The women sat, tucked into every available seat, some even on the floor, as they spilled into the adjoining rooms. We’d been at an outdoor women’s retreat, spending time in the Word of God and in fellowship with each other. Just as we started our late-afternoon time together, the gathering storm forced us inside. Tonight’s topic was on forgiveness and praise, and I wished I could see all their faces at once. For me, it’s much easier to speak when you can see the nuances of emotion on people’s faces. When I turned one way, my back was to the others, and I’d have to step into another room to see even more faces.
“God, help me,” I breathed. All day, between meetings, I’d heard their stories, their own journey of life. They’d buried children, battled debilitating diseases, endured the ridicule of husbands who didn’t walk with God, and faced uncertainty over whether they themselves even wanted to make a commitment to Jesus.
Tonight, as we started, I asked the women to write down one thing they wished they could change about themselves. Nobody put their name; typically, the more anonymous we can be, the more honest we are.
I collected them and saw how we’re surprisingly similar, as much as we like to think we’re different. Their words sparked a familiar theme in those issues we often keep hidden: fear, depression, anger, worry, lack of love, and this one— “I want to focus on my own growth, rather than others’ sins.” In fact, multiple women put the word “judgment” as the one issue they’d like to change the most about themselves.
Did the spirit of judgment originate in the garden, when Adam blamed his wife, and Eve blamed the serpent? Did it multiply when Korah and company murmured against the leader God had given to Israel? Did it spread when the Israelites decided the judges weren’t good enough and they needed a king? Did it culminate when the Jews sought to release Barabbas, and instead insisted on sending an innocent Man to His death?
Probably not, because the spirit of judgment surely lives on. It sneaks into churches and gets paraded across the table when company comes for lunch. It surfaces when not even a word is spoken, but thoughts are indulged on someone else’s unfitness for ministry, or their choice of a spouse or words or food or lifestyle. We compare every speaker to our favorite and our spouse, children, or friends to some perfect version of what we think they ought to become.
All the while, we refuse to look at ourselves.
I love the authenticity of this woman, who chose to focus on her own growth, rather than others’ sins. How quick I can be to judge, yet slow to forgive. How speedy in jumping to conclusions, while my own heart is full of selfishness, just waiting to be uncovered.God, please show me my own heart and my desperate need of You. Remove the spirit of judgment from me.