I don’t know about you all, but in high school, I was kind of a judgmental person. Many of us have regrets from high school and although I do have some regrets in the boyfriend department (*throatclear*), most of my regret falls with the way I silently treated others. I was never outward or hostile towards sinners, but I often judged myself as ‘better than’ other people in high school based on the sins they were rumored to have committed (ie. sex, drugs, alcohol.) I thought because I was not doing any of the “big three” mentioned that I was better, somehow closer to God. This could not be further than the truth. You see we all suffer, we all sin, and we are all in need of God’s mercy and love and forgiveness. Oftentimes, especially in high school, teens are merely searching for love, for truth, for contentment, and perhaps even an escape.
What I wish I realized then that I know now is my life has been pretty easy, very loving and encouraging, and super peaceful for the most part. All of us have had our rough patches, but generally speaking, my family has always been amazing. I have always loved my parents and my 8 siblings and they have ALWAYS been very supportive, encouraging and affirming. So because of this background, my heart never really searched for healing or an escape, or even just a sliver of love/affection to revive the apathetic heart too many wounds may have caused. I wish the same could be said for many of my friends. Everyone comes from a different background. Some of my friends came from broken homes, crappy relationships, mental illness, all kinds of abuse, or a general lack of affection. It makes their search for love in all the wrong places a little more understandable don’t you think?
So back to my former teenage judgmental/bitchy self… I thought I could pass judgment on others based on their apparent sins. And I wasn’t alone. I think oftentimes we Christians are more concerned with what others are doing than our own personal relationships with Christ. The readings for this Sunday seem to point in that direction as well. Don’t get me wrong, being apart of a community and correcting them in charity is essential to a well-rounded Christian life, but when it comes to what is right or what ought to be, let’s worry about ourselves first, ok? If I could have just looked within my heart first, I would have seen my own sin.
In the first readings, Isaiah wisely states that it is not up to us to determine the punishments or rewards of others. We cannot presume to know God’s ways, God’s thoughts, nor the thoughts and motivations of our brothers and sisters. So what we SHOULD focus on is to draw close to him. Let’s focus on our relationship with Him and how he will be here for us, no matter what! Let us draw ourselves closer to him as he is unchanging. This Sunday’s Psalms remind us that The Lord is near to all who call upon Him!
The Gospel story of the workers in the vineyard pretty well illustrate my high school self. I was that person who joined the workers early. I was eager to get to work, to live according to God’s will and do what’s right! But then at the end of the day, point fingers and complain to God that “these people go the same wage as I did and they’ve don’t half the work!” God reminds all the Stacys in the world:
“My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?'
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Take what is yours and go. Accept the love and mercy God has shown you, the grace he has given you for the beautiful life and effort you have put in… and go. Jesus encourages us later in the Parable of the Talents that if he gives you much, spread it, make it even more! So if you have been fortunate enough to have a healthy upbringing or have even overcome a bad upbringing and are living a virtuous life! Thank God! What a gift!! Don’t bury that gift by spending your time trying to figure out what is just… that’s God’s job. Just concern yourself with growing towards Him… then the Christ inside you will bring others to Him. THAT is what I wish high school Stacy knew…
Don’t be a high school Stacy. Show mercy, let God shine through you and love on people. He will know what to do with them!
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.