It was a busy day, and I was in a restless mood, tired from lack of sleep and worried about everything on my plate. My son was, thankfully, healthy for this doctor’s visit, and I felt God nudging me to pray for all the other children in the waiting room who were sick, and for the mothers who I knew were just as tired as me.
Another mother, with 4 children, walked in. Her skin was dark and beautiful. She wore a completely black outfit with a head covering and a veil over her entire face, except for her eyes. Those eyes. The weight of the world seemed to shine in them. That and love for her children.
I immediately watched women all around me tense up. I watched mothers grab their babies like their lives depended on it. I watched looks cross faces as though they had just sucked a whole lemon or lime. I watched a few mothers move to the other side of the room, attempting to be discreet but not hiding their distaste at the same time. I stayed where I was, holding my little man and thinking about life and this family that just came through the doors.
Years ago, I would have been one of those women. The one with the fear. The one with the dirty scowl on my face. The one who sat on the other side of the room. But I’m not that woman anymore.
I smiled as the mother came near. She sat down not far from me, as her precious children grabbed some books and toys scattered around the room. My son wanted to get down to play as well. He had a book we were already flipping through. The 2-ish girl wanted it, so I gently took it from my son and handed it to her. I smiled again at the mother. I noticed her body relax. The worry lines around her eyes decrease. As if she had been waiting for me to say something or do something else.
“They are beautiful,” I said to her, nodding to her babies. She smiled. I couldn't see her mouth. But I could see the smile in her eyes. She nodded, and quietly played with her newborn on her lap.
I remember a time when I would have done the opposite. When my faith would have prompted me to immediately judge. When the first thought running through my mind would have been one of disdain or self-righteous consolation.
I don’t know what it is about having my son that has taught me about God’s grace in such a life-changing way. It is probably a combination of things. More than likely me realizing that so much of my previous faith-life was shallow and built on more of my own thoughts about things rather than His. I have learned a lot of lessons through the difficult times I have had with my son. How to really love others was one of them. The Holy Spirit has changed so much of my thinking. I was never really legalistic. But I was still too much of a Christian snob.
You see, like the woman at the doctor’s office, I too wore a veil. Except mine was a false identity, a person I hid behind to make others think I was good. My veil of perfection. My veil of holiness. Nothing more than a mask to cover up my own brokenness that the rest of the Christian world should never, ever see.
Why is it so hard for us Christians to exemplify both Truth and Grace? After all, this is who Christ was. The fullness of God in a man was the very perfect demonstration of Truth and Grace. This was how he treated those He came in contact with, every single time. He never looked down on anyone, always loving those who were unloved. He never shied away from the Truth, always teaching those who missed the mark.
Instead, we who are followers of Christ usually pick one or the other. We think we have to judge others in order to maintain our standards. We think we have to pretend there is no such thing as sin in order to love others. Our churches and our preachers focus on one or the other. Why can’t we be both Truth and Grace? It is possible, because Christ was both, is both.
We can hold to a standard of Truth without judging. We can love and give Grace completely without compromising. When a Christian learns to do this, he sets the world on fire.
We can look at a mother who comes from a different background and truly care for her despite what her beliefs are. We can speak to a person of a different sexual orientation without thinking in the back of our mind they are going to hell. We can live our lives based on Truth while showing others His love. We can fight against a sin-wrecked world without making others feel they are worthless because they aren't Christians.
The key in all of this is knowing Christ and allowing His sweet Spirit to fill us. Those Christians I know who are reaching others and are making the greatest impact are those who have been able to master this delicate balance. Christians who speak Love with every breath they take, and whose lifestyle models a Savior who was pure, humble, and soaked in integrity and honor. That is the kind of Christian I want to be – an image bearer of the one true God, taking off the veil of falseness and instead shining the light of Truth and Grace.