There are some mean people out there.In September of 2011 a young man was mean to me. He pointed a gun at me while I was strapping The Bug into her carseat, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a target parking lot and made me give him my wedding ring.
A few weeks ago some people were pretty mean to my Fly. He and his buddy were golfing...in the middle of the day...they came back to their windows smashed in and their cars pried open with all of their stuff stolen.
Lots of mean and all in broad daylight.
What is this world coming to?
Well, friend, the sad truth is that mean has been around for a while and it’s not going to go anywhere any time soon.
In a few weeks I have the privilege of spending an evening with moms and daughters of all ages to talk about the mean...specifically, “Mean girls.” As I have been praying and preparing what to say to them I am remembering the mean I have faced and I have been to others. And, I am learning again what Jesus does with “the mean.”
The Fly always, lovingly, jests with me as I stand up for a wayward soul. I don’t know what it is but just like my mom will bring home lost puppies I can’t help myself but feel my heart break for anyone who finds themselves, “lost.” Maybe it’s because I am so keenly aware of what it feels like to wander around in the dark. I have a phrase that I use to stand up for the wayward wanderer, “Something must have happened in her childhood!” So, every time we come across, “mean,” together, the Fly will ask me, “Did something happen in his childhood?” And, then I lovingly, loudly and emphatically reply, “Yes!” He smiles at me and shakes his head and I know in his mind he is thanking God that I have practiced self control and our yard and home are not full of all the lost animals and people I so desperately want to see found!
I really do think the mean we see as children affects us far more than we care to admit. The first cut is the deepest. For most of us our first encounter with mean was probably early childhood. The play ground. Dance Class. Soccer practice. A birthday party.
There are others though that experience mean far before they can even begin to remember it. My heart breaks for all victims of “mean,” and when I hear of it I fiercely recall Jesus’ words about anyone who harms a child. “It would be better for a milstone to be hung around their neck and then cast into the ocean...” The little ones who experience mean far before a school yard kerfuffle are the ones my heart breaks for the most. It’s the stories of the children born into the mean that pierce me and leave me with more questions than answers.
Mean seems to take all forms but the root of it all comes back to what resides in a heart.
Jealousy or Envy.
Seeds like these can produce roots that go down deep. What springs up is never very pretty. And, often, what springs up, is mean.
Last night, I sat on the floor, in a circle with some girls, seniors in high school. We talked about some of this. We talked about what kind of things can hold us back and keep us from moving forward...in life, relationships, in our pursuit of Jesus.
With dripping eyes and dripping noses we sat together. We prayed. We spread out. We asked God to show us where any of these seeds might be holding us back.
We asked for forgiveness.
We had a breakthrough and watched the roots that could easily produce a crop of mean be uprooted. And, in those places we began to plant new seeds. The ones that grow things like hope, love, trust, humility, and compassion.
It was nothing short of a miracle. A miracle I so graciously was able to witness.
When you get that many girls in one room there is a good chance the dramatics may be ignited. But when you get that many girls in a room and you invite Jesus, the drama mellows and the mean melts because He is greater.
Only He can melt away all the mean. And, don’t worry, He will.
In the meantime, (Ha! “Mean” time...I love a good pun...and I LOVE to point one out!)...in the meantime, it is our choice in how we respond to the mean we face everyday, whether it be girls, bad guys who steal things, or even someone we love. We have to remember that the “mean” we are seeing in someone is what has been grown up in them because of seeds planted before...rejection, failure, envy, etc.
I will tell you this, my friend, when you begin to do a little digging in your own garden, when you begin to ask the Lord to show what seeds have been sown in your own heart, you begin to have compassion on an enemy. You may even begin to love them.
The Lord graciously took me through a season, a number of years ago, where he worked the soil of my heart. He had me look in a mirror and begin to remove the uglies, the hurts and the mean.
How, you ask?
It was simple.
I gathered with a couple of women I trusted. They prayed and I began to confess the wrong. I began to ask forgiveness for my wayward wanderings. I chose to forgive those that hurt me even if the wrongs had never been righted.
As I look back on that time I know it was when He was tilling the soil for a new seed to be planted and for a new crop to be produced. Just like a farmer tills to kill any weeds in the seed bed my Father knew there were weeds choking me and competing for my heart.
It was an emotional season but every time I walked out after a time together with those beautiful women, I felt lighter...physically lighter...like I was ready to fly.
When my Fly turns his head so slightly to side and smiles and says, “Did something happen in her childhood?” It is all I can do to not shout, YES, because I know...oh, how I know...what it feels like to walk around with the hurt, the unforgiveness and all the other yuck we begin to collect as small children. But, more than that, I know...oh, how I know...what it feels like when you meet Jesus and you lay it all down at His cross.
That’s how we get rid of the mean, my friend.
It always comes back to the cross.
Death, not just for eternal life, but for abundant life.
My sister-in-law turned me onto these great albums called “Seeds.” They are verses and short passages of scripture set to music for kids to listen to. One I have had on my playlist for the past few months is Matthew 12:34:
“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
It’s true. What is going on in a heart will always find it’s way out of a mouth. So, next time you hear the curses fly or feel the stinging or biting of another’s words, when the mean is all in your face, I ask you to pause before you respond. Think about their heart. Think about your own heart.
We are all just wayward wanderers trying to find our way home to the Father.
Practice mercy. Be patient. Pray for them. Then set your own heart right. Let your own soil be tilled, so when you are faced with the mean again, you can choose to love. And then, perhaps, you will plant a seed in their heart. One of grace...receiving something they didn’t deserve.
One seed of grace can begin to transform a heart.