I am at the stage of this challenge of sharing with a friend a day where I don’t just want to change my behavior, I want to change the heart behind the behavior.
It could be relatively easy to be carried along in the momentum of the new year and open my mouth more often for a few weeks. But then life will happen. I’ll get busy. I’ll get distracted. And my good intentions will go by the wayside.
I have to truly change from the inside out.
Our assignment at church this week, as we study out repentance, is to figure out, “What warning would the rich man of Luke 16 issue to your family/household?”
The story that’s referred to here is the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man lives a life of wealth and comfort, while Lazarus is poor and hungry. After death, the rich man goes to a place of punishment, while Lazarus is comforted. The rich man wants to go back and warn his family so the same fate will not happen to them.
I couldn’t think of what warning the rich man would give to me. My first thought was that we need to care for the poor more. That certainly convicted my heart right off.
But now it hits me that the real sin of the rich man was that he didn’t care. He was all caught up in his life, and he didn’t even see the needs that were around him.
I, too, am all caught up in my life. I’m even caught up in doing things for God, so much so that I don’t have room in my heart to notice or care about the people all around me who are starved spiritually.
What did Jesus see?
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9:36
People are harassed and helpless. As other translations word it, they’re “fainting on the ground,” “distressed,” “cast aside,” and “scattered.” They might look like they have it all together, but they feel isolated, unloved, lost, discouraged and hopeless. They’re beset by troubles on every side.
I am preparing to start an emotional healing support group, with the premise that many people have unresolved inner pain. The irony is that I’m promoting this support group, without fully seeing the reality that this pain IS THERE. It’s rife. It’s everywhere. It’s crippling people’s lives.
I need to care more.
I love this passage from Jonah, in which the prophet is outed for being more concerned about the loss of the vine that shaded him than the souls of thousands of miserable people:
Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left–and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11
I have more in common with Jonah than I think. Do I REALLY have compassion for others, that they don’t know their right hand from their left, that they’re floundering around in life with faulty compasses?
It’s so easy to think that status quo is okay. In reading “REPENTANCE a Cosmic Shift of Mind and Heart” by Ed Anton, he reminds us of verses that show that complacency is a sin that the prophets railed against:
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . . You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches . . . You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Amos 6
God wants me to grieve over others. He wants me to SEE. He wants my heart to be moved.
So I have still been sharing. I had a great experience on Tuesday. The bubbly server at a restaurant my choral group friends and I go to every week asked how my weekend was. I shared about the two baptisms we had. She got really excited and wanted to know more about our church. She wants to come visit! It was a conversation I stumbled upon, I wasn’t even looking to share. I just spoke about what was bubbling up out of me – the joy of what God is doing.
I talked on the phone yesterday with a woman yesterday whose number a sister had given me. This woman has gotten herself into a horrible mess. She is despondent. It’s easy to see she needs help.
How much will my life be about these people? It will depend on how much I see the need to help, and that it is up to ME. Here is another convicting verse from a prophet:
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. Jer. 8:11
I need to be serious about this. People are wounded. There IS NO PEACE! No peace for me to get caught up in my life. No peace for others in their pain and self- made muddle.
When I really get this, when I live it, change will happen from the inside out.