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“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” ~ Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Last night I went to bed angry.

I had been reading an interview given by a politician that, overall, I enjoy supporting.  I think his ideas are good and that he is refreshingly un-politician-like.   Currently I am irritated with him because he has chosen to, like so many others, lump me into a category that I don’t see myself in.

When I went to sleep in May, I was a successful, well-educated teacher, a contented mother-to-be, and the happily married wife of an incredibly gifted engineer.  When I woke up in September, I discovered that I was no longer qualified to enjoy the status that I had previously held in the eyes of society.  I was now a single mother, which, according to the politician I was reading about (and many others) puts me in this category:
“Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care.”

AND I AM TIRED OF IT.

For some inexplicable reason, in a country where 20 million children live in a single parent household, single moms ended up being broadly categorized as poor white trash.  I realize that the politician didn’t say all, but he did say most.  And, as I’m finding out, many of the books you read on single parenting tend to treat single mothers the same way.  The books that I have read are by married men (does no one in publishing see the irony of a married man writing a book for a single mother?) and endlessly inform me that, as a single mother, I should really go back to school and finish my education so that my child will have a better life.  Well, that’s super, but seeing as I already have a master’s degree, I’m not sure how getting my doctorate is going to change my situation a whole bunch.

Being widowed has altered so many areas of my life and motherhood is just one of them.  In the church I attend, the Sunday school class for people my age is only for young married couples.  Well, I used to qualify for that, but I don’t anymore.  The moms groups that meet during the day tend to focus on building better relationships with your spouse.  Okay, cross that one off the list.  The groups held to help single moms are geared toward divorce care.  Nope, don’t qualify for that one either.  And the grief care groups I’ve found are typically held at senior citizen centers, filled with spouses who had the privilege of losing their loved one to an age-related illness or simply old age.  I’d be showing up for those classes about fifty years early and I prefer to be on time to things.

All of this to say, I am thankful that Jesus didn’t come to earth to cram us into categories that are one-size-fits-all or lump us together in groups that can’t define us.  He sees each one of us as His unique creation; superbly designed and He bestows upon us a “tailor made” label.  We are like no one else, individually created and made for a relationship with the One who knows us best.  I’m glad that on days where it seems like everyone is looking down their noses at me, Jesus looks into my eyes and tells me that I’m right where I’m supposed to be – in His hand.

But Jesus also taught while He was here on earth that we shouldn’t judge other people, because looking at people with contempt prevents you from helping them.  Be cautious in your stereotypes – I’m learning that being on the receiving end of widely held ones isn’t fun.  As Christians, we should all be striving daily to meet people where they are at, sharing the love of Christ with them whatever their situation may be.  It’s what Christ did when He reached out to prostitutes and tax collectors.  And I have a feeling we’ll meet more of those “sinners” in heaven than we will the overly righteous Pharisees, who prided themselves in their condemnation of the living, breathing Son of God.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” ~ Matthew 25:40