a troubled teen
a homeless person
a teen on heroine
a neighbor who has been unfaithful
death of a child
a church going through split and division
childhood cancer (or any cancer)
police officer killed in the line of duty
care for aging parents
of course this list could go on.
It seems over the past several years either more and more of this has risen to the surface in my life or I'm noticing it more.
But, either way, the face of it doesn't always look the way I expected. And it has caused me to take pause.
In some cases I've had to come face to face with my own ugly judgement.
In some cases I've had to come face to face with unanswered questions.
In other cases I've had to come face to face with pre conceived notions.
In yet other cases simply just frustration and anger have surfaced.
Recently, I began to study the Compassion of Jesus. And I was reminded that He faced all of these things and carried them all to the Cross. I've learned about Love and been challenged to put it into practice in very real ways. I've faced some of my own "ugly" responses that are not compassionate at all. I've learned to treat ALL people with dignity--which means not that I should have an attitude of "rescue" (that's really the job of Christ)...but instead I should have the attitude of Compassion and also allow give and take in the relationship.
One of the biggest realities that has struck is the face of...a homeless person...is not what we always think. And our sweet new friend L. (rather not say his full name)...who lives in a tent next to the property of our church, really is simply a person, seeking friendship. I shake my head as I think about how God drew us to him at church. He always comes, and sits in the back, and long story short, we got connected. Now, every week, we look forward to sitting next to L. in church. And we typically go out to lunch together. I had to be reminded by my husband that we need to be careful to preserve his dignity as we enter into this relationship. In fact to call him "homeless" may be a misnomer. He livesin a tent. And whenever we talk about returning there, he calls it "home". It just doesn't look like my home. We had him to our house for the Super Bowl in February. A few times Peter has taken him to lunch without us for whatever reason, and the other day as they prayed before lunch, L. prayed "...and thank you for friendship...". I'm just ovewhelmed by that. We have not really "preached" to L. Pastor Louie is very good at that, so we let him handle that...=) We simply want him to know we are here and available for him and want to simply be his friend. Of course we pray for him and hope he has relationship with Jesus in and through this, but honestly, he has taught me so much.
Another reality struck as we witnessed the face of...a teen on heroine....recently. Thankfully it wasn't our son, but he has a friend, who has been fighting this battle. I just never thought I would know anyone with that issue personally. This young man has slept in our house (mostly before the heroine issue). I've had conversations with him and he has a "normal" family in many ways. Lots of siblings and an immigrant family from a soviet country. I can't believe this is what the face of heroine looks like. And how ugly and all consuming it is. And the helplessness of a family that can't afford "help" for him. And the reality that this is where so much violence comes from. He got beat up the other day over $20. I NEVER thought I would know the face of heroine. Right now I'm just on my knees for him and his family. Feeling slightly helpless. But, leaning into the Lord for guidance and if there is anything we can do knowing Jesus is Enough for Today.
I never thought I would walk so closely with the face of....an athiest...I never thought it would be my own flesh and blood. Yet, I have been challenged in more ways than one to learn and put LOVE into practice and enter the Compassion of Jesus. Putting judgement aside, yet speaking truth in Love. Arms always open to recieving him and loving him and walking him through dark days. I've seen so much healing. This area is still a challenge. But, I've had to come face to face with my own pride, my own sin. I've had to grieve, and yet pray with Hope. Give love but not always receive it. (although I have to say he has come a LONG way and recently some major changes are immerging). I have had to hold my tongue on more than one ocassion. And realize...I'm not really a whole lot different. How many times do I walk through life trying to "handle" things as if God doesn't exist? Too many. Am I really any different than my athiest son? Yes, I know I can always return. And I do always know God is present even when I'm stupid. So that is different. However, I have to caution myself not to walk in judgement. I treat God poorly at times too. I need to realize what he needs to see in me is Love and Truth lived out.
If you don't think that is a challenge...
And if you've read this blog at all you know we have definitely experienced the face of ...an orphan...become a member of our family. This remains a bumpy road, but I remain amazed at what God has done in the life of this boy. Lucas has taught me more about what I believe and who I cling to than I ever could have imagined. I've had to face my own "ugly"...when I let his issues cause me to boil inside and want to explode. I've had outbursts that I've wanted to retract. I've lost patience when I "know better". I've take things out on him that I regret. But, he has also taught me what the face of "forgiveness" looks like when he crawls into bed to snuggle like nothing ever happened. The face of an orphan no longer exists really. He is simply our boy. Now that is a miracle I will never fully understand.
So why has God brought all these realities and "faces" into my life? Perhaps it is to experience more of His Compassion. Perhaps I was walking through life a little naive. And he said to me..."you really want to know the Compassion of Christ?"..."well here you go"...you have to know the ugly to know the reality of what He really did. You can't truly Know the Grace God has given in His Son unless you see face to face what he really took with Him to the cross. So here you go...greet it face to face...then you will know just a small piece of what His Grace covered. Here's the death, the sin, the poor choices, the ripple affect of sin, the pain, the injustice, the poor, the orphan, the sick, the things you don't understand. I took it ALL to the Cross...Every Last Ounce of it...He bore it...He carried it...and he covered it. Fully, Completely!!
He is Enough! For Today (thank you Pastor Louie for that reminder)!
We don't need to apologize for Christ. We need to share Him. There are way too many faces out there that need to see Jesus. This should be our heartbeat.
This morning I woke up with this song on my heart...
Will you see the faces around you?
Will You be the Face of Jesus?
(disclaimer...in asking these questions it doesn't mean I can honestly answer yes to both...I need to continually be reminded to think this way)