The room was packed. It was the mid-morning step class with a popular instructor at the gym. I got there early to get a good spot and not be relegated to the back where it is impossible to see what the teacher is doing. She had gotten there even earlier and, as usual, was waiting in the front row for the class to start.
You know the type: full-on 80’s make-up, big, teased hair, very tight top, and incredibly short shorts neither one of which are very flattering with her pear-shaped body type, but that she wears as proudly as a runway model would. The kind of girl that would make good southerners say: “oh, honey” and “bless her heart.”
I had seen her often around the gym because, while I’m not the most consistent of members, she is always there. Always. And for some reason I cannot explain, I just did not like her. She rubbed me the wrong way and I had never even spoken a word to the girl. I don’t know her name, I don’t know her story, and she had never even acknowledged my presence so I had no real reason to dislike her. Other than the shorts. And the make-up. And the hair. Irrationally her appearance annoyed me.
So this particular morning as we began to step to the music, following the instructor’s directions, I started watching her from behind and thinking about her lack of rhythm and those shorts riding up. And then there was a gentle voice, like a whisper at the top of a mountain, that simply asked in my ear:
- Why are you being so catty? You don’t even know this girl.
There was no condemnation in that gentle voice, only deep sadness. But my heart was convicted right away. I had no answer so I just listened, ashamed, and willing to hear the rest of the rebuke.
- How would you feel if someone was saying these ugly things about your daughter?
This gripped my soul with pain for the little girl with the sensitive heart that breaks when a friend is mean to her or when someone laughs in her face. I thought about the times I have held her while she shed tears of embarrassment or hurt over another little girl’s nasty comment. And then came the most difficult words of the whole conversation:
- That, right there, is my daughter.
And I was found guilty.
And in response to the gentle voice that does not accuse but definitely convicts, with tender tones and loving reminders, all I could do was repent. And express deep regret and apology. I had been ugly and I had been hurtful.
That the girl never heard my words is irrelevant.
Just as hate is like murder and lust is like adultery, so is judging like insulting.
What is hidden in our heart is to God the fountain out of which our thoughts, our words, and our actions flow. My nastiness towards that girl came out of a bitter heart, so the work would begin right there, at the core. I thanked God for his faithful guidance and for the Holy Spirit’s convicting work and went back to the prayer of David, with whom I always identify:
“May the words of my mouth AND the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (emphasis mine)