Last week, we finished up soccer practice–kids running all over the field, parents lined up in travel chairs along the sidelines.
Somehow, our team had been double-booked, so we couldn’t practice on our normal field. We shifted to the side into an open area and used cones instead of goals while a younger team practiced in our normal place. They were a group of tiny, enthusiastic and sweet four-year-olds whose team shirts mostly hung down to their knees.
While our team took a water break, their team finished up for the night and headed off the field. Their little arms were full of goodies–Gatorade bottles, Oreo snack packs, little bags of Goldfish.
I thought to myself, “Wow! That is a bit much, all that snack after practice. It’s not even a game or anything!”
One of our kids noticed the other players leaving with their armloads of snacky goodness. (How could you not notice?!)
He wanted to know where our snack was? Were we getting snack after practice? How come we never got snack after practices?
Coach reminded him that we don’t get snacks after practice, just games.
Again, I had that silent little thought: “Well, yeah! Snacks after games is reasonable. Snack at every practice is over the top.”
But then the coach filled in the blanks. He said, “We did snacks at practice when you were that young because you didn’t have any games. So, that way you still got a little celebration when you finished up playing. But now you’re older and you have regular games, so we save the snacks for those days instead.”
It all made sense really and I felt that check to my heart to be less quick to assume I know everything, to assume I ever know enough to judge something as “foolish” or “silly” or “a bit much.”
I am not always careful with my tongue or my words; they have a way of escaping me in moments maybe of stress, anger, pressure or frustration. But, even so, I have grown in this. I am more gracious and gentle now with my words than I have ever been.
And yet, there is still that aptness in my spirit to criticize. Even if I don’t speak the words aloud, my heart still sometimes sits in silent judgment. The Bible uses words like “scoffer” and “mocker” and I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want my attitude, my thoughts, my heart to be bent towards judgment and assumed negativity instead of grace, love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, and goodness.
And, while I do need to be wise and discerning about what is evil or wrong, in most of these cases I simply need to be more apt to consider the other side of the story.
Maybe there’s a reason a team of cute four-year-olds leaves soccer practice with some snack bags.
Charles Spurgeon wrote:
“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature. We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).
We are indeed heavy by nature.
Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing. All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.
But we can choose whether to join in the all the noise of negativity or to tame our own critically inclined spirits.
We can open ourselves up to the possibility that there’s more to this person’s story than we know or see.
We can take Paul’s challenge to heart to:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).
James also says:
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (James 4:11 ESV).
I feel like I tumble into this lesson repeatedly: that there is a difference between being spiritually discerning and having a critical spirit.
Help me, Lord, to clearly hear your voice, to yield to your wisdom, to be discerning about right and wrong, truth, holiness, and righteousness, but help me also not to add to that my own voice of criticism or hurtful thoughts or prideful judgment. May my heart be humble and may my thoughts be rooted in grace.