August 12, 2022

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Nudge reminds us we are not the sum total of our mistakes

Kimberly PohoveyI was already seated in the waiting room when I saw the young man enter. His curly hair flopped down in his face, he wore ill-fitting clothing, and when he went to check in, I saw the ankle monitor bracelet around his leg. He plopped down in a seat just a few away from where I was seated. He looked so dejected and alone. I studied his face which hung low, eyes focused on the floor. He didn’t look like a bad kid really. He just looked to me like someone who made a bad mistake and is now paying for it.

Little by little, I started feeling this nagging inkling that I should say something to him. But that was absurd. I didn’t know him, and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be interested in what some middle-aged suburban mom had to say.

For the next 10-15 minutes, an internal struggle raged in my brain. Should I say something encouraging to him? What would I say? How would he take it? I imagined he would think I was crazy, or worse, butting into his business. I tried to subdue that nagging voice in my head. But every few minutes, I would glance his way and feel such an overwhelming need to encourage him. It was probably just the mom in me.

As the minutes ticked away, I felt my opportunity fading. Surely, the nurse would soon call my name. If I was going to say something to him, I needed to conjure the words now.

Silently, I asked God to give me the courage to speak up, along with the right words. The nurse opened the door and called my name. I started walking to her, and all at once, I asked her to wait a minute. I turned back to the young man, looked in eyes peeking through his curly hair, and I said, “I don’t know why you have to wear that ankle bracelet, but I want you to know that you are not the sum total of your mistakes. You have the opportunity to wake up each morning and make a better life for yourself.” His eyes were trained on mine as he lifted his mop-head. Teary-eyed, he sincerely said, “thank you.” I walked on to my appointment.

Honestly, I was a little shocked at the words that sprung forth from me, so I know without a doubt that the words weren’t mine, but from Jesus. I have no idea what effect my words will have on him. I doubt I’ll ever lay eyes on him again. But I left that day thanking the Lord for nudging me to speak up, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I have felt nudged, only to cower or ignore God’s urging.

It also got me to pondering mistakes, mistakes I have made in my past and how I responded to them. Mistakes my own kids have made and how my husband and I have tried to parent them through the consequences of their actions.

Even when I made poor choices in my past, I never felt God loved me less. And when it came to my children making mistakes, I always wanted them to know how much God and I loved them despite their actions.

Personally, I’m a sucker for a good redemption story. It made me once again grateful for God’s unending mercy. I thought back to the words I shared with that young man—we are not the sum total of our mistakes. God gives us the opportunity every day to better ourselves and our lives.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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