I met a new friend a few years ago who I liked instantly. I hoped that we would be able to know each other for a long time. Then she shared that she was a Buddhist. Oh. I have no problem with that; it’s just that I’ve never known a Buddhist before. This was new and it was a good new. We talked openly about things and what was most appealing were these words: “I’m not going to judge you.” How refreshing!
I know all about judging because I feel like an expert some days. It’s so hard for us NOT to judge and we do it so sub-consciously that it becomes our default setting. Granted, some are better at this than others, but I’ve also heard from some amazingly honest people lately about how opinionated they are, how they find it easier to gripe about people than listen to them and they seem to have more fun with friends with they’re criticizing others. Hhmmm….
After thinking about these comments, I prayed about trying a different approach with people: to assume the best more often, and to not judge but ask about what else might be going on so I can have a more complete picture than the one I knee-jerk guess. Or, just praying for them. As a Christian, I have prayed for forgiveness many times for my critical spirit and my lack of grace with others. There’s no excuse when Jesus has been generous to the point of giving His life for me. But I also know I’m a sinful woman who can look Him full in the face and His mercy covers me anew each day.
And to that end, this morning my Buddhist friend called and left me crying when I hung up. Not tears of sadness but from a weight of compassion. She asked the right questions, listened compassionately and understood my vulnerability generously and accepted my honesty graciously. That kind of love brought me to tears. I don’t claim to understand a thing about Buddhism; and I have a long way to understanding the complex mysteries of my God and Father, but I know for certain when He brings two women together to bless each other.
So here I am, a committed Christian, wanting to be a little more like my Buddhist friend in her acceptance and openness of people. It makes me think of others who aren’t Christians but have something about their natures that I want to emulate. Speaking only for myself and not for Christians at large, I know that I live in a bubble of my own making. To my shame, I can’t rattle off a list of non-Christian friends. It’s not because I’ve intentionally avoided them, but because my orbit is a little too small. I’m working on that – and excited about it.
When we first met, my friend asked me if it would be a problem for me to befriend her and I said No immediately. For one, I rarely think of her religion and, I also believe God can use anyone and He clearly is using her to bless me. As we approach Easter, I’m reminded of the new life that He gives us and I’m thankful that sometimes a new turn of heart comes from unlikely places and people.