Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Pretty Little Boxes

Like most protective Mommies I periodically search online databases for registered s*x offenders near my address. A couple of years ago doing so revealed that we have one very close to our home. His crime was 10-15 years ago and not against children, nonetheless I mentioned to my children that they were never to go in his yard because he has been to jail for hurting people. Society and the justice system have given him a label that warns the rest of us to be on guard.

Since this conversation my children have been very interested in this 'man that hurts people' and what goes on in his home. I have tried to walk the line between demonizing this man and appropriately urging caution in my children.

He is frequently on his porch when we drive by and the children always curiously examine him from the safety of the inside of our car. Last week, as we drove by R commented, "Mom, I think maybe that man is nice now. He was smiling and talking to a friend in his driveway. Do you think he has stopped doing bad things and become nice?"

I reminded my kiddos, as God reminded me, that being 'nice' doesn't make someone trustworthy...and that very few people are all bad, just as none of us are all good either. It was heady conversation for 7 year olds and weighty for me to continue pondering.

I had another experience recently (too complicated to go into here) where I felt led to reach out to someone I had very justifiable reasons to fear. I had judged this person--based on firsthand experience and facts--and felt great peace with keeping my distance. But when they suffered a tragedy I felt God leading me to reach out in a very small way. I was shocked when I opened my mailbox a few weeks later to find a beautiful handwritten note regarding the small gesture. While still sitting in my car by the mailbox I scribbled the phrase running through my head on the front of the card: "You can't put people in pretty little boxes." I now have that card on my desk as a reminder.

I want to put people in boxes: good/bad, safe/unsafe, like/don't like, like minded/different. I hate to admit it but it's true. The terribly frustrating truth of life is that people are far more complicated than that.

And I am learning that it is a beautiful thing too. It means there is grace for everyone...even me and the boxes people have tried to put me in.

Every single person you and I encounter today was created
by the same God. Every. single. one. As hard as it is, we are told to see them that way and love them for it.

It doesn't mean their sin is ok. It doesn't mean we are to be unequally yoked in intimate friendships that make them the voices speaking into our lives. It doesn't mean my family will be picnicking with our neighbor anytime soon, but it does mean I will pray for him when we pass his house--and thank God for the reminder that try as we might, we can't put dynamic, fearfully and wonderfully made individuals into overly simplified, pretty little boxes.



amazing...love this story and i can relate when it comes to my family member that is incarcinated...and all the learning I have done on this topic. great writing....got me thinking...thank you for sharing!

Kristi said...

A timely reminder and slight nudge to my heart! How very true!