Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does good for
his own soul, But he who is cruel troubles his
own flesh (NKJV).
In the past, I was mean to others. I often judged people harshly and formed immediate opinions. I rarely showed others mercy. I held grudges. I was even told once “You are mean!” I didn’t realize then, that my abrasive behavior towards others was hurting my own soul.
One of the greatest blessings from my experience in October 2008 was a 7-day restraining order from the court system. Because I was charged with physical violence against my husband, the sheriff’s deputies requested that the Judge grant a restraining order. The order legally kept me from seeing or speaking to my husband and our under-aged son. While I grieved the absence of my 3-year-old son for 7 days, I also became friends with my sister for the first time.
I couldn’t return to my home where my husband and child were living after my release from jail. Therefore, I had to find a place to stay for a week. I called my sister and asked if I could sleep on her couch while my mother implored my husband to let our son stay with her until the order was released.
It was humbling to ask my sister for help because we were not friends and I had been judgmental and critical of her my entire life. Unbelievably, my sister welcomed me to both her home and heart- no strings attached. She instantly offered me mercy and a lifetime of forgiveness. If I could picture Jesus welcoming me home after sinning against Him in my lifetime, it would be exactly in the same manner as my sister’s open door.
Each morning before work, she made hot tea for me and listened as I cried over my current situation. She owned a very large and intimidating bulldog that stretched out all over the couch I slept on. But even the dog was gentle and kind to me as he laid his head on my lap while I cried. My sister overwhelmed me with her grace and tremendous amount of compassion. Through her, I was learning to become merciful. My only sister, older by a year, is a Christian in our Lord Jesus Christ and throughout her life has embraced one of the bible’s most repeated commands, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. During this difficult time in my life, she was kind even to me after many years of my ungratefulness.
My sister wasn’t the only one I had harshly judged. Judging others was a regular habit for me. In 2000, I participated in a mission trip to Mombassa, Africa, and my travel companions were Mormon. Also the time, I dated a man who was Jewish. I spoke my mind with misunderstood conviction to both my fellow missionaries and my boyfriend. I pressured my boyfriend to convert to Christianity and judged him when he refused. I really thought that I was being open-minded by dating someone who was Jewish and for serving God with Mormons, all of whom did not share the same religious philosophy as me.
Today, I feel regret for the way I judged others. I am particularly sorrowful when I recall how my sister and past boyfriend put up with a lot of my anger and embarrassing putdowns from me. In the relationship with my Jewish boyfriend, I immediately interjected into our conversations hurtful comments and judgment. For example, it only took a week for me to tell him that he was “Going to Hell for not believing in Jesus.” I remember watching his spirit break as I told him what I believed to be the Truth. Not only was my approach detrimental, but so was my inaccurate information.
These days, the relationship I had with my past Jewish boyfriend holds a different meaning for me. I reflect on who I was over 15 years ago and how much my faith has grown in the past two years. With him, I observed Jewish Tradition. I had an opportunity to listen as he spoke in Hebrew. I keenly understand now how I missed a very special gift to be among God’s chosen people and see Christ’s heritage with my own eyes.
Further, it is agonizingly apparent to me that I was wrong about “my truth.” In my arrogance and judgment all I accomplished was to provide further justification to my past Jewish boyfriend not to convert to Christianity. If I were to see my past Jewish boyfriend today, I would say, “I am sorry, please forgive me, not all Christians behave like I did when we dated.” Then, knowing he speaks Hebrew, I would tell him, “Baruch Hashem Adoni,” which means “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
By the grace of God, the experience with my husband bonded me with my sister. She has begun to share her life with me and we have started calling each other “friend.” To my sister whom I judged without mercy for so many years, I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness. Thank you for teaching me how to be merciful. Thank you for your compassion during one of my greatest trials in life and every day since.