The Puke Parable

Picture this: One of your friends gets sick with the stomach flu and is puking into a toilet every time you come over. Chances are, you’re not going to get angry and offended because they’re throwing up around you. You probably wouldn’t approach them and say, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you being so disrespectful to me by throwing up around me? What did I do to you that made you so upset that you had to go and make a mess in our relationship?”

Chances are, you would just support them, realize that what’s happening on the outside is just a manifestation of something not right that’s happening on the inside, trying to evacuate their system. If they threw up on your shoes, you wouldn’t take it as a personal attack and therefore withdraw your friendship, and you probably wouldn’t assume that you’re the only person getting that treatment.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how we respond oftentimes in our relationships when gunk starts coming to the surface. When our friends and family act in a way that is contrary to their nature and the heart that God has put in them, we either get hurt, offended, hostile, or we distance ourselves. Any one of those is too easy to do in response to the negative stimulus of vomit-like behavior.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is that everyone goes through seasons, and God is constantly drawing the dross from our depths as he continues to purify us. And in order for the dross to be slaked off and removed forever, it has to surface. When it surfaces, it’s going to spread over the top of the silver and change the silver’s appearance–but does that mean that the silver is no longer silver just because the dross is the most visible ingredient in the purifying container? Absolutely not.

It’s the same with people. When we are born again, God gives us a new heart and we are called saints, and the purification process begins. So many have dropped out of the Church early on in their walk because of the constant conviction they feel for sin in their lives. “Oh, I’m supposedly holy and perfect now that I’m born again–but now all I see is the sin in my life! I’m so discouraged! This doesn’t feel good. It’s not worth it to feel this way all the time, so I’m leaving.”

This is neither an unrealistic nor an uncommon thought pattern to have, especially if you’re surrounded by people who demand an explanation for your feelings, your behavior and your sins. “Why are you vomiting all over my shoes?” is an accusation that can only be answered with a mumbled apology as you stagger back to try to make it back to the toilet before your body tries again to expel whatever has made it sick in the first place.

When how we relate to people is dependent on their behavior and not their identity, we create relationships of punishment, woundedness and distrust.

I strive to be the kind of leader that relates to people based on their identity and their potential, whether they are curently operating out of that potential or not. My prayer is that God would forge me into a person who can see beyond the puke, beyond the mess, beyond the mistakes, into the heart of the matter. That I would have the same attitude as our Lord who said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.” That I would be an active solution, a healer to a world of hurting people, not the self-appointed informant diagnosing death sentences for every symptom.

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