I’m angry and I don’t want to drop my stone!
On Monday an amber alert lit up my phone. A two-year-old girl, Noelani, was missing. She was last seen in the custody of her father, Dariaz Higgins, who did not bring her back to her mother. The report was second in the news cycle. The top story was about Milwaukee being awarded the Democratic National Convention.
On Tuesday the Amber alert story continued with a few additional details. Noelani’s mother was found dead and Higgins prime suspect. The report was the Top story of the day and the news crawl on Channel 12 during “Good Morning America”
On Wednesday, Higgins was captured, but no sign of Noelani. Amber alert expanded nationwide. The story was reported third on local newscasts, after the story of Milwaukee’s first Sixty Degree day since Halloween
On Thursday the Amber Alert continued as Police investigate tips that Noelani is in Michigan or Minnesota. The story is 4th in the news cycle and lasts just under a minute. News reports show various rivers in Wisconsin souring past flood stage.
Friday has no additional news about Noelani.
Saturday Morning I receive a cell phone notification that indicates Noelani has been found dead in Minnesota. She was wrapped in a blanket on the side of the road.
I’m angry and I don’t want to drop my stone!
On Saturday Morning, after the cell phone notification, I found myself giving a devotion at Ebenezer before breakfast. The devotion is about Sin and Forgiveness that I had written it the night before, with some rough notes on what I wanted to talk about.
I told the crowd about the old childhood saying “Sticks and Stones”
Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!
This is one of the first “comebacks” a child may learn in response to being called an unflattering name. It is meant as an insult, design to show one’s tormenter that their words cannot influence you. It is a defiant stance, an indication that we are stronger than we appear on the outside.
I continued with how the Bible talks about them as well. I referenced the following scriptures:
Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure, you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but (you) do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
I then switched to John 8:1-11 ESV
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
I ended my devotion there with a simple prayer and a loud “PLAY BALL!”, my weekly indication that I am done talking and they can now get their food. I do this because several of the participants tune out the devotion part. That morning, some simply continued to talk while I was talking, two people walked past me to get coffee and the food pantry called out the first five numbers. I admit, I delivered the words, but I wasn’t feeling it.
I was thinking about Noelani!
I’m angry and I don’t want to drop my stone!
After the devotion, I talked to some of the other helpers I see on a consistent basis. The conversation quickly turned to Noelani and her father. I told them, half-jokingly, that it was times like these that I wish Wisconsin had the death penalty! One man reassured me that when the father got to prison, he would “get what is coming to him!” We continued to speculate on what that would look like, even going as far as predicting how long Higgens would last in prison.
I went on about my duties, thinking about all I wanted to accomplish that day. Every task seemed like a challenge, an intrusion to what should have been a relaxing day. When I was done with Ebenezer, I had to take Jon to the library, Half Price Books and Wendy’s for lunch. I wanted to write and post a blog since I wouldn’t be home on Sunday. I had to prepare a lesson for Sunday School the next morning. My family had Buddy Break, a special needs respite program on Sunday afternoon and I had agreed to deliver the devotion. Robin wanted us to try a new restaurant that evening and go see a movie. Things seemed to keep piling up.
I did all those things, but not very well. Jon’s activities were rushed, just checking things off the list instead of enjoying time with my son. I procrastinated on the blog and took a nap instead. I convinced my wife that instead of a full Sunday School lesson, we should get the students involved in helping out for Buddy Break. The devotion for Buddy Break is one I used last year, so I didn’t bother looking at it. I spent an hour on my blog, but the words didn’t seem to want to come.
I wasn’t really hungry at supper at picked at my food. On the way to the movie, I began to think again about my blog.
The movie was very enjoyable, and I liked it far more than I thought I would (We saw a “Dog’s Way Home”). We got home to a sink full of dishes, so I did them up while Robin went on her computer to finalize some last minute details for Sunday’s Buddy Break.
I’M ANGRY AND I DON’T WANT TO DROP MY STONE!
We went to bed and I still had the stone in my hand! I laid there in the dark for a while, partly because of Noelani but probably due to the THREE caffeinated sodas I downed since supper.
I prayed. Actually, in my mind, I ranted! I told God I wanted to keep my STONE! How could a man not love his own daughter? How could he do that to her, discard her life the way you would a fast food container? I realized, eventually, that I was feeling this way because I was Noelani!
My relationship with my Dad was similar. I was not wanted by him, an inconvenience. He also tried to get rid of me and abandoned me on the side of life’s road when he had simply had enough. My dad hurt me, both physically and emotionally. I was so upset because I knew what Noelani went through!
My Dad tried to kill me when I was nine years old. After that, he ignored me, as if I were dead. It took a long time to come to grips with that and that’s a story for another time, but the point that I forgot as I rallied against God’s inaction is that I forgave my Dad. I had dropped that stone!
I thought back to the verses I shared Saturday Morning. In both of these cases, Jesus is talking about how to handle another person sins. The STICK scripture is referring to how we should point out another’s sin. We do this as an act of love, not out of some need to better our lives. Most of us, in my experience, will only point out other’s faults if the somehow interrupt the flow of your day.
But the STONE scripture is an example of extreme forgiveness and the perils of judging one another in this lifetime. This seems like a contradiction. Why should we point out another’s wrongdoing if we can’t enact justice? What good does that do?
If someone wrongs me, I want two things to happen instantaneously. One, I want the person to know EXACTLY how much I was offended. Second, I want justice/ compensation for the infraction. But, of course, Jesus has a different approach. The way of the master, in case you haven’t notice, is the opposite of how we naturally react.
According to scripture, We are to identify sin in others but withhold punishment of that sin, even if it is committed against you. We are to offer forgiveness, no matter how much we were hurt. The reason we do both these is simple, it gives us a chance to introduce them to Jesus, the only one who can take away the bruises caused by those logs and rocks.
Sticks and stones will hurt our physical bodies, Jesus is correct about that. But, he is more concerned about our spiritual one. During this season of LENT, lets put down our “sticks and stones” and focus more on leading others to Christ.
God woke me up at five am on Sunday Morning to complete this blog.
It is now 6:30 am and I am dropping my stone!
Let’s Pray: Father God, we are sorry for our sin and our treatment of others. Help me to help others identify their brokenness and bring them to the great healer, your son Jesus.