I am surrounded by, talking to, and working with Christians just about every single day. I often wonder if that’s turning me into a skeptic. Leave it to us for being known as the stingy ones by waiters everywhere (“more blessed to give”), for saying we’ll do something and then changing our minds a thousand times (“what your lips utter be sure to do”), and for being some of the most arrogant know-it-all’s on the planet (“blessed are the meek”).
But more than anything – and, often, because of these things – we doubt people. We doubt hearts and actions. Are they really Christians? Is he doing it for himself? Is she living in sin? Is this ministry really bringing Kingdom? Is this a cult? Does that ministry know what they’re doing?
More reasons than I would ever need to be skeptical
On my first trip out of the country for something more than a vacation, it took me about 24 hours to get completely wrecked. I was working at an orphanage in Haiti after the earthquake, and they had received a call about a child at the local hospital that needed a place to live. His name was Oliver. When they brought him home, his skin was sagging. He was too weak to lift his head and too lifeless to give even a whimper. He had a fever and he was starving.
Upon seeing Oliver, my heart was broken. I guessed that he was about 3 months old, still nearly a newborn baby. When I found out that he was one year old, my broken heart turned to rage. His father was on his way to the orphanage to sign the papers to give him away. Who is this guy? How could he do this? What a selfish, lazy, worthless asshole! He walked into the gates of the orphanage, and instead of seeing the face of evil, I saw a tired, hurting young man.
I was wrecked when I discovered what was really going on
He sat down with us and told his story. His wife was hit by a car and killed on the way to the market a few months before. Soon after, the earthquake came and destroyed his house. He had a daughter living in the Dominican Republic, and he worked to send her money. There was not a daycare or a nanny’s for his one year old. There was nothing for him to do but give his son away.
When I heard his story, I was heartbroken all over again. This time, for myself. We can never know what someone’s walking through or where they’ve been. We can’t possibly know the hurt and pain in their situation. We simply have to believe in good.
Live to find the good
My favorite sports author, Joe Posnanski, wrote about a time he was given a perspective of grace by the legendary Buck O’Neil in my favorite book, The Soul of Baseball. They were at a baseball game when the outfielder tossed a baseball into the stands after the final out of the inning. A thirty-something year old man reached and grabbed it out of the air from a ten year old boy. He danced around showing off the ball, while the boy sadly sat down in his seat.
“What a jerk,” I said.
“What’s that?” Buck muttered.
“That guy down there caught the ball and won’t give it to a kid sitting right behind him. What a jerk,” I said again.
“Don’t be so hard on him,” Buck mumbled. “He might have a kid of his own at home.”
That stopped me cold. A kid of his own. I had not thought of that. I tried, as I would the whole road trip with Buck O’Neil, to see things through his eyes. For five seasons, I would watch Buck look at the bright side. He had every reason to feel cheated by life and time – he had been denied so many things, in and out of baseball, because of what he called “my beautiful tan.” Yet his optimism never failed him. Hope never left him. He always found good in people.
“Wait a minute,” I said to Buck. “If this jerk has a kid, why didn’t he bring the kid to the ballgame?”
Buck O’Neil smiled. “Maybe,” Buck said without hesitation, “his child is sick.”
And I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I would never beat Buck O’Neil at this game
Are we called to believe in people even when the evidence says we shouldn’t? The easy Christian answer is that I believe in people regardless of the situation because he believes in me regardless of mine. Sometimes, I wish it was that easy.
Is it easy for you to believe in people?