Today I want to paint you a portrait of two ladies in my life. Both are no longer in this world but both directly shaped who I am and how I choose to live my life. Both were in their elder years when I was in my youth and they were actually within a few years of each other in age. They were the same religion, went to the same church, were in the same clubs, and were very good friends.
The first lady can be best described as "merry". She was a delight to all who met her, young and old, male and female. There wasn't a person who didn't genuinely like her because you just couldn't help yourself! She engaged actively in the corporal works of mercy in her spare time but also lived them with her own family and friends. I don't think I ever heard her speak an ill word about anyone in the 20+ years I was blessed to know her. She had that unmistakeable quality that someone has that tells you that person is someone you can trust and be comfortable with. She never put on airs of superiority or other "ugly" behavior. She was humble because she knew how to love deep in her soul and happiness exuded out of her.
The other lady was her best friend. They'd known each other since they were young mothers sharing the same street. The other lady had come from a troubled childhood of abuse and neglect. She married a man who was also violent and raised two children with him. She was very good at "putting on a show" when out and about but if you really listened you could hear the timbre of her voice that did not quite ring true. Always ready with the latest gossip of who, what, when, and where she was a lively conversationalist. Privately and sometimes even publicly she criticized those she loved in "socially acceptable ways" with a little laugh after her comments. Her son's new wife was "very young but doesn't have a brain in her head". His son was "a well behaved boy but never well dressed". She often hurt those she knew without even realizing she was causing them pain causing many to distance themselves from her including her own children and grandchildren.
At the second lady's 81st birthday the first lady wrote her a beautiful poem and presented it to her framed wishing her another wonderful 81 years on this earth. Sadly that was not to come true and less than a year later the first lady mourned the death of her dear friend deeply.
I think we can all give examples of both the first and second lady in our lives without blinking an eye. In fact I contend that the vast majority of us see pieces of both of them in our own souls, not that we ever want to admit being like the latter. It's easy to embrace the qualities of the first lady, but harder to acknowledge and confess that we are like the latter.
We cannot always follow the path that is easy. Having known both of these ladies fairly well I truly believe in my heart that the second could have lived more like the first. I don't believe there is such a thing as "too damaged" or "too far gone". If that were the case why do we have Confessionals? If we can never run too far from Christ then we are all capable of being the first lady when we make the conscious choice.
How can we minimize being the latter lady? When forced to confront our own demons in ourselves as well as cope with the family member/friend who acts this way how can we bring that to create improvement in our own soul rather than allow it to tear apart our hearts and lead us towards sin? How can we learn from this tale of two ladies and find ways to bring out the former in all of us while allowing the latter to sanctify us?