Scripture Reading – Matthew 7 NASB
Many of you don’t know Beth Gould. But if you frequented Midland Bible Church in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, she is someone that you would never forget. Along with her bubbly and magnetic personality, she bestowed the gift of the butterfly hairclips on many a pre-teen girl, showed us all the art of scrapbooking with her endless supply of colored paper and stickers, and always had the best selection of cereal thanks to the now-defunct “Fresh or Free” campaign that Albertson’s ran for years. When she and her husband moved to Oklahoma we all felt the sting of the loss to our community. She is a woman of many great qualities and she may not even know this, but I attribute who I am today to her.
Let me give you a little Shannon McLane Laning history lesson. I was born tall and remained as such, finally peaking at 5’10” in 8th grade, which is a super fun time to be really tall because all the boys’ voices haven’t even started changing. I was friends with many but never seemed to break into that “in” crowd that we as adolescents (and sometimes adults) clamor to be in. I wanted more than anything to be cool, but with glasses and braces being my puberty gift from my parents (thanks guys), I just didn’t seem to have what it took. In 7th grade I moved from the school that I had gone to for 8 years. Not one of my friends went to my new school, and I saw this as an opportunity to reinvent myself.
I was a fairly shy kid and didn’t feel the need to talk up much… oh how things have changed… but I did notice that the girls who were popular, who had all the boys like them, who others wanted to emulate, were loud, boisterous and super talkative. So that is whom I decided to become. I made a point to always talk loudly, laugh loudly, interject my opinion at all times, and act as extraverted as I possibly could. I must apologize to anyone who knew me at this time because I am sure that I annoyed the crap out of most people. I carried on this manner for most of my 7th grade year. I remember coming home from a non-school sponsored school dance and was completely exhausted. I had made it a point to be loud, outgoing, talk constantly and it drained me. But this was how the popular kids acted, and I desperately wanted to be one.
My mom pulled me aside one day and told me that Beth had approached her a few days earlier with something she really wanted to talk to me about, but Beth felt that she should confide in my mom, and my mom could decide if I needed to hear it. My mom said, “Mrs. Gould loves you so much and loves being with you but she feels like you aren’t being yourself. She feels like you are acting like someone else and not who God has made you to be.”
Those words might not seem impactful to most, but to me they were life changing. I had thought that I was hiding behind this façade of boisterous and extraverted. And I thought that I was doing a really good acting job. When I discovered that someone could see through me, it was embarrassing and immediately made me want to revert back to my borderline introvert/extravert ways and crawl into a hole. If she could see this, could everyone? Why was I okay with being a fake as long as people didn’t notice?
God used that moment in many ways to shape me into the woman I am today. But I want to point out that Beth did just what Matthew 7 illustrates. We might all be familiar with the speck and log passage. It is to demonstrate the importance and significance of gracious judgment against another. But what it is NOT saying is that we are to refrain from ever pointing out an area of life someone’s life that needs change. Beth did just what this passage urges. To humbly come before someone in judgment takes thought, prayer, self-evaluation and the absence of self-righteousness.
Beth didn’t come to my mom with an attitude that she HAD to be the one to change what I was doing. She came humbly, not wanting to hurt me. But she saw something that others may or may not have seen and was bold enough to mention it. She even went to my mom first because my mom knew me best. And afterwards, Beth treated me no different than she had before.
Matthew 7:1-6 is simply titled, “Do Not Judge.” But I think that title is lacking. Matthew states that if you don’t judge another, you won’t be judged. But since humanity is literally incapable of such a feat, Matthew makes sure to emphasize that approaching someone with humility is key. I often plunge headlong into judgment because it’s just so easy to see fault in others. It’s super hard to see it in my own life. But when I, when you, take the time to see where we are wrong, where our heart needs to change, it affects our thoughts toward others and breaks down our self-righteousness. I want to choose to be more like Beth Gould, who saw something in me that wasn’t Godly, and had the courage and conviction to gently let me know.