I remember so vividly a memory from Mothers Day last year.They had all of the Mothers in our church stand and we honored and cheered for them. They specifically asked for single mothers to stand, and we cheered for them even louder. I sat in my seat, clapped politely, and didn't give it a second thought.
Little did I know a year later I would be one of those women. Little did I know how difficult a road they traveled. Little did I know the strength it took to do the job they do. Little did I know what they sacrificed. Little did I know their pain. As I look back at that moment I have a heartbreaking admission to make: Little did I care.
I had my own worries and concerns for my family. The road they traveled was noble, but beyond my polite clap, I didn't give it further thought. I cannot tell you now how much that thought now grieves me to my very core.
I am going to take some time to speak for a moment specifically to those who share my own faith; those who follow Christ. There is a growing trend in our American churches to preach what I would call "feel good" messages. You know, the message that gets people in the seats; and most importantly keeps them there. We don't want to say anything controversial. We don't want to say anything offensive. We certainly don't want to say anything challenging. It's better to stay on the safe side and preach encouragement, faith and grace. But as I look back on who Jesus was, and what He spoke about, there's so much more to it.
For starters Jesus spoke often about the widow. The fatherless. The orphan. The poor. In a nutshell those who are way less fortunate than most of us.
Jesus instructed us to lay down our lives for these. Where these people were is where you would find Jesus. Those were His people. He was drawn to them like a magnet. He would walk in a room and seek them out. He wanted to commune with them directly. But most of all, His heart was moved with compassion for them. The Greek word for compassion in the Bible literally says to be moved in your "inward parts". It denotes a feeling you feel in every part and every organ of your body. In other words Jesus was consumed with their pain with every ounce of His entire being. That is how He instructs us to be towards the widow, the orphan, the fatherless, the poor. Do you see this being modeled in our churches?
My heart grieves for how I was guilty of this very thing. I am ashamed to say I was consumed with my own life. My own needs. My own wants. To the point where I could give a polite clap for these brave single women one day of the year and not a second thought the other 364 days.
This, my friends, is why many people see "the church" as nothing they want to be a part of.
The world is not drawn to our faith when they see us living selfish, consumed lives. The world is drawn to a faith of a people who truly display Christ by living as He lived-selflessly. They are drawn to a faith that is consumed by the things that consumed Jesus. That is moved by the things that move His heart. And in His word He states over and over again what those things are. Why aren't we talking about them? Why aren't we doing them?
God didn't tell us to do these things as a suggestion, He gave them to us as a commandment.
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
We have failed in this area. We have failed these people.
Our churches have either watered down the message or chosen to ignore it completely. Why is this? Is it because we are busy? Is it because it makes people uncomfortable?
I have had many people, who didn't mean to hurt my feelings, tell me they just try not to think about my pain because it's "too hard" for them.
I dare say that's the problem.
We don't want to think about others pain. We don't want others pain to affect us. It's hard. It's uncomfortable. It might create fear in us. It might require something of us.
It is time to face the truth that when we act in this way, we are not living our lives like the one person we claim to follow.
In the midst of my own journey of pain, there are two stand-out women in particular, who have been there for me in incredible ways. The amazing thing is I knew of these women before losing my husband, but I didn't know them well. They came to me, when I was at my most broken. Their heart was moved by the things that move Gods heart, their soul possessed the kind of compassion He instructs us to have. They got in with me in the dirty, muddy, messy muck of my life and they loved on me. They didn't care what it required. They didn't care what it entailed. They saw the widow, they saw the fatherless and they shoved their way through to get to me. They are the truest representation of Christ on this earth.
God never called us to live comfortable lives but for most that seems to be the goal. We concentrate on our happiness, date night with the hubby, t-ball at the baseball field, pedicures with the girls. If this is all we live for we are missing it.
We don't stand with people in their pain. We stand aloof. And send a greeting card. And throw up a prayer every now and again. Then we head on back to the baseball fields.
This is a call to action to be a different kind of people.
This is never how life was designed to be. We have disengaged ourselves to the point where don't allow ourselves to feel. We have become numb to pain. We have become numb to others. And their stories. We have become numb to compassion. Which has also made us numb to joy.
If we truly laid down our lives for others it would make what we are going through seem so small. It would also make our victories seem so great. We wouldn't take for granted what we have, as we do, far too often.
This is how God intended life to be.
Oh how it grieves me to say how closed off my heart was, and all the ways I failed others. I was unaffected. I was unconcerned. When the cancer came there was a shift of compassion to those who were sick. When my husband died there was a wide open, gut-wrenching, heart reconstruction towards the things that move the heart of God. The more I started to study what those things were it was always to the ones in need. To the helpless. To the broken.
As I look around and see so many people unaffected by these things I feel such a disconnect and a grief I have never known before. I hear when people talk about being stressed about silly things and I want to shake them and say "look around you".
Our prayer must be to have His heart for the broken.
If we spoke about this, modeled and lived it on our churches, our walls would not be able to contain those who would be drawn to our faith.
Recently I heard a story, through the blogging community, of a Mom who lost her three year old son when he was tragically hit by a car. She lives in California. I've never met her and it's likely I never will. My heart has grieved for this woman like nothing I've experienced before. You see, with social media, people's tragedies have become a quick story we read about, feel bad for, and carry on with life. That is not how it is for me anymore. I feel her pain. I weep for her grief. I took a moment to allow myself to feel what it would feel like to lose a son. I wanted to scream. It was only when I allowed myself to feel her pain that my prayers could come from the truest place of where they needed to be. It wakes me up in the night. It brings me to tears in the middle of the day. My heart, broken and grieved for a woman I've never met. Because I allowed myself to feel her sorrow, get in the midst of it, I have loved on and appreciated my son like no other. I have lost much but boy am I blessed much. I thank Jesus every day for the shift of seeing life this way, as the gift it truly is.
The change in our thinking will come from allowing ourselves to get in the midst of others messy pain. To care for them. To stand with them. To weep with them. And for them.
To truly follow Christ is to speak about the messy things. The things that might require much more of us. The things that might make us a little uncomfortable. To become a people that cry out to God to be truly moved with His compassion. Whatever that means. Wherever that takes us.
This is not something we have to do. But we certainly are called to do it. And not only that. We are truly are blessed to do it.