Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 64 - Winter (Jun-Aug 2020) > Pointing the Finger (by Annette Stafford)

Pointing the Finger

by Annette Stafford

In our street, whilst we have all been observing the Level 2 water restrictions by Sydney Water, I noted a man using his hose to clean his car...on his concrete driveway.  He was in full view of the street and he didn't seem to care.  What's even more incredible is that this man has a car that has the logo of 'Sydney Water' on it!  What a shocking let down of the brand 'Sydney Water' when the guy isn't even observing his own rules. He should know better! Evidencing this flagrant disregard of the rules bothered me.

The other night there was a mosquito in our room (My husband can't hear mosquitos buzzing around our heads because he is deaf and he has banned me from trying to find them in the night because I wake him up climbing all over the bed to whack them).  The only choice for a good night's sleep was to sleep in the front bedroom.

The hour was late.  It was 1.30am and as I tried to settle down a loud noise disturbed me.  It was gently raining outside but the sound I was hearing was louder than the rain.  I was suddenly aware there was someone outside my window so I got up to look.  It was not someone at my window at all.  The person making the noise was at our next-door neighbour's house.  I could see them in the dim light they had on outside their garage and the person was washing their car in the rain with the hose going full bore?  The loud sound was the hose hitting the metal of the car.  I went back to bed but as the sound continued instead of praying for peace of mind, I felt bothered that they were not observing the water restrictions put in place. After all they should know better.

A few days later as I was filling up the bucket to water the front garden as I had done so many times before I noted my attitude had changed somewhat. After filling the bucket, I allowed the water still coming from the hose to water some of the plants along the way as I walked towards the tap to turn it off. Although I did this surreptitiously there was some careless disregard on my part in the knowledge that the neighbours would have to be absolute hypocrites to say anything after their performance the other night with the hosing of their car.

Something had changed.

Before I'd witnessed these neighbours doing the wrong thing, I was very careful to observe the water restrictions.  The thought of doing the wrong thing had not entered my mind.

And what's even more interesting is the fact that I could still remain on my high horse pointing my finger at them because no one had actually seen me sneakily water the garden as I walked back to the hose after filling the bucket so in my mind, I remained holier than thou……. Hang on …. holier than thou …. Suddenly I found myself catapulted back to earth with a jolt.

I had condemned the man for being a bad representative of Sydney Water but in doing so I had overlooked the fact that I am representing Jesus in everything I do.  To quote a phrase I used earlier…. 'What a shocking let down of the brand!'  I should know better!

On 9th September 2006 my life changed dramatically -  On that date I was baptised - I gave my life to Jesus.  No one can come to Christ unless they are willing to see their old life crucified with Christ and begin to live a new life in obedience to Him.

From that day on everything I say or do is a reflection on the God I worship.  It's not a part time commitment - the true essence of a Christian life, is taking up the cross and following Christ. 

So, with that in mind what place did I have walking past the man who worked for Sydney Water using his hose on the concrete driveway and condemning him in my thoughts?

And with that in mind what place did I have condemning my next-door neighbour in thought? And not only that but thinking too that this now gave me licence to cheat with my own hose.  And not only doing so but still pointing my finger at them for doing the wrong thing!

And with that in mind what would both those people think of me if they could have read my thoughts in the knowledge that I represent a loving God?

Where were the rules that I should be living by when I was bothered by those people in my street not observing the water restriction rules? 

I should have been observing rules like….

When I reflected on my behaviour in the context of my faith, I was able to pause and remember that my slate is not clean - I still manage to lose myself with constant regularity. Wherever my finger points I have done similar, I have done worse.  What double standards! What a hypocrite!

I should not judge, not hold a grudge. When examining the offences of others, I should consider my own behaviour and thank God for forgiveness and I should offer a pardon to both those people who used water outside the restrictions.

When I catch myself adopting double standards the only modifier is when I am reminded of Jesus and that should be all the time but this sinful world makes it all too easy to get lost and distracted.

As Christians, when we don't allow our beliefs to be the absolute central focus of our hearts, we can't possibly reflect what we truly believe in. Our faith becomes just an outward action and the bar is therefore set by others which makes it easy to become a hypocrite because other people are not the standard of morality and holiness for us - Jesus is our measure.

When considered in its context my neighbour's misdemeanours were small and yet, at the time in the space of my head I had them condemned and all they did was hold a hose when restrictions were on.  At the time it had so bothered me and it shouldn't have. I should have let it go and given it to God.

I once attended a big community meeting where Lindy Chamberlain was the guest speaker.  She spoke to a packed hall about her experiences back in the 1980s when she was wrongfully convicted of murdering her baby.  She spoke of her experiences with the police, the Northern Territory Government and the media's treatment of her. At the time of the baby's disappearance I was one of the many people who had believed that Lindy Chamberlain was guilty of killing Azaria and not a dingo as she had claimed.  When the matinee jacket was subsequently found in 1986, a matinee jacket that the police had maintained did not even exist, she was released from prison.  She had served 4 years into a life sentence. Subsequently all convictions were overturned but not before her marriage broke down and she had obviously had a huge time transitioning from prison life back into her small community.

Because of my guilt at judging her so harshly I had wanted to attend the meeting to hear her speak. It was interesting listening to events unfold with fresh new eyes that now related to Lindy's innocence. 

I was amazed by how unemotional she seemed when relaying all the so-called 'expert evidence' that was presented to the court that culminated, in the end, to her conviction - a conviction based entirely on circumstantial evidence and 'expert witnesses'.  These witnesses were later proved to be wrong. And I remembered that I had previously condemned Lindy Chamberlain during her first trial because I figured if her baby had really been taken by a dingo, she would be emotional and she was not.  Obviously, Lindy Chamberlain is not an outwardly emotional person because she was presenting here at the meeting with the same controlled demeanour as I had remembered when she was filmed in court during the 1980s and she had every reason with the wisdom of hindsight to be angry and emotional but she was not.

When Lindy finished speaking it was question time and someone asked her how she had managed to get on with life after so much had happened to her :- her wrongful prison time, the years she lost out on with her family because of her time in prison, never having been able to grieve properly for her daughter because she had been arrested for murder, not be able to keep her brand new baby at prison with her, the breakdown of her marriage…

Lindy paused for a moment and asked the audience How many of those here would rent a room in their house to an enemy - someone they really didn't like and someone whose habits they abhorred?

Out of the big hall only one woman raised her hand and Lindy complimented her on being a good Christian.

She went on, in answer to the question, to say that the room that she asked everyone about was actually a room in her head - and why then would she rent a room out to all those that had had a negative influence on her life.  To do so would serve to destroy her.  She said that in order to go forward she knew she couldn't rent a space in her head where bitterness would grow.  She made the decision that to move on with her life she would have to exercise forgiveness.  She said she could not have done this alone, that forgiveness was a gift from God and she needed it in order that more years were not robbed from her because of this wrongful conviction.

We all need a reality check - We get things in our head that we don't let go of, we judge others harshly and, if we don't check ourselves and if we aren't careful our thoughts gather momentum and we can get completely distracted.

The good news is that if we allow God, if we keep our focus on Him, He will take care of all our needs because God created us and He knows that our own limited ability will never be enough.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 64 - Winter (Jun-Aug 2020) > Pointing the Finger (by Annette Stafford)