Today, I ate lunch on a balcony that overlooked the Ryman Auditorium. It was really a gorgeous view. I couldn’t help but recall watching The Grand Ole’ Opry with my grandpa and grandma and how we used to sing a long, and here’s something you might not know about me. Back in the day, I wanted to be a country music singer. When I think back on that dream, I recognize a lot of the problems with it and can now say “thank you Lord,” for not letting that dream come true. I wanted that dream because I wanted to be on stage, I wanted people to want to be ME, I wanted them singing MY songs, I wanted to live a life of luxury, and I wanted to do something I enjoy sing. Do you see my problem, it was all about ME.
Today, speaker Tim Eldridge proposed a question to me that really made me think about my future and what God has called me to do with my life, not what ME wants to do with my life. The question is, “what breaks your heart?” I want you to pander on that for a moment.
The show Lost has been a cultural phenomenon that had people hooked worse than many of their caffeine addictions. I had never indulged in Lost, but after a good friend of mine loaned me season 1 on dvd, I thought I might try take my first hit. I snuggled in with Dane (who is a Lost junky I might add) and we hit play. I hated it. It was disturbing and caused me to hurt so badly for the people on the screen. The people losing loved ones, who were being terrorized by some crazy jungle monster, people who were starving, and losing limbs. I hated it so much I started crying. Dane looked at me and said, “Christy, its just a tv show, its ok.” But I looked at him and responded with, “Dane, I know, but pain like that really does exist in the world, and that real pain is what is causing me to hurt.”
I feel people’s pain, not fully because we can never know fully how some things feel until we have experienced them ourselves, but it is a level of pain that eats at me. When someone is crying, you will usually find me crying. When someone is hurting, my heart is hurting. When someone comes up to me and tells me their story about their drug addiction, how the church has hurt them, how they lost their virginity before marriage and regret every aspect of it, how someone touched them inappropriately, how they were forced into sex, how they got beat up or were bullied in school for being different, how they haven’t eaten in days and aren’t real sure where the next meal is coming from; it tears me up inside and my heart breaks.
I discovered the answer to my question, what breaks my heart, is the injustice in the world.
But today, while reflecting on what to do with my answer, I also discovered this about myself. Since I experience other’s pain, I have created my own little comfortable world so I don’t have to deal with it. I do what I can to avoid people’s pain. Like a coward I refuse to ask the hard questions, or will avoid the situation all together. I don’t read books about Christian martyrs or articles that talk about the sex slave trade because it hurts.
But this, is not what Jesus calls us to do. Jesus engaged in people’s pain. He would dive whole heartedly into a situation of hurt, and would see the pain people were in, and have compassion on them. Matthew 9:36 says “When he saw the crows, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus saw their pain, and he stuck right there with them, healing the diseased and sick, driving out demons, showing them love, giving them something worth putting their trust in.
In Mark 8 Jesus has been preaching to a group of people, over four thousand in fact, for three whole days. He looks out on the crowds and sees them hungry because for three days they haven’t eaten. Jesus calls his disciples together and says “I have compassion for these people, if I send them home hungry they will collapse on the way.” Jesus saw these people were hurting, and instead of going off and taking care of his own needs allowing the crowd to figure it out themselves, he hung in there with them and had compassion.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this comfortable little world that I have created. It’s plastic, its fake, it gets boring, and eventually this world will get broken and tossed out to the dogs with gnashing teeth. In order to be real and to truly be a disciple of Christ, I must embrace the words of Galations 2:20 “I have been crucified with CHRIST and i no longer live, but CHRIST lives in me.” This takes the me out of the equation and replaces it with GOD’S will for my life, when GOD is in charge of my life then I will be able to have the courage to break out of the plastic world and will be able to fight the painful battles head on.
Paul reminds his brother Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10 “you however know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings, what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, and the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” I believe these words ring as true today for us as they did then to Timothy. To follow Christ, we are going to have to experience pain.
So now I look at this gift of experiencing other people’s pain not as a curse, but as a blessing, because I know that what is breaking my heart also breaks God’s heart. And let me tell you something, God and me being on the same page, is a good thing. And you might call me crazy for engaging in the pain of the world, but when I stand before my LORD, the LORD over all the universe, on judgment day and He looks at me and says “well done good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness. ” well the anticipation of hearing those sweet words is all of the encouragement I’m going to need. And once I’m there, my battle with pain will finally be finished.