could you just imagine the faces of the people in the coffee shop? You know this girl knew what they were thinking. What do you think she was thinking when she was able to explain herself to the worker?
What would happen if that same person walked into our church, maybe a little older, maybe college age? Oh yeah and she wants to work with the youth. How would we deal with that? How would parents feel about it? What would be on our faces? Would our faces welcome her and allow her to grow here or would our “gross faces” betray us push away? The Apostle Paul tells us in our second scripture, (Romans 12:9-18).
We all have those people in our lives that make us uncomfortable. Instead of letting our “gross faces” show, we should seek to find common ground with those that we would normally shy away from creating a relationship that may just begin conversations that open up avenues for sharing and growth. God has also shown me how fun it can be to learn about someone else’s feeling and beliefs in an open discussion. This has also started new and wonderful friendships that may have never happened if I had let me gross face and judgements win out. Some of these friendships have even fostered conversations about God and Jesus and sharing my faith with other people. At work, I have learned about true compassion from a co-worker who is a non-believer. Her compassion inspired me to let her know that I was grateful for her and share more of my beliefs and telling her my desire for her to know Jesus, which surprised her because she didn’t think “our team” would want someone like her. We are supposed to be fishers of people. We can’t do that if we scare all of our “fish” away with our gross faces.
Just as I am a caregiver in the hospital, I feel that we as Christians are the caregivers of this world. The people of our world are hurting and looking for love to fill the emptiness in their lives. We need to show them the only One that can truly fill their lives with love. When they look our way, I want them to do a double take. They need to see what we have inside our hearts that keeps us going and that they can join us. We are not an exclusive club, but a body who needs all different parts and types to make it work. The nose may think the feet stink, but we still need them!
Will we be able to be sunny and happy without ever judging anyone all the time? No. Unfortunately, just as in the hospital setting we will lose people. We’re not perfect, we can’t be there for everyone, but if we are always trying to make a positive connection with another person, who knows what can happen. Our positive encounter may just intrigue them enough to want more. So put away your “gross face” and show people something they aren’t used to seeing, so when they ask you, “What’s that on your face?”, you have an answer…its Jesus.