In the summer of 2014, I did what I could to pay the bills with what I call “transitional employment” and side jobs. Transitional employment, whether we give a name to it or not, is a job that we maintain to survive during a very difficult time. In my case, it was for a company I loved, as a delivery driver. In this fast-paced line of work, I would drive chocolate-covered fruit bouquets around the city of Indianapolis, and hand them to, often unsuspecting, recipients. They are normally gifts, and generally, people are grateful to receive them.
One day that is stuck in my memory, in this job, involved a very rude recipient. The location of this delivery was in a part of town that, honestly, made me feel uncomfortable. Let’s just say…this area had a violent reputation. After knocking on her door, a middle-aged woman yelled from her living room. “Go away!” she screamed…along with some other words I will not repeat because I think my mom may ground me, even though I am 40 years old. I yelled back and tried to let her know who I was, and after a tense few moments, she answered the door and grabbed the basket of fruit. She quickly slammed the door.
I wish I could say that I thought holy thoughts about her, and didn’t feel slightly offended, but there was a split second I felt justified in my frustration. Then, as soon as my indignation reached its peak, I stepped back and noticed something I didn’t see when I approached the home. From one corner of the house to the other, about waist height, were bullet holes. It dawned on me that this house, at some point in the past, had been involved in a drive-by shooting. My heart sank.
I realized, in that moment, that this woman was not a “mean old lady”, but a fearful woman with past trauma. She likely lost someone she loved in that shooting. I don’t know her story. I didn’t know her father, uncle, son, or cousin. I don’t know who God made her to be, and when that was tragically stolen from her.
I prayed over the house and moved on.
In life, it is important to understand that everyone we encounter is dealing with something that is just beyond the reach of our imagination and beyond the scope of our understanding. In the New Testament, Jesus depicts this by treating people accused of sin in a way that was countercultural to the time. He did not condone their behavior, but he addressed the root first. For the woman at the well, it was belonging, identity, and shame (among others). For the tax collector, it was the need to be or have “enough”, and what the world thought of him. For the Pharisees, it was pride.
We can learn from Jesus’ example. Certainly, behavior, obedience, and the “outward” are important measurements, but the Holy Spirit transforms from the inside out.
Today, seek to understand, and give grace.