I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few weeks, but as you may have heard, my life has been a bit busy lately. Along with Penny and the boys, I just flew back from Missouri a few days ago where I accepted the call as the new Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Farmington. This is an exciting time but also a very challenging one as we begin to pack up and prepare to leave the place and people we have come to know and love so much. However, as I’ve learned during my years in ministry, when God calls, life is so much sweeter if you simply say yes and follow wherever He leads.
While I’m still mentally adjusting to what life will be like outside the Lone Star State, I have to say that I think I will truly enjoy living in Missouri. The countryside is beautiful, the people warm and friendly (just like my fellow Texans) and they don’t mind that I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan! That being said, there was a moment during our whirlwind trip to our new hometown that almost caused me to have second thoughts.
Last Friday night, I stayed up late after Penny and the boys went to bed to get some work done. The day had been exceptionally busy and the next day would be even more so, and I decided to take advantage of a quiet hour. I headed down to the hotel lobby, found it completely empty, picked a comfy chair, and started spreading out all my work.
However, just as I really started to settle in and concentrate on the projects before me, a large family came into the lobby and began a time of boisterous fellowship. I’m fairly adept at tuning out noise so I was confident I could still get my work done. But all my powers of concentration failed me when one of the men in the family group loudly proclaimed the following:
“People from Texas are the worst!! They think they’re so much better than everyone else and don’t care what people from other states have to say. It’s like they think they’re from their own country or something!”
I almost fell out my chair when he spent five minutes explaining how stupid Texans sounded when they say “all y’alls.” No self-respecting Texan has ever said such a thing! His tirade finally came to its glorious conclusion with the warning, “Whatever you do, don’t ever mention the Alamo to a Texan, because as soon as you do, they just start crying!”
Lord forgive me, but I was just praying for the moment when that guy would notice me sitting in the corner and ask me where I’m from, to which I would have stood up and replied, “I’M FROM TEXAS!!” I might not have been able to do that though since my eyes were full of tears for he had just mentioned the Alamo.
I know this is a silly story, but it reminds me of an important truth. It’s so much easier to pass judgement on someone instead of trying to understand a different point of view, but we do so at the cost of hurting others. I could tell this man didn’t really know what he was talking about (except for the part of how Texans act like our state is its own country – that was pretty spot on) because I’ve had many years of first hand experience and knew his descriptions didn’t match reality.
I’m not bothered by people who believe, behave, or have different backgrounds than me. In fact, how can I ever make a meaningful connection to those people if I’m not first willing to demonstrate that I care about them and their unique qualities?
We must be careful to never forget that our Savior was known for interacting with those who were “different” than the normal crowd of His day. From talking to the woman at the well, to eating dinner with “tax collectors and sinners,” to showing grace and mercy to a young lady caught in adultery, Jesus taught us the importance of meeting people right where they are.
It takes hardly any effort to simply lump people into predefined categories, to treat them in accordance with our limited understanding, and to dismiss them as less valuable or worthy of our time and friendship. It’s much harder, but also much more rewarding, to take the time to get to know someone else, to genuinely listen, and to express love even when differences still exist.
Today, I challenge you to find someone who is different than you, someone with whom you normally wouldn’t interact or start a conversation. Don’t go into that time with any preconceived notions about what makes that person the way he or she is; simply take time to listen and learn. Who knows? You just might find out more about yourself in the process. Don’t all y’alls agree?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5, ESV)