Matthew 9:13 (NASB) But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
I started learning compassion when my life started going in a direction I hadn't anticipated. I hadn't anticipated it because I had tunnel vision. Most of my closest friends could have called it 10 years out. My family was not surprised. My professors were not shocked; in fact, they were pleased. I may have been the only one who somehow still clung to a vision of my life as a stay-at-home mom with tons of kids. Believing all the things I was taught as a child. Never questioning.
For the love, I was in denial. Because ever since I was able to talk I have been questioning, challenging, testing the limits. Not because I was going to cross the limits. Oh, no. I was a first-born and a people-pleaser. The reason I tested the limits was because the limits, as I saw them, were not entirely logical or well thought out. It seemed like the limits were somewhat arbitrary, actually, and I just wanted to know if anyone else was paying attention. Yes, I was sent here by God just to keep you on your toes. You're welcome, Mom.
But here's the thing. I started on a path that involved saying "yes" to a lot of seemingly little choices. The choices were not so obviously correct at the time. In fact, I have spent a lot of time feeling regret over certain choices. In the end, I made choices that seemed like the right way to go. It made sense in a sort of "die to yourself, crucify the flesh" kind of way. In other words, they were often the choices that didn't make good financial sense, but somehow amounted to better character. Or something.
Until here I am. One husband, two kids. Full-time doctoral student working on a Ph.D. and teacher certification. I may be in school for the rest of my life. Or the next 3 years, whichever comes first. My husband is now officially a stay-at-home dad. What's that? Yeah, you heard me right. He cooks, cleans, gardens, changes diapers, and generally manages the home. He also is the best arts-and-craft, fort-building, ukelele-playing, baby-snuggler I have ever met.
One other thing you should know about me--my research focus involves the social construction of "race" and class in education, racial inequalities in education, and anti-bias curriculum. What, you say? Well, I couldn't find anything more controversial, so I settled on that topic.
Actually, there's probably one more thing you should know. When I stumbled upon my new research topic--because I don't know a better way to described how I landed there--people in my church told me I was making crap up. Please stop talking about racism. Thank you. Except no "thank you." Which inevitably sent me into a crisis of faith, because if you seriously are in that much denial about our society, I obviously can't believe anything that you say about God or life or anything.
All of this taught me compassion. Okay, so I wasn't so compassionate towards the naysayers initially. I'm working on that. But I take comfort in the fact that Jesus Christ experienced throughout his life what it was like to be on the "outs." Like he kept saying that he was God, so the religious leaders called him a heretic. Stuff like that.
In the Bible in the book of Hebrews it says that Jesus Christ "learned obedience through the things that he suffered." That word for obedience actually means "attentive hearkening," which people take to mean just straight up submission. But really I think more than anything, Jesus learned to listen. He was the ultimate example of someone who learned to walk a mile in another person's shoes. He learned, taught and acted compassion.
I know what it's like to have someone tell me I'm probably doing it wrong, and why don't you just stay home with your kids. I know what it's like for people to think my husband is a "man-fail." I know what it's like to have people tell me "I don't even know if you're a Christian anymore, what do you believe anyway."
And dear God, I have so much compassion now.
For every person who has been labeled a heretic. For every person who was told "don't ask too many questions, that's a slippery slope." For every mom or dad that has people whispering behind their back about their parenting or life choices. For every person who the church has shunned, overtly or covertly. For every person who feels like no one "gets them" and everyone is judging them (because maybe they are). Single people. Single moms. Couples without children. Gay people. Black people. Democrats.
And I'm so sorry.
To every person I have ever judged with my words or my thoughts. For every time I have argued instead of listening. For every time I have participated in the behind-the-back whispering. To every person I shunned because I was too scared of people's opinions.
My message to others, but mostly to myself is this--it's okay to be "different." It's okay to have different opinions about life, God, the Bible, parenting, etc. It's okay to have disagreements, to make mistakes, and change your mind. It's okay to say, "I don't know." And above all, it's okay to really not know. Because we really don't. We just don't really know anything.
And I'm not making excuses anymore for my lifestyle. We are happy, as a family, as a couple. This way of doing things works for us, at least for right now. I am not less of a woman or a mother, and my husband is not less of a man or a father. If anything, we are free to be more ourselves. I may have ended up here haphazardly, but I'm so glad I did.