The lessons this week have been difficult to swallow because they dealt with offensiveness, and that always offends. Offense builds a fence that divides and keeps me from connecting as God desires. Sometimes the offense is a tall fence with razor sharp barbed wire on top, but it can also be the underground variety covered by a beautifully manicured lawn. Those offenses are the most dangerous fences because I don’t recognize the offense until I feel the shock. We love fences and put them everywhere. I need a fence around my property and my heart to keep it safe and secure, don’t I?
Paula Deen and Alec Baldwin have been involved in the lessons this week, but so have I. It’s always good to remember not to throw any rocks. Paula Deen’s actions were deemed more offensive by the media, and I imagine that has to do with the depth of the foundation of the fence when it comes to racial slurs. We can all get on that bandwagon without worry. Whatever the offense and no matter how tiny the fences we build may seem, fences keep us from connecting as God desires. They all hurt, so it’s best not to judge anyone’s offense but simply make it a habit to be mindful so as not to offend. That was the lesson God had for me last week.
My ears, eyes, and heart were battered by the noisy din of discord in the media all week, and it left me wanting to run to the mountaintop and hide! God reminded me that I added a rock to a fence myself last night, and that humbled and sobered me in a powerful way. A friend posted a church billboard addressed to the governor of my state. I’m not a fan of his, so I responded with a smile. The message was, “Gov. Perry, God here. The voice you hear in your head is not me. Take your meds.” Seemed funny at the time, but that was before I read this response to her post from a lady who suffers from mental illness, “Another stupid joke at the expense of the mentally ill. We are such an easy target. This church has its head up its insensitive ass.” Her response left me ashamed of my reaction and showed me that neither my head nor my heart was where it needed to be.
I did a lot of judging about judging last week and was feeling pretty good about myself, but God was faithful to finish me off with the painful truth about the inappropriateness of my response to what seemed to be a very harmless joke. The danger lies in that electric fence I don’t notice until I’m zapped. I deleted my smiley face and replaced it with this response, “Thank you Pamela for the reminder and the lesson I needed. Prejudice is insidious, and our society is very insensitive when it comes to mental health. Easy targets are easy to hit, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to hit them :(“ Lesson learned and humility gained.
Openness and honesty is the only way to tear down or dig up a fence. God simply asks me to tear down my fences and be willing to have relationships with those who are not like me, to hear the life stories of others, and be willing to tell mine honestly with love. Honesty and learning come with painful zaps, but the humility that results helps me understand and draw nearer to God, my truest self, and those in my path.
Fences in the yard are okay, but my heart doesn’t need one around it anymore.