I was at MOSI, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, with my sons Cole and Chase and my ten-year old nephew, Cody. We were working our way around Kids In Charge, a hands-on, kid-focused area filled with fun things to do.
‘Be a Pilot’ is one of the boys’ favorite exhibits, and Cody and Chase headed up to the pilots’ seats to prepare for takeoff.
Cole stopped abruptly, his gaze focused down. A 4 or 5 year old girl was on the floor at the bottom of the ramp leading into the airplane cockpit. She was in a crawling position, rainbow striped socks up to her knees.
It looked as though she’d fallen down.
Cole reached down to grasp around her back. I knew his intent so I didn’t stop him. She whined and wiggled away from his arms. Cole didn’t give up easily. He reached down again to help her up.
A woman’s voice rang out from a few yards behind us.
“Leave her alone. She’s fine.” Her tone was on the dark edge of polite.
From the corner of my eye, I identified the mom. I noticed she was lying length-wise on a bench, a large stroller parked by her feet. I shook my head at Cole, motioning him away from the little girl. He shrugged and moved past, heading up the ramp to co-pilot the plane.
Cole seemed unfazed, but I felt a surge of annoyance hit me. We’re trying to teach Cole and Chase to be polite, helpful young men. We want them be aware of others’ needs, to love their neighbor as themselves. Despite the mom’s tight words, I was proud of him for trying to help.
I made a mental note to praise him later.
After the boys landed the airplane, they trotted toward the climbing tunnels. I followed behind and was surprised to see the same little girl crawling around the tunnels. Her dark shiny hair obscured her face, but the colorful bright socks gave her away. It was then I realized she had some kind of brace on her calves, and was obviously adept at crawling.
Looking back at her mom, I wondered if she knew her daughter had crawled that far away. I was surprised to see the woman’s eyes closed. She had fallen asleep on the couch.
Judgmental thoughts shot through my mind like 4th of July fireworks on a hot summer night.
I can’t believe that lady is sleeping. After she just snipped at Cole, too. She isn’t even watching her kids!
I turned away, shaking my head. That’s terrible.
That’s when the Holy Spirit grabbed me.
Look at her. Really look at her.
I looked at the sleeping mom. She started awake just then, dazed. Her face was weary and lined, though she couldn’t be more than a few years older than me. Wrinkled, loose clothing draped her body. Life had battered her down. As I watched her gather the stroller and tiredly walk after her two daughters, I was filled with shame at my judgmental thoughts.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
That afternoon, I had looked past the very large plank in my own eye to point at the sawdust in that mom’s tired eye.
I realized and repented of my judgmental attitude and the critical way I was thinking about this person I knew nothing about. I had no idea the battles she was fighting and the burden she carried that day or during her lifetime. Maybe it had been months since she’d had a good night’s sleep, and she was on her own caring for her children.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus’ instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, ‘Don’t.’ There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation.”
I’m still learning, Jesus. Teach me to hold out my hands to help, not point my finger in judgment. Always, Lord, I want to be so much more like You and so much less like me.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12