Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Job 33:23-30:

"Then, if there should be for one of them an angel, a mediator, one of a thousand, one who declares a person upright, and he is gracious to that person, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the Pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor.’ Then he prays to God, and is accepted by him, he comes into his presence with joy, and God repays him for his righteousness. That person sings to others and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, and it was not paid back to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit, and my life shall see the light.’ “God indeed does all these things, twice, three times, with mortals, to bring back their souls from the Pit, so that they may see the light of life."

The Shirley Sherrod story has been dragging on for some time now, and I was almost worn out on it, until this piece showed up in a journal not known as a bastion of liberalism, written by someone who would never be confused with a liberal...and it was the words of someone whom I am normally diametrically politically opposed to that made me quit shutting out the story, and really hear it.

Here's my dirty little secret: When I first heard about her sudden firing, there is no doubt my first thought was, "What an idiot. She shot her mouth off there. It must be real, or the NAACP would not be jumping down her throat." I was angry that once again, "the other side" had exposed one of our own sinners. I thought she was an embarrassment to all of us on the left side of the fence.

Turns out that I, like many other people in this story, were too quick to judge.

Now, really, my opinion doesn't matter. I don't even know this woman. She's simply a celebrity in politics for me. But there is no doubt, I have sort of a "dehumanizing" attitude towards celebrities. I really don't think of them so much as "real" people. What happens to them really doesn't affect me, and it probably makes me a little freer than it ought to be about holding opinions about them. But they are news, and I tend to react to news. I tend to forget "news celebrities" real people behind my TV screen or my computer screen.

But because the people who DO know her reacted so quickly, and rushed to judgment, it made my own opinion feel perfectly justifiable.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Quite wrong, in fact. Not to mention the people I trusted to form my opinion were also wrong.

I think what I find most captivating about this story is that the family who Sherrod originally harmed in some ways, became the most powerful saving voice in this story. The Spooner family, the real family behind her story in her speech in March, could have simply sat back and folded their arms in righteous indignation and said, "Serves her right. Yeah, she helped us eventually but it was a long time coming--and not after she screwed us over first." They would have been justified to feel that way, really. Yet Eloise Spooner, now 82, said that Sherrod was a "friend for life."

The next round of this saga shows the apologies. I have been watching to see "who really apologizes," and "who's making non-apologies." It's no surprise that the person who "broke" the original story, Andrew Breitbart, continues to defend his position.

But I think the most important part about this story is not really "who did what to whose dog for how many Green Stamps," as my granny used to say. It is about what many of the news articles are calling "A teachable moment."

This story is a reminder that in our "instant" culture, we seem to be perfectly okay with "instant judgment"--and maybe we shouldn't. We tend to form our opinions based on the immediate reactions of people we trust or sources we trust. Yet, when you come right down to it, what right do any of us have to judge a person's whole life on a 38 second sound bite?

Because this story is "from a distance," it allowed me to be reminded of times I have grossly misjudged people. I think of a particular time that someone I thought "would have been in the know about such things" taught me that certain people in my environment were untrustworthy. I thought a LOT of things I shouldn't have thought. As it turned out, most of what I "knew" turned out to be lies and projections. In fact, I had that "who I should trust and who I should not trust" absolutely backwards. I felt such remorse, such guilt over that, I immediately went to those people and begged their forgiveness for my having been so wrong. Some of them had no clue I had been taught such things, and had simply misjudged ME as being "distant" or "just someone hard to get to know."

I can tell you that mending those fences was an amazing, redemptive, literally FREEING thing. I no longer felt pressured to mistrust or dislike them. I was free to explore who they were, and I found I actually liked them!

I think about the times the shoe is on the other foot--when someone probably has an inaccurate and negative perception of me. I can't actively change those things--they almost always require outside information, or simply require time.

I tend to present a notoriously poor first impression if whatever situation I am in has any intensity involved. Many times, "intense" is misread as "angry." Or if people think they deserve a certain kind of treatment and don't get it from me, I come off as mean and callous. I laugh at the metamorphosis that occurs in my medical school class during the year that the course runs. I can pretty much expect bad reviews in the first quarter. I make it very clear I expect to be dealing with adults who will be clinicians before they know it. I set very high expectations. I make it really evident I don't care if they like me personally or not. I remind them that in a year or less, they will be on the floors in stressful situations and people will not always be kind and gentle, or care about your feelings--the important thing is taking care of the patients, and your feelings--well...sometimes there just isn't any time for that until afterward.

But perhaps the most important thing they have to learn in that transition from pre-clinical medical student to clinical medical student is to learn to drop the idea that medical school is "college plus." It's about gaining responsibility and trusting one's training in ambiguous situations. I made a conscious decision to "take the hit" in the first quarter and hope they "get it" by the end of the year. Most of them do. I laugh that with some of them I literally go from "despised" to "beloved."

But in all of this, I think the most "teachable moment" is this: It is in our nature to judge. But it is within God's nature to provide vehicles for repentance and redemption. The most powerful voices of redemption are the ones who had to live through a change of heart and mind themselves. After all, look at the key line in one of the most powerful hymns I know, Amazing Grace...

"I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see."



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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