Conversations

Are You My Neighbor?

Sitting here in mud and filth, bloodied and bruised. All these people walking by. Do they see me? Do they see me broken and blood-stained? Does anyone see the pain and mess I’m in?

 

I see a doctor headed my direction; maybe he will see me and stop to help. … As he passes me by he lifts his phone up to his ear and moves to the other side of the street. …

 

A familiar face from the church in town is headed my direction. She is always doing good things for people: feeding the homeless, going on missions trips to foreign countries, attending prayer groups and Bible studies. She is well known for helping people. Surely she will see me and at least help me get up out of this mud!

“Are you ok? You really shouldn’t sit in such a muddy mess.” she says. 

I wonder why she is asking. Do I look like I might be ok? Before I can answer, she starts praying for me as if she figured out what I needed help with. 

“Amen.” she finishes praying and gives one last heartfelt comment while she walks away “I’ll be praying for you!” 

 

How can all these people just keep passing me by without helping? 

Maybe they see but don’t understand?

Perhaps they think it’s none of their business?

I suppose it’s possible they are afraid.

Maybe they don’t know what to do or say.

 

Wait. I know this person coming my direction. I see him every day. We aren’t close friends, but maybe he will recognize me. Almost as if embarrassed to know me, he cautiously approaches, looking around to check if anyone notices him coming toward me.

“What did you do to get yourself in this situation?” he says with a look of disapproval. “You probably could have avoided this. Maybe you should get yourself up out of that mud and cleaned up.”

Unbelievable. Even he seems to be heartless and blind to my helpless situation. 

 

Tears overflow and roll heavy down my face. I was trying to hold things together and be strong, but this almost hurts more than these bruises and gaping wounds. I try to get up. I don’t want to sit here anymore. I’m determined to get out of this mess on my own, but as I try to lift myself to my feet, my legs give way and I fall hard, back into the sloshing muck. My hands are too muddy now to even wipe the mud and tears from my eyes. I’m overwhelmed and wonder if its even worth it to try getting up any more. 

Looking around for something to lean up against and keep my head out of the muddy water, I think I see someone approaching. There is something different about him. He doesn’t act like all the others like I have a contagious disease. He carries himself confidently as he approaches me. He walks right up to me and kneels beside me in the mud! He lifts my good arm over his shoulder to start helping me up and says to me

 

“I’m here to help you. The Father sent me. He knew that you were in trouble and needed help so He asked me to come. I’m sorry this happened and that you are hurting. I’ll get you patched up and in a safe, comfortable place to sleep with good food. I will help you get back on your feet.”

Fresh tears, now of relief, flood my eyes.

I am so overwhelmed at this kindness. I thought surely no one would even help me get to my feet, but here this man is getting dirty to help me and what’s more, offering to pay for a night at a hotel!

“The Father knows about all His children. He sees every moment. His heart broke when He saw what happened to you. He wept for you as each person He sent to help you did nothing. He was in tears when I left to come find you. He told me that He had to send me because I know first-hand what you’re going through. So I came straight away.”

He lifts me almost effortlessly up out of the mud. Blood and filth are now soaking into his clothes and shoes. I hold on with my better arm as he carries me to the closest hotel. This kind and caring person checks me over for broken bones finding only a dislocated shoulder, sprained wrist, and some serious cuts and bruises. He tends to my less serious injuries and calls a doctor to come take care of the others. Generously, he pays for room and board until I’m restored to health. 

I am overwhelmed with gratitude and amazed how The Father sent such a kind and compassionate person to help me. He was familiar with my suffering. He was an image of The Father to me. He was my reminder that The Father knew my condition and as always, was still here, still taking care of me. I didn’t see The Father face-to-face this time, but I saw His reflection and recognized His love for me in the one He sent.

Kingdom Living

I Can’t

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
1 John 1:16

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

“I can’t” is not a phrase I’m comfortable with. It’s certainly not a phrase I want my kids saying. I’m not the only one that doesn’t like this phrase either. It’s frowned on from a societal and cultural perspective.

But right now, I need to say it. It’s the truth. This is the one circumstance where this is true.

I can’t – without Jesus.

I can’t parent well – without Jesus.

I can’t do my job with excellence – without Jesus.

I can’t live healthily – without Jesus.

I can’t succeed at anything worthwhile – without Jesus.

I can’t stop worrying – without Jesus.

I can’t – but God can.

There are some very worthwhile things that I want to do and am working hard to do, but trying to do them successfully on my own is wearing me out. I’m not purposefully leaving God out. I have grown up learning that anything I want I can get, if I work at it hard enough. It’s not easy to re-train my brain to remember that it is by the grace of God that I can do anything. Even for that I need the grace of God! I’m having to unlearn the concept of complete independence in everything I do, and learn anew that my hope for success only comes as I put my hope in Christ.

I wonder if this was sometimes how the apostle Paul felt too? He grew up in a very “do-ing” oriented society too. Everything in his world was saturated with understanding the need for God, but everything they did and said was still heavily based on doing all the right steps to make sure God was happy with you so that you would be blessed. All the “do-ing” led to a culture of believing that if a person didn’t do the right things, bad things would happen to them and any kind of success would elude them. Yet, God’s reply to them, and to me too is that “He [God] gives more grace…God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:6-8a)

“I don’t know how to do this though, Father.”

“That is why I’m here to help you.”

“But I’m a fixer. I’m a do-er. I need a step-by-step guide of how to depend on you and not try to do everything myself.”

The Father laughs.

Through His chuckles The Father replies, “Even as you are learning to depend on me and how to use the grace I’ve given to you, you still are trying to get a list so you can do it yourself, little one.

You are like me in many ways. I created you that way. But remember, I AM the Fixer. I AM the Restorer. I AM the Success Maker. I AM the Wisdom you seek. Yes, you can learn from me, but there will always be things that you will need my help with. Take My Son for example. While He was on the earth, He still had to depend on me for many things, from simple things like food to very hard things like willingly putting Himself on the cross so that you and everyone would be able to have everything you need for life and godliness. He didn’t do it by Himself – you can’t do it all by yourself either, little one.”

“But I can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen. You’ve called me to so much. So where do I start with depending on you?”

“Right here. This is where you start. Start with me. Start with asking for help. I have grace even to help you with that. A little later today, when you need to speak to your daughter differently – stop and ask for my help. When your patience is wearing thin – stop and ask for my help. When you feel like giving up – ask for my help. When you wonder why you’re doing any of this or when the next difficulty will ever be over – talk to me. Bring it to me. I’m here to help you. I’ll be the strength you need in those times when you feel your weakest. I have all that you need. Absolutely everything.

You can do this, if you do it with Me.

Scripture Diving

1 Chronicles 16:11

Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!”  
-1 Chronicles 16:11
(& Psalm 105:4)

Observation about who God is in this passage

God is strong. God is capable. God has done amazing things! God is also available. His presence is available to be found when we seek Him and He is also available to help and strengthen us when we ask. If He were not, there would be no use in looking for Him or asking for His help and His strength.

Observation about context and/or how this fits with other parts of scripture

This psalm (song) of David’s is a joyful one but it also carries some big reminders, things that when I remember them I am able to praise the Lord right away and rejoice in Him. When I forget, I am weakened and potentially face feeling alone and overwhelmed.

This song was sung after the ark of the covenant had been recovered and was on it’s way back to Jerusalem. Previously it had been taken by their enemies and then it was miss-handled – so much difficulty, uncertainty, and suffering that could have been avoided just remembering how amazingly capable God has always shown Himself to be.

Life application lesson(s)

Initially I think its easy to look at the backstory as God being harsh, but upon closer observation, verses 1-5 explain more about what God wants me to know about Him. I think one thing that He wants me to understand about Him is that He is completely capable of handling everything in my life, even the things that look like catastrophes or look impossible, or maybe even like an attack on Him or His glorification. He reminds me here (and so many places in His Word) that I should stay focused on Him. Rather than doing things my way or with whatever strength I have, ask for His help and His strength.

I worry about a lot! And there are plenty of times (dare I say daily?) that I forget just how capable He is in every situation. I make plans, I set goals, I get in touch with the “right” people, I do the “right” things, I take safety measures – all without a single word to God, a single request for His help. Sometimes, I even try to convince Him (and myself) that I’m being irresponsible if I don’t do all these things and even think that somehow God won’t get praised or get the glory and attention if I fail at whatever. But at the end of the day, I am just more tired, overwhelmed, discouraged, and scared than when I began.

But when I do remember to seek His presence continually, I am encouraged. I am at peace. I have more joy. I am energized. I am relieved. I feel like dancing like David did! Why? Because when I remember to seek His presence, I actually get His presence. And I remember, just like this psalm, just how amazing God is and all the ways He has so faithfully and capably taken care of every single one of His creation. I find myself being relieved because its actually not all on me and my strength. Its all on Him, and He’s totally got this.

Prayer

Father, thank you for always being faithful. Thank you for showing me your strong hands and reminding me just how capable you are to handle everything. Thank you, Jesus for the reminder with your life that even when people (or even I) don’t “get it” or fail to let God lead the way, that it doesn’t diminish His power or even His love. Thank you, Lord for these reminders in your own Word to me. Your reminders in scripture are like precious gold to me and they lighten my load and brighten my path. When I am tempted to worry and do everything on my own, please show me sooner the gallery of your amazing work. Thank you Holy Spirit for being with me and speaking to me so that my trust for my Father increases and so that His presence is magnified making me more and more aware of it. Thank you, Lord for your strong arms, always holding me without faltering, no matter how I squirm and make a mess of things. Thank you for being attentive to help me and answer me, and thank you for showing me that when I look for you, I can in fact find you. Your love for me and faithfulness is overwhelmingly wonderful. May your children all remember and recognize your strong and capable arms and may we respond with loving trust of you, our Daddy.