O Timeless God, for whom I do not have time,catch me with a sudden stab of beauty or pain or regret that will catch me up short for a moment to look hard enough at myself - the unutterable terror and hope within me and, so, to be caught by you. (Guerrillas of Grace, Ted Loder)
And so it was that I found myself knee-deep in hypocrisy, wading through the judgemental reaction I had to a bunch of kids at the park. Regret and confusion, followed by terror and then a little hope.
To be fair, they were not kids. Not like the two little girls I had brought to play. At the water's edge, the girls watched curiously as one of the older teenagers dove into the river and his friends held his cigarette and said, "Mother F...r!" I glared and then we moved.
At the playground, the girls climbed through rings and paused on bars with rapt attention to the group on the spinning thing. Chains, smoke, swagger... and at least one ankle monitor. I stared from my perch nearby. The ankle monitor threw me. Usually I would say something to smoking swearing teens taking over an area meant for younger children. But the unknown silenced me. Why was he being monitored? What if he had been violent? My eyes surely betrayed the disgust I felt even through the tinted glasses covering them. We moved.
In the sandpit, the girls dug a fort and hid beneath a structure while a third group of skateboarders balanced cigarettes in mouths and skated down the toddler slide. Judgement abounded. This side of town. These kinds of kids.
They congregated in the parking lot next to my car and we made a game plan on the way. The girls were to crawl through my door and if there was the slightest problem, run back to that man who just arrived with his boys. Devising worse case scenarios are normal for me, but I hadn't felt this nervous in years.
And then we were fine, driving away, and my daughter's friend is saying, those were bad kids.
Suddenly each face flashes before me as I wonder if those bad kids had been in my anti-sex trafficking trainings? Or will they be in the one this week?
Are they good kids who just look bad? Good kids who act bad? Bad kids who could become good?
Who am I to decide when to be judgemental and when to be compassionate? I can't equip them in a training one day and send out laser beams of disgust when they infringe on my kid's innocence on another. Vulnerable youth are vulnerable youth wherever they are and I am regretting my attitude as we drive away. I don't get to pick and choose when to be loving, full of mercy, and searching for the back story.
I am a hypocrite.
But I had prayed.
I had invited God to catch me with a sudden stab of pain or regret that will catch me up short for a moment to look hard at myself - the unutterable terror and hope within me.
I am both - the tension of ugly and beauty entangled within, always. And just like those kids...
I will try harder to see next time. And I thank God for catching me.