On the way to work this morning, I drove by them—twenty turkey vultures, sitting by the side of the road. Five of them were huddled over a dead fawn in the ditch, digging at it furiously, picking the carcass clean. The rest were gathered nearby, impatiently waiting their turn.
It’s a gruesome scene, but all too familiar on the country road I travel each day. Sadly, many animals fall victim to the growing car population. But they aren’t the only ones who end up in ditches.
People fall into ditches too.
And we’ve all witnessed it. In the recent past, Anthony Weiner fell in. So did Paula Deen. And of course, Donald Sterling.
It didn’t take long for each of them to be spotted by the circling vultures. Tweets started immediately. Blogs were written. Late night comics chimed in. The “news” shows had their panels, talking heads, and experts. Viewers expressed shock and dismay and sometimes revulsion.
More and more people circled to watch or to wait their turns. For weeks, night after night they flew down for a nibble. And it didn’t take long before their victims, shamed and stripped bare, were just a pile of bones.
There is something about people who fall in the ditch that catches our eye, drawing us to the scene. We’re seduced to turn on the TV or the computer to see what’s happening, to be a part of the frenzy.
I’m not sure why this is.
Maybe it’s because it is easier to spot the log in someone else’s eye. Or maybe it allows us to focus on another’s darkness rather than our own. Perhaps we’re simply relieved that TMZ hasn’t secretly taped or filmed us in a less than flattering light.
A long time ago, a group of Pharisees caught a woman in the act of adultery. They brought her to Jesus (who was teaching in the temple), put her in front of him and, trying to trick him said, “The law says we should stone her. What do you say?”
And Jesus started writing with his finger in the dirt.
They kept pressing him, demanding an answer. Finally he said, “All right! Let him who has not sinned, throw the first stone.”
And then he started writing in the dirt again.
One by one they quietly walked away, until only Jesus and the woman remained. Soon, he urged her to “Go and sin no more!” having told her that he would not condemn her.
I’ve fallen in the ditch more than once. I imagine you have too. We’ve said and done awful things that got us into serious trouble. We’ve wounded others and ourselves. And at some point, we landed face first in the ditch. Dirty. Bruised. Ashamed.
Some of us have been circled by vultures (or Pharisees with rocks), while others bear the shame alone. But we all share something in common:
We’ve been there.
And if you’ve been in the ditch, there are two things you desperately want – someone with kind eyes and a hand reaching for yours.
So the next time you see someone crumpled in a ditch, whether they are famous or whether they’re your neighbor, view them with eyes of compassion and if they’re nearby, reach out your hand. Remember, no matter what they’ve done, between you and them is Jesus, kneeling down in the dirt, writing.