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Friday, February 20, 2009

judge not...

     I suppose that feeling judged is bound to happen at some point. 


     At least, if you choose to live a life in which you interact with other humans. Although, even Tarzan, who was raised by gorillas, probably felt judged for not being a gorilla.   

    Yeah, so judgement. It's so simple to condemn others for their differences. It's a pretty easy place to go.  Just as accessible as those other touristy locations, Fear and Pride. Yep, I hear you can travel to any one of those and hop to their sister locations with no extra charge. I hear it's really easy. 

    But I don't want to live like that.  I don't want those thoughts clouding my mind, distorting my relationships, keeping me from expecting brilliance from each person I come across.

   I want to expect good things from others, just like I'd hope people would expect that from me. 

   I'd hope being the operative words there. Doesn't always happen, though. Not in this world. And let me tell you, it's not fun to be on the receiving of another's judgement. And it generally doesn't bring a ton of goodwill feelings to the situation. 
 
   Let me explain.

   I recently received a message in my music myspace inbox. It is from somebody who apparently met me years ago when I was playing and singing with a band from my church that is very dear to my heart, Gate Called Beautiful. The fact of the matter is that I still play and sing with them whenever I am at home. They are a part of what makes home home for me. And I am so honored to make music with them--to bless God with them--whenever I am able. 

   Before I show you her email, please bear in mind that she came to her conclusions after simply looking at my pictures and listening to my music

   Hi Jessica,
 
     I know you don't know me, but I know you. I was checking to see if ECA or Gate Called Beautiful was still around. But I guess I could assume they are long gone by the looks of it. I googled you name because I had one of the cd's you made from way back when. I must say I am sad to see the changes that you have made in your life. You don't seem anything like the pesron I met and who my friends met in all of those summer training camps. Either way, I hope you are doing well, and I hope that you find God and let Him lead you back to Him and separate you from the world...and not fall more into it. I know the day is coming when Christ will return for His church. Will you be ready? God bless.

  Well, being me, I of course had a lot to say in my reply...

   Hi. Um, yeah you are right that I do not know you. At all. And I find it funny that you say you know me, because judging from your email, I would say that you really don't.

   Why would you say that I don't seem anything like the person you met way back when? Why would you write that you hope I "find God and let Him lead me back to Him and separate me from the world...and not fall more into it"?

  How can you possibly begin to think that you know the state of my heart, or to where God has called me by looking at some myspace pictures? Or listening to my music? Or worse--how can you judge and decide how very far "into the world" I have fallen AFTER viewing those pics and listening to my music?

   I find this amazing, actually.
   Not nearly the same kind of amazing that I find grace to be, though.

   And although you have not asked, the truth is that I LOVE God. I am absolutely convinced that it is His grace and peace and hope that keeps this world together. And I am so honored to be working in a medium that is close to his heart: I tell stories.

   Stories that move people. Makes them laugh. Makes them sad. Gives them a glimpse into the lives of others and accordingly, drums up something akin to compassion in their heart. I am doing musical theater professionally and I know without a doubt that God has opened this door for me.

  How small minded to assume that the only way to "minister" to people--which, let's face it, is just a fancy way to say helping our neighbor--is the kind that is done underneath a church spire. If that were the case, then there would be so many people--dear friends of mine who, at this point for one reason or another, has not found their way into a church--that I would not be blessed to call friends. To love. To be gracious towards, to share myself with and therefore the God-stuff within me.

  Please feel free to ask me any questions. About the important stuff--you know, the state of my heart. My relationship with God. The things that just might not be as evident as you'd think from viewing my myspace page. 

  I hope this finds you well. Sincerely, Jessica

  
   Her little message did take me aback.  It also has caused me to examine my own heart; finding some unfairness towards others there, I am wanting to practice grace a little harder. 

   Because bottom line, it sucks to feel judged. Especially when you aren't even given the courtesy of a conversation, a dialogue, a moment in their presence--something! Anything that actually reveals your heart.  Anything that can dispel the misguided assumptions we make as effortlessly as we open our eyes first thing every day and begin to see.

   Because the fact is we don't always see. Or when we do, we see dimly. Or partly. Or barely at all. And I am sure I don't need to remind you what we make of ourselves when we assume, right?

  That's what I thought. 

   Anyway, any thoughts on this matter that you would like to add? You know I like hearing from you;-)

40 comments:

jason said...

Wow, what a message! That stinks. So many assumptions being made there. So many!

And now, you have a slight taste of how people outside the church often feel about how people inside the church talk about them, the assumptions that are made, that kind of thing. It does really stink, doesn't it?

Do you remember this person?

Jessica Latshaw said...

No--I honestly don't remember her AT ALL!!!

And absolutely--that kind of message just really does not draw me in--and I am already "in," figuratively speaking!

I just would really appreciate the chance to actually have a conversation with her. I mean--how can you get that idea from my songs and my pics? It's not like my pics are indecent!!!

kathiek said...

How sad. I am so sorry that happened, Jess. I do hope she does write back. I hope she reads what you wrote in response to her message so that she can reacquaint herself with who you actually are, not who she thinks you are from just looking at some pictures. It is no fun being judged, that is for sure.

Jess, I would just like to encourage you and commend you for your choice of professions. We need to have more seriously committed Christians working in theater, music, television, etc. God wants to reach ALL the world and He will need people who are willing to go "into all the world" to reveal Himself and His love. He needs people like you: people of character, integrity, purity, compassion, wisdom, discernment, and faithfulness, who are willing to make sacrifices in order to reveal the love of God to a world that doesn't always recognize their need for Him. Jess, I am so proud of you for making the tough choices you felt you had to make to do what you believed God was calling you to do. And for standing firm in your faith in the midst of so much that could tempt you away from it. God bless you, my friend. May He continue to strengthen you and give you everything you need to stand firm and faithfully carry out the assignments He gives you. Remember that you have many who love you and support you in your decision.

jess said...

Thanks you, kathie, so very very much.

beingawesome said...

This is a long response .. but this topic really strikes a nerve.

Being raised in a megachurch kind of clouds my thoughts on this one. I love God, but it's people like this who seem to have a pigeon-holed idea of who He is and how he wants to have His love spread, that drove me away from conventional churches all together.

I mean I think that church can be anywhere and not necessarily under the roof of a building with the name church plastered on the side of it. Such as a gathering of friends over coffee and getting into spiritual conversations and explaining the peace and hope that can come from His grace.

In my opinion, being a witness for Jesus has a lot more to do with sharing, loving and showing compassion to those around you than condemning them and judging their preconceived "faults".

Here in the extreme bible belt, I used to get judged every single day when I would go to this church with my random BSF hoodie or for that matter Zao shirt... who, at the time, were a Christian band. The old guard of my church felt that piercings, tattoos, listening to secular music, were abominations and should be viewed as sins against God.

I will quit rambling.. but I do really wish that these "Christians" would read their Bibles. Matthew 7:3-5


Growl. Boo to judgment. Only one guy gets that job at the end of the day!

take care

-Rob

Jen said...

That stinks, Jessica. It's almost (almost) comical that she thought she "knew" you because she met you and has your CD or because she saw your myspace page.

Mom said...

Oh, wow.....I could write pages on this one! I am so grateful that there are Christians willing to care and love those outside the church because my heart is with those who don't know God yet. I know how much God loves them and I want them to know that love. Sadly, Christians have often mis-represented God to people and many of those outside the church think that God not only doesn't care but doesn't even tolerate them. How far from God's heart!!!! The harvest is ripe, but the workers are few. Pray that God sends workers into the fields........

peaj said...

I'm sorry that you got hurt. I wish that we American Christians did not have this idea that careers in the church are more spiritual than ones outside the church. I'm sad that this person seems to have applied this standard to you.

I'm sad, too, that this person seems to have taken the little glimpse of your life that she saw during weekends and generalized them to your entire life, and then set this as the standard of what a "spiritual" Jessica looks like. I hope that through your correspondence with her that she can come to realize that God can take us on different paths, to influence different people, and that it isn't only careers in the church that can advance the kingdom, or be where God leads.

Nina said...

Jessica, you must have so shocked to receive that message! I hope she replies to your gracious response.

One of the reasons I transferred from a Christian college to a secular university was I couldn't stand to be on the receiving end of so much judgment. I had purple hair and too many earrings -- I wasn't a Christian!

It seems there are a lot of Christians who believe in a savior who despises human frailty and brokenness so much that it's impossible to understand why He'd even want to bother with reconciling us to himself.

I'm so glad that you're out in the world, showing people the real Jesus inside of you -- the Jesus who loves, the Jesus who beckons. Thank you.

Lady Leth said...

I must be honest, initially I wanted to hunt her down and punch her out. That's really not the kind thing to do! But seriously, what an amazingly irresponsible assumption. First of all, you are the same woman you have always been--you love God, your friends, family. You are fun, witty, smart. You are pure and wholesome. You have not been mired in the craziness of the wold AT ALL. You have grown since ECA days of course, but you are JESSICA.
Arg. You are right where you should be.

peaj said...

May I respectfully suggest that as we rush to console and defend our friend Jessica that we not fall into the same sin of judging the person who wrote the offending email?

Judging is so insidious.

jason said...

The funny thing is that this message is aimed at jessica, who, more than anyone I know, hangs out with more people who aren't traditionally churcy and yet feels no need to hide her relationship with Jesus. Most really strong christians don't have a lot of close friends outside the church. Jessica does, and that makes it MUCH more difficult to retain your christian identity. There is no struggle in proclaiming your relationship when everyone around you agrees. When people around you could think less of you because of it, it takes a strength and courage!

What I think this really comes down to is that Christians aren't allowed to be pretty.

Jessica Latshaw said...

lol--well thanks, Jase!

Anna K said...

Although I do not practice religion in the traditional sense of going to a service each week, I was raised in a very spiritual home with an extensive education in many world religions and I have so much respect for you, Jess, the way you live your life and the way you interact with those around you. It is people like you, who believe in a loving, open, forgiving, generous God yet one who still has high expectations for us, who help me have faith myself.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Anna--your words are so very very kind and they mean so much to me...You are an inspiration to me;-)

Michele said...

My comment is a prayer that I would never hurt someone like that - that I would never deign to think I had all the answers - that I would use a more private avenue for encouragement and correction if I thought it was needed, in a person I truly knew. Be encouraged Jessica! The Spirit of the Lord is as strong, if not stronger, in you now then it even was back in the ECA days.

wellyouknowwho said...

I remember a day when I fancied myself a good judge of what being close to God was supposed to look like for everybody. What a miserable way to live. Sad thing is, I was too afraid to think otherwise, and I honestly panicked for those who showed any of the classic signs of "falling away from the Lord." The world was a miserable place then, with so many people on their way to burning for eternity.

Now, I don't mean to judge THIS girl's heart, but the tone of her email suggests not simply fear for the condition of your heart, but a hint of spiritual superiority, chastisement, accusation, and condemnation. Even if she IS afraid for the condition of your heart, it could have been said with a bit more humility. It's erroneous to judge, but I think there may be more wrong here than just a judgement.

I have to wonder if this isn't fueled by jealousy. I can only say this because I myself have been jealous at times of my absolutely beautiful, beyond-talented, hilarious, intelligent, hard-working, loveable sister, Jessica Sarah Elisabeth Latshaw Copeland. (Now, I have confessed this to her, and she graciously forgave me.)

Jealousy of others comes when I'm not satisfied with my own life, when I feel badly about myself and what I'm not doing, what I don't have. And as soon as the jealousy insidiously creeps in, it feels deliciously satisfying to find something wrong with the person who is the object of the jealousy. It's incredibly vile, and the only alternative is to wish and pray and hope even better things for the person's coveted life. And sometimes that is just sadly not the road we choose.

Perhaps this is what's going on here. Let's be honest. You look like a model in your pictures. Your songs sound great. You are getting all kinds of encouragement in your comments. You are living your dream!! And a glamorous life you have. The problem is, Jessic...you're a jealous girls' worst nightmare. There's not much wrong about you. Not much ammo.

"Well, she has a beautiful voice, but look at that unsightly goiter on her neck." Nope. "Granted, she looks like a model, but she's as dumb as a doorknob." Negatory. "She can't dance to save her life." Wrong. "Her personality sucks." Wrong again. "She can't write or draw... she has no fashion sense..." (panic sets in... ) There's nothing! I'm melting, I"M MELTING!!!!!!!!!!! Hmmm.... time to pull out the big guns. HER WALK WITH GOD! I'll get you yet, my pretty!!!!!

See, I looked at the myspace sight in question, and the only thing that would remotely offend anyone (harkening back to my days as a conservative Christian) is the bit of leg that you are showing in your pictures with the pink dress. (Haven't you ever heard that the Lord says your skirt can be no more than an inch above your knee when you're kneeling?) You don't look indecent; you do look sexy. That makes some people uncomfortable.

Also, there's the fact that you don't specifically sing about Jesus in all of your songs. (Remember when we were singing for Schlomo on the boardwalk and were reprimanded for singing a worship song instead of a praise song, because Scripture tells us that God inhabits the PRAISE of his people, not the worship?)

Dear Jessic, I'm so sorry that you were judged and accused of not being close to God. But that is like someone saying to you, "Looks like you and your parents have become estranged from your pictures and music on myspace." Whoever would dare say that, no matter what possesses them, doesn't know the same Mom and Pop you and I do. :)

wellyouknowwhoyetagain said...

PS. I would like to state that this girl could very well be the most humble, unjealous person we could ever meet. Even if she isn't, all references to the Wicked Witch of the West are a commentary on the proclivity of my own heart, and not hers.

Jenna Latshaw said...

well said wellwhoknowwho! this message makes me so mad and annoyed. i just don't understand how she can make such judgements about you and why she feels like it's her duty as a christian to tell you these things. but it's also kind of funny because you are one of the strongest christians i know and out of all people she sent you this message. has she written you back after you responded?

p.s. 8 days until i come visit you!!!

Jessica Latshaw said...

wellyouknowwho--your message had me laughing out loud! And you wrote so many kind things...I will say two in conclusion, however--

a). you have absolutely NOTHING to be jealous of. I have always looked up to you and will always do so.

b). I will thank you NOT to mention my goiter on this blog again; it was something that I showed you in private and would like to keep it that way...

love you!

Jessica Latshaw said...

thank you, Jenna!!! I CANNOT wait to see you so soon--we are gonna take Atlanta Buffy and Faith style!

ONly before Faith became a wack-job;-)

Jessica Latshaw said...

@wellyouknowwho--

Drew would like me to say that he likes what you said, as well.

AND yes, I do remember that incident with Schlomo and how incredibly awkward and NOT THE POINT that whole issue of praise vs. worship was!

You, my dear, are hilarious.

jason said...

Well, it is true, God does inhabit the PRAISES of his people. He doesn't give to figs about the worship.

It's in the Bible.

PS. That bit of leg does get a little Song O' Solomon, doesn't it?

PPS. Isn't Schlomo jewish for Solomon!? LOL Song of Schlomo.

jason said...

"two figs," not "to figs!"

I think it's funny that the only appropriate place for Christians to be sexy is in Song of Solomon. Maybe if you kept your gazelles in the stable you wouldn't be so easily judged.

That is all.

Jessica Latshaw said...

I think that "gazelles" were used to describe something other than legs.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, we have to confess if we've been jealous of Jess? Oh man...

Jessica Latshaw said...

you all just need to hush up!!!!

and I mean that with love;-)

Judah said...

i don't like her attidude....it's hideous!

Mom said...

LOL!

Pop said...

Better late than never getting a comment in, I suppose. Yeah, like Jason said, a worse candidate for a backslidden Christian could hardly be found than you, Jess. I am amazed at how skillfully (must be a God thing) you have combined your vibrant witness to the authentic Jesus with an equally vibrant love for people. I think He's happy about this. I have a feeling that Christianity in the coming decades will look a whole lot more like the kind you live out than the version espoused by the "chosen frozen." Loving God AND loving people--is't that somewhere in the Bible? And "if you don't love people, you can't say you love God"--I think that's there too.

Jessica Latshaw said...

I do think that is in the Bible somewhere...;-)

and Judes, I miss you so much! You're one funny little dude!!!

jason said...

Pop, your post got me wondering if anyone knows the origin of the phrase "backslidden"... anyone? I think it's kind of a funny word. Always makes me think of someone falling backwards on a banana peel.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if there's any more esoteric meaning that just--slipping back into the condition you came from. But maybe it's that embarrassingly obvious just to my simple intellect...

Anonymous said...

Don't know if there's any more esoteric meaning that just--slipping back into the condition you came from. But maybe it's that embarrassingly obvious just to my simple intellect...

Pop said...

Hey sorry about the double anonymous posts--dumb...

peaj said...

Backslide: According to Dictonary.com, the term has been around for at least 400 years; the Online Entymology Dictionary notes that it has been used in a religious sense since 1581. The term "backsliding" can be found in the King James Version in the books of Jeremiah and Hosea.

jason said...

The thing that's interesting to me about "Backslide" is that it's really only used in a very specific context - resuming moral failures that you had thought you'd overcome, normally in a religious sense. Whenever there is a word that is only used in one context, and really is one of the only words used to describe that one thing (are there any synonyms you can think of?), it interests me to figure out when it was first used and how it became so prominent.

Thanks PJ, that's helpful!

Jessica Latshaw said...

a synonym for "backlidden"--

what about "falling away?"

Jessica Latshaw said...

*backSlidden*

oops...

Jessica Latshaw said...

*fallEN away*

oops part deux