Privileged {Coming Face to Face with My Hidden Sin of Favoritism}

{This is the eighth of twelve in a guest blog series I am hosting through March. The series will zero in on a variety of themes from my book, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert's Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. The writers of these posts are people I deeply admire for their wisdom and their constant seeking of Christ’s Kingdom on behalf of their neighbors both near and far. This particular post was written by Chelsey Nugteren, a women with a fellow heart for writing and encouraging others. Her post hits me square in my chest as I continue to wrestle with favoritism toward people who look, live, and act just like me. Chelsey nails it when she says, "God's heart isn't just filled with love and compassion for the poor, but a deep sense of equality."}

{This is the eighth of twelve in a guest blog series I am hosting through March. The series will zero in on a variety of themes from my book, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert's Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. The writers of these posts are people I deeply admire for their wisdom and their constant seeking of Christ’s Kingdom on behalf of their neighbors both near and far.

This particular post was written by Chelsey Nugteren, a women with a fellow heart for writing and encouraging others. Her post hits me square in my chest as I continue to wrestle with favoritism toward people who look, live, and act just like me. Chelsey nails it when she says, "God's heart isn't just filled with love and compassion for the poor, but a deep sense of equality."}

I wasn’t prepared for the warts. I could handle the dirty hands and the jagged, unkempt fingernails, but the warts threw me off—so much so that when she asked to hold my hand, I said “no…um, maybe later.”

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My husband Steve is a law enforcement officer and was invited to participate in our county’s Shop with a Copy program. In short, Shop with a Cop is a community event where local public safety officers take under-privileged families Christmas shopping with money that has been donated by local businesses and individuals.

When Steve invited me to tag along I declined at first. The idea of getting a sitter to take another family Christmas shopping seemed silly when I couldn’t find the time to do my own toddler-free shopping. But he convinced me. I have to admit, the fact that there would be free pizza helped push me over the edge.

It was a Thursday night and the auditorium was buzzing with police, deputies, firefighters and local college students who had signed up to help. We were assigned a table, a budget and the list of names of those we would be accompanying to Walmart. We were instructed to help them purchase personal toiletry items, clothing, and Christmas gifts of their choice.

How hard could this be?

I was excited to serve and to bless this needy family. I had no idea how much they would be serving and blessing me instead.

They finally arrived—a young couple with four small children. The seven-year-old girl {let’s call her Anne} gravitated toward me and didn’t leave my side for the rest of the evening. Although she was seven, I had a hard time understanding a lot of what she was saying—her words jumbled and slurred.

As the evening unfolded, I had a hundred questions about the family. How did they get themselves in this pickle? Were the kids even in school? Why did they have so many kids if they couldn’t afford one? Where was the discipline? The hygiene?

After a few hours I fought back my questions as they began to turn to judgment.

Anne loved being near me, but because of the warts and the incessant coughing, not much of me wanted to be near her. I kept thinking of my own daughter at home… I can’t catch whatever this girl has. I don’t want my little girl to get sick… I justified the distance I tried to keep between us.

It wasn’t until the bus ride back to the auditorium, way passed the kiddos bedtime, that I finally found the words to pray for Jesus, for more and more and more of Jesus. How would He interact with this family? With Anne? In the middle of my confused and desperate prayer, Anne inched uncomfortably close to me. She looked up and asked in a soft, clear voice, “Do you think maybe I could hold your hand now?” Fighting tears and stinging shame, I could all but muster a soft “yes, of course.” For the first time in the entire evening, Anne’s whole body relaxed. She grabbed my hand and put her head on my shoulder. Within a minute she was out like a light.

When we got back to the auditorium to wrap presents {after I washed my hands} I started to ask the mom questions. She shared their story openly and nonchalantly, like what happened to them happens to everyone. The accident, the adoption, the unemployment, the unsupportive family. Their story was a series of events that continued to go horribly wrong. They were great parents persevering through extreme difficulty. All of my questions were answered and my judgments were put to shame.

The ride home from the event that evening was long and quiet. And if you know me, it takes a lot to leave me speechless. I couldn’t put into words how I felt and what was happening inside of me.

Then came the questions about my own life… Why wasn’t this our story? Why does our life get to be so easy? Why couldn’t I hold Anne’s hand? What in me makes me feel better than them? Why couldn’t I be like Jesus? Why did it take me over two hours to ask for His help?

Before that evening I would have said, without hesitation, “I love being the hands and feet of Jesus, and I love loving His people.” But for the first time in a long time, I was pushed to engage with His people that weren’t my people. Sure, I think I can be great at loving my friends and being kind and compassionate with people who are like me, but when confronted with people who made me feel uncomfortable, my compassionate, privileged self became entitled and superior.

Being confronted with your own ugliness—staring at your flesh in a spiritual mirror— is physically painful. I didn’t like the woman who showed up that night. I liked who I thought I was. But that person was shaped by theories and ideas, not by truly living out the hard things that make us human.

This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone—out from behind my books and Bibles and blog—it pushed me to actually see and interact with God’s people. And in this pushing I came face to face with my own worldly preferences, my favoritism toward people closer to my own social status.

I pushed off writing about this for weeks, because my heart wasn’t reconciled. I hadn’t created a “plan” of how to move forward in love and service and justice and humility. Honestly, it was easier to kind of forget about the whole event. But then, in God’s perfect grace and timing, this past Sunday I heard an incredible message on God’s heart for the poor. God’s truth on this topic was healing but challenging—shining a merciful light on the dark, prideful corners of my heart.

God’s heart isn’t just filled with love and compassion for the poor, but a deep sense of equality. When Jesus was confronted with the poor, the sick and the outcasts, He didn’t see them as less. He didn’t pull back His hand to avoid getting warts or a bad cough, but instead, He moved toward them. He didn’t heal them out of duty or to get His good deed out of the way. Being among the poor—serving and loving them— is just who Jesus was. It is who Jesus is. He came to reconcile us to God and to each other. To break barriers between social classes, allowing us to usher in His Kingdom together.  Jesus shows no favoritism. {See James 2:1-10}

How do we live this out in our sinful nature? I’m not completely sure. But for me, it starts with confessing my sin of favoritism. Of course, there will always be a visible wealth gap, but even as this gap widens, we should look to Jesus to shrink the gap in our own hearts—that we might see the poor the way Jesus sees them. That He would banish the favoritism in our hearts and the judgment in our minds. And the next step is engagement. Getting up from our positions of privilege and into the messy lives of others.

This is oh, so much easier said than done. But will you join me trying? In taking one step this week to engage with a life different than your own? In simply praying, “Jesus, let us see others as You see them.” 

 

Grace and Peace,

Chelsey

 

{Bio: Chelsey Nugteren is the founder of AliveInHisGrace.com-- a space dedicated to helping women embrace freedom, hope & honesty in a world that often feels filtered and fake. Chelsey is passionate about community and relationships and helps lead the young adult ministry at her church. She is the wife to a tall, handsome park ranger and mother to a giggly, opinionated toddler.} Click to connect with Alive In Grace on Facebook Click to connect with Alive in Grace on Instagram

{Bio: Chelsey Nugteren is the founder of AliveInHisGrace.com-- a space dedicated to helping women embrace freedom, hope & honesty in a world that often feels filtered and fake. Chelsey is passionate about community and relationships and helps lead the young adult ministry at her church. She is the wife to a tall, handsome park ranger and mother to a giggly, opinionated toddler.}

Click to connect with Alive In Grace on Facebook

Click to connect with Alive in Grace on Instagram