I have woken up the last two days with a heavy heart for a mom who is going through a lot right now. And although I don’t know her personally, empathy and compassion bring me to a place of intense prayer for her. She is walking out the consequences of her past choices being brought to the light and my gut tells me she is really hurting.
I don’t know Becki Falwell but my heart goes out to her. My personal journey of healing and forgiveness has given me perspective I was once lacking. My black and white personality often slides people into a particular file where they are archived in my heart until God taps me on the shoulder and says, “remember grace.”
It is interesting because we are living in a time when actions fit into one of two categories: completely justifiable or absolutely intolerable. Right now there seems to be little space between the two and sometimes people have no idea where they will land. (For example, will looting give someone heroic status or will they end up in jail?) The truth is, we are all probably just one bad decision away from falling out of people’s good graces. Some stay far away from that cliff, others linger there.
I know that hypocrisy can breed distance between us and God because when we hitch our faith to someone else’s, we can become disillusioned and cynical. The danger in this is that we are using the decisions of others to define our own personal faith. So when a prominent Christian leader falls from grace, it’s easy for us to say, “This person is a Christian and they chose actions that are contrary to the standards of their faith. Therefore Christianity = hypocrisy.”
But may I introduce a different perspective? I believe real faith requires that we approach things from a different angle, removing judgment from the equation. Instead of looking at someone’s actions, we can choose to look at their heart. Jesus did this well during his time on earth when he would see past someone’s reputation and get to the root of their pain, whether it was physical or psychological.
We don’t always know the back story of why someone acts like they do. Often a person’s past (experiences or upbringing) contribute heavily to who they are and how they behave. Past pain can trigger present behavior. So extending empathy to someone is like saying, “I don’t know why you are the way you are, but I’m going to love you anyway.” We don’t have to understand someone’s history to lend them kindness and grace.
We can surrender our job as judge and jury because we live in a society where there are natural consequences for our actions. In Becki’s case, her and her husband’s choices have brought them to a place where he has had to resign from his post as president of the largest evangelical college in the world. Yes, they will receive a large monetary payout but what they are losing is significant and life-altering. It is far more impacting than financial gain.
So let us not be the ones who use our words as stones to hurt them more deeply. The rocks are already piled high at their front door. Empathy calls us to higher ground and asks us to extend grace.
Because let’s be honest, all of us have the ability to fall well. And if or when we do, we will be looking for kindness as the cruel winds blow our way. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Good News Translation says, “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” It is us, the human race, who has established different tiers of judgement based on the affliction. It is God who calls sin “sin” with no valuation of its severity. We fall short and He makes up the difference.
Becki, I hope this makes its way to you. I want you to know that you are loved immensely not because of your position or how you behave, but because you are the child of a loving God. I hope I get to meet you someday. I will greet you with a big hug and I will hold your hand and tell you it’s going to be okay. Because I have been broken before and God healed my heart. And when He did, He cleared out the clutter and made space for grace…a true gift that is meant to be shared with others.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.