If one wanted to make a chart of Kingwood, Texas right now, it would be a pretty basic block.
Those who flooded.
Those who didn’t.
I am filled with both gratitude and sorrow to be in the “didn’t” column. I am, of course, grateful and thankful that my home was safe from the raging, muddy waters that rushed through homes without a care of what was destroyed. I am breathing a sigh of relief that my air conditioning works because September in Houston is not very different from August in Houston. It ain’t fall. And I’m blessed to have a refrigerator full of food and I do not have to rely on the kindness of strangers to bring sandwiches.
But I cry. I sob for my friends who are scraping mud and muck from their homes, tossing their favorite chair and mattress to the curb. I cry when I see their wedding pictures and baby pictures spread over the lawn in hopes of drying out. I cried over every load of laundry I did for people on my street who lost everything while I sat three doors down safe. Every casserole I’ve baked, every sheet of cookies, every pot of pasta I boiled has had my tears nearby because I don’t understand the ways of the water and how it decided to flow.
I have cried for my friends who had no insurance and for the ones who did but are fighting for payment. I have cried for my friends who have already been turned down by FEMA and for the ones who don’t know how to send their kids to school tomorrow when they don’t have a safe home to come to afterward. I’ve held hands and given hugs and prayed and baked. And baked. And baked.
But if we go back to the chart, I’ve noticed another way to block it. Among the people who flooded I have started to hear comparisons.
“How much water did you get? Well, I got…”
“Did you have flood insurance? I did.” or “I didn’t.”
“Have you hired a contractor yet? Who did you get?”
Monday night I sat with a friend over dinner, listening to her story, and she shared some of these responses with me. She’s over it. And we are a week in. I imagine there will soon be comparison on how fast homes were repaired.
There are also comparisons among those who didn’t flood.
“Where did you serve today? I went to this place AND that place.”
“What have you given? You know they really need that at…”
“I organized this group to serve over there. What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in any of the places I’ve been.”
There is so much good going on out there. So much healing and so much help. People are giving of themselves in both blocks. Everyone wants to do their best.
So what if we all moved forward with the assumption that we are doing our best? What if we started offering grace to each other and worked under the assumption that every single one of us is doing the very best we can?
It’s a question Brene Brown poses in her book, “Rising Strong” and one that I have been wrestling with for the last week. Do I believe that about people on an average, normal, non-flooded Wednesday? Do I now that we are in the middle of the biggest disaster our community has ever faced? Do I offer grace to others because I believe they are doing the best I can?
I have to say that most of the time, I don’t. I am quick to monitor a situation and judge that someone has a lower capacity than me and therefore is unreliable. I am quick to judge that someone is selfish with their time, money, resources, etc. and therefore not useful to me.
And truth be told, I am even quicker to take grace away from myself because I am comparing my self to others and judging that I don’t measure up. That person is a harder worker than me and therefore I am a failure. Those people have more time, money, resources than me so I am basically useless.
The lack of grace we offer ourselves and others usually stems from some sort of shame we are holding onto; a lie we are believing about ourselves. It often stems from a wound we experienced long ago that never healed properly.
I’ve had to ask myself many times this week, “What would it take for me to believe that person is doing the best they can?”
I’ve also had to ask,”What would I have to stop I believing about myself that is keeping me from receiving grace? And is that belief what God would say about me?”
James 4:6-8 says,”He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
James points out there is a very fine line between wise discernment and sinful judging. I have to ask myself, “which one am I doing?” before I let words flow from my mouth. I need to watch how I speak to others, but also how I speak to myself.
I know that God bases his judgement on truth. I also know that I rarely do. God alone knows the source of my mess. So I pray for healing and I pray for grace in such abundance that I can pour it over every person I meet – flooded or not flooded. I pray that I will fall deep into the flood waters of his goodness and drink it all in so I can bless others. And I pray that the eyes of my heart….all of ours….would be shielded from the lies of judgement and comparison.