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Someone Else’s Courtroom: How Exactly Did I Get Here?

Mar 08, 2015 05:03PM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith

(Editor's note: Our newest columnist, Bonnie Lyn Smith, is a longtime resident of the Merrimack Valley. She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God's Purpose in Each New Day and a blogger at Espressos of Faith.)

Lately I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by people stepping across boundaries into each other's lives where they may not belong. Ever feel that way? Sometimes, they are my own toes being stepped on, but often, I am merely witness to someone landing in another person's courtroom without realizing it.

How did we become so good at grabbing the judge’s gavel and slamming it around?

I’m not talking about expressing public opinion on social, political, or spiritual issues. I’m referring to people jumping into our marriages, parenting, and family business without receiving an invite. You know those little comments made half in jest or with a veil of concern? The ones that really have nothing behind them other than that person’s different standard, unsolicited opinion, or insecurity?

It can look like this:

“My kid tells me all of the time what yours had for lunch and how much he wants that, but we don’t feed him processed foods.” (Great, then don’t.)

“Why don’t you take care of that and let your husband relax?” (Yes, oh yes, that’s one of my favorites.)

“Do you know your kid has seen XYZ movie?” (Um, who do you think took him there?)

Yes, there are times when people speak into our lives with good intentions. I’m not referring to those folks we trust in our inner circle.

The implications of some of the more pointed comments can often be: “Your parenting is making mine harder.” “Your husband makes mine look bad.”

Sometimes it’s even: “Let me catch you screwing up.” (The unspoken second part of that thought? “Because that makes me feel better.”)

Well, if you spend enough time with me, be instantly comforted that screwing up is a guarantee! I can’t even get out of my lobster pajamas to get to the early arrival program to drop off my son on time let alone stay calm when we are facing Perseveration #304 during a simple homework assignment. [To see how I get my peace on in these moments, feel free to read about my cool new trick: pretzel breathing.]

But really, why do we do this to each other? Why do we insert ourselves without asking first? How did we end up holding court—or on the witness stand with so many naysayers pointing fingers at us? If my marriage, parenting strategies, or grown-up decisions in general make someone else twitch, is it reasonable they ask me to adjust?

I believe we do this to each other because we don’t really understand Whose we are. If we could honestly grasp that we were created with a purpose beyond swallowing air for possibly eight to ten decades, we wouldn’t really have anything to question about anyone else.

Look at our purpose! Awesome!

Ephesians 2:10, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [emphasis mine].

We’d realize that when we believe God to be our only and righteous Judge, we are each looking up for guidance from the same gavel that lands with love and gentle correction.

What would matter more to us is our posture in entering “His courts with praise.” These courts are the courts of our King in His Kingdom! Wouldn’t it be great if instead of worrying that our neighbor’s kids can have iPods younger than we allow our own to (and how that somehow makes it more challenging to enforce our family rules), we learned to dwell in a different Presence, knowing our Judge so well that we could “come into His presence with singing”?

(Notice that it doesn't say: “Come into His presence whining about how someone else isn’t meeting our human expectations.”)

Psalm 100:1-5, ESV, King David speaking

A Psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

What if we heeded the greater calling that the Apostle Paul mentions in 2 Timothy?

Pleasing the One Who enlisted us.

That sounds so much better than pleasing anyone else—or stressing over whether they’ve in turn pleased us.

2 Timothy 2:4, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

I am all about these powerful statements at the end of 2 Timothy 2. Avoid “foolish, ignorant controversies” and “breed[ing] quarrels.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth….

I think Paul has left us fantastic footprints leading out of someone else’s courtroom and back to where we can live in greater peace with each other. I think it is safe to say that in those courts, the life-giving sounds of praise, thanksgiving, and gladness drown out the soul-sucking, wounding hammer of the self-appointed human gavel.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.
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Opinion, Faith family marriage Christian faith

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