EDITOR’S NOTE: The blog below has been
cobbled together from two Facebook posts.
As some of you know, I have been haunting a sidewalk once a week or so, with a few friends in front of a building complex that includes a fairly large Planned Parenthood facility. There are many people wandering around in the parking lot, in the office, and on the sidewalk. Lots of people. Lots of stories.
We started this outreach, which I call The Open Door, in November last year. We worship and pray out on the sidewalk. But it has progressed to other things, like giving out roses on Mother’s Day with encouraging scripture cards tied to them, or a tin of Christmas cookies for everyone in the complex—including Planned Parenthood.
I think, for some people, any kindness shown to the people who work at PP is a kind of blasphemy, because they are the ones facilitating and performing abortions. But I am just foolish enough to think God loves them as much as He loves me. And it is when people open their hearts to God and receive His love that He begins to set all other loves in order. He begins to re-form our broken vision and understanding. Mercy is a huge part of this process. And even in the Scriptures it talks about how His kindness leads us to repentance.
Many fancy themselves the judge of others and, from time to time, I am certainly in that crowd. But there is only One Righteous Judge. Many people do evil in the sight of God, including believers. But there is forgiveness for all of it, when we come to Him; though first our hearts have to be made aware. Conviction has to come. And I believe it is only the Holy Spirit who can effectively bring that kind of sober reflection.
With all this in mind, I am working on a special kind of random act of kindness outreach at this place for early September. I’m very excited because I was able to strike up a deal with a food truck for a specialized breakfast we will offer for free on the appointed day and time.
I needed to send pictures of the curbs available for him to park his food truck. So I drove to the site today. It had been some time since I’d been there on any day but my usual Wednesday mornings. I only vaguely remembered that another group I do not hang out with, takes up residence on the same sidewalk on Thursdays.
Sure enough, they were there today, addressing pro-life as an issue. This group of men held their their harsh and graphic signs while blasting a loud recording of a baby laughing and crying in an endless loop over their loudspeakers. This made me VERY angry.
We had encountered their leader early in our outreach during November of last year. He sized us up as our group was singing Christmas carols in the parking lot, out the back of my car. He informed us that he only allows men in his outreach. Women are not helpful to him in his particular outreach to women.
All of us were horrified when we first heard the recording of the baby crying and laughing. I hadn’t encountered him since that moment in November. But today he was there with a friend.
I realize by sharing this that I am also judging him, and that is not good. The things I want to say about him could also be said about me. But, of course, I think I am better. Don’t we all in these kinds of situations? Like the original disciples, I wanted to call down “fire from heaven.”… Yeah.
In my anger, I thankfully didn’t say anything. But I made a very sarcastic gesture (not profane) to him—which he saw. As Michael later commented, I lowered myself to his level.
I KNOW it is ALL about LOVE!! The bottom line is LOVE. And I am not very loving in my natural “man.” It doesn’t matter whether this man is or isn’t loving. What matters is my response. I get that! So I won’t bore you with all the imaginative dialogue I vented in the direction of this man while driving home. Even without a drop of swearing I need to continue repenting. But here’s the heart of what I want to say:
Reaching out at an abortion clinic is not about the issue of abortion. I think that word and all its counterparts have become so politicized at this point that it’s why I am totally turned off by the mainstream pro-life movement as I have encountered it—including this man.
I believe, as followers of Jesus who are seeking to “live a life of love,” we are called to love the people.
ALL the people!
We are called to love them no matter if a woman goes into the clinic to have an abortion or if one changes her mind and leaves. Neither woman is closer to God or better than the other in His eyes. ALL of us have sinned. But unlike us, HE loves unconditionally.
That I believe abortion is wrong doesn’t change the fact that I want to express His unconditional love to every player on this particular stage.
- Praying for the babies
- Praying for the women
- Praying for the boyfriends and parents who brought her And—WAIT FOR IT—
- Praying for the staff of Planned Parenthood
All the human beings that God so loved and gave His only begotten Son for. Yeah! All the people from the front office to the back, whatever their jobs. God’s heart is to reach out to them with His mercy. They are people who were babies once. If we cannot find it in our hearts to truly see them as people God loves and desires to redeem, what are we doing saying we love the babies? God is no respecter of persons. He loves all the players on this very volatile stage. The heart of the church needs to change on this issue and reach out to the people first and foremost with His love.
In saying that, I know I have to reach out to this man I don’t appreciate. I am not sure how to do that yet. And I know God has to work on my heart because, of course, He loves this man also.
NOTE: Sometime later back
at Crow-eating Central . . .
A little while ago, I posted some thoughts about a man who also reaches out at the same Planned Parenthood clinic as I do. He often plays a loud recording of a baby laughing/crying, which my friends and I find very upsetting. I proceeded to mischaracterize this man because I was so angry about the recording and some things he had said, which I misunderstood. I really didn’t know him at all—but I saw him a little more clearly today after downing a small slice of humble pie.
There is a scripture that talks about leaving your offering at the altar when you know your brother has something against you, and go talk to him first, before you make your offering.
Well, today I needed to do that. I really didn’t want to do it at all. I had all kinds of uncomfortable feelings going off in me and rationalizations echoing around in my brain as to why I didn’t have to do this. But I somehow went anyway.
I walked up to this man, who was busy putting together bags of food from the back of his truck, and introduced myself. He turned the recording down, then turned it off entirely. I began by asking Mike, the man leading the outreach, why he was doing what he was doing.
He told me his story, how his wife— then girlfriend—was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. This was 40 years ago. He went along with it, thinking he really had no say in the matter. But his guilt over all that happened led him into all kinds of substance abuse and pain. Somewhere in his journey he came to faith in Jesus, and there was healing in the realization that he would meet his child in Heaven one day.
I asked him how he felt about the workers in Planned Parenthood. He said he is praying for them. In the meantime, he prepares sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs for the homeless that come by on the street. In short, he is a real mensch—not a monster at all. He apologized to me first, but I really was the one who needed to apologize. He was gracious.
And then I talked to him about the loudspeaker playing the sounds of the baby laughing and crying. I told him that this recording was very upsetting and off-putting. I shared with him that I really felt the Lord has impressed on me in this situation, again and again, that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. And, as I was talking, he took the speaker down and put it back in his truck, saying he will need to pray about this and talk to some of his friends.
I should know better by now. But I don’t. learn very well When anger gets hold of me in a way that produces any kind of self-righteousness, something is amiss. Humility is always the better way to proceed. The man was kind enough to allow me to pray for him before I had to leave. There was a gentleness in his face I never saw before, and I thank God that He opened my eyes—and my heart—to see what He saw all along.
I went back again, on the Tuesday before our Labor Day outreach to hand out flyers with my friend, Joyce. We invite people in the area to enjoy free beignets and coffee or cocoa. Mike was there, and he was playing the recording of the baby laughing and crying again. But he did so at about one third the volume he had played it at previously. I asked if he had prayed about the recording and sought counsel. He said he stopped playing it for a week and talked it over with his friends. They reassured him it was fine. So, he decided to continue playing it—but softer. Now it would be more for the people in the immediate vicinity of the speaker as opposed to loud enough to hear it across the entire parking lot.
What can I say? It was not about winning or losing that argument. And Mike is not a monster because he chooses to use the recording to reach people. In fact, he has a lot of compassion for the people in the community. Perhaps it was most about recognizing a brother in the Lord, even when his way is not my way. Maybe it’s about being willing to hear the other point of view, even if I don’t agree. And, most of all, it’s about learning how to love above and beyond the need to be right.
I am Learning how to love as I am loved by my heavenly Father.