Each year around my birthday I go on a week-long trip. It is an annual trip I take that I affectionately call my “Introvert Intermission”. It is a gift from my parents where I go away by myself and just enjoy the simple things like reading, the outdoors and silence. Glorious silence. My extrovert friends break out into hives when I describe it but after an incredibly busy summer of mission trips and lots of quality time with quality people, I’m usually counting down the days like a high school senior in May.
A few years ago the day arrived and I hit the road to the place I would be staying for the week. I arrived right around check in time and went into the little reception office where there was a lady folding some towels in a harried pace. We exchanged greetings and I said I was here to check in. She set the towels down and came over to the desk. I could hear the sounds of a TV and a young child crying from around the corner and the room had this sense of rushed, craziness. You know that feeling – the feeling of having a hundred things needing your undivided attention and you aren’t sure where to even begin.
The lady looked up my registration and then apologetically told me the room was ready yet. She was the only one there because other staff had called in sick. This lady was doing registration, cleaning rooms, and apparently trying to keep a small child happy. I told her that I would wait in my car and check back.
I went back to my car, rolled down the windows and pulled out a book. And then it began. That nudge. That whispered prompting … “Go offer to help.”
I can’t hear you, Lord.
I pretended not to hear. Like that ever works.
“Go offer to help.”
No, God. This is my vacation. My introvert intermission. I’ve been working for you all summer and I’m off the clock. It’s your own fault for calling an introvert to work with people. I told you you were nuts.
“Go offer to help.”
God, I really don’t think she’s going to accept my help. I’m pretty sure she would think I was crazy or that she’d get in trouble if management ever found out. And there’s no way she’d let a total stranger near her kid.
“Go offer to help.”
I shall not be moved.
And I wasn’t.
I ignored the nudge. I plugged my ears to the whispered promptings. I refused to move.
The story in Matthew 15:29-39 is a familiar story to those familiar with the Bible. The passage is most well known for the miracle Jesus performs when he feeds the large crowd. When I read it recently, it wasn’t the miracle that resonated with me. It was a simple phrase from The Message paraphrase:
“…He called his disciples and said, ‘I hurt for these people.’” (vs. 32)
In other translations it says Jesus had “compassion” for them – the same compassion Jesus demonstrates in Matthew 9:36 when “his heart broke” as he looked out over the suffering crowds.
I love that our Savior hurts for us; that our Lord is moved to compassion by our sufferings. The Gospel writer Matthew did too, apparently, because he uses the corresponding Greek verb more often than any other Gospel writer. Jesus was the perfect expression of a God who is filled with compassion for His children. What a perfect Father for a ragtag group of broken people who are struggling on the Jesus way.
Sometimes we are in such a hurry for a miracle or fix that we miss the goodness that comes from the struggle. We miss the goodness that comes from embracing that which throws us into the embrace of a God who hurts for us. We miss the goodness that comes from trusting that our God gets it and sits with us in those moments when we feel the most alone.
To me, the overwhelming goodness of Easter is not that God saves us. It is that our compassionate God loves us enough to redeem us.
*Reprinted from my devotion for our church’s 2014 Lenten devotional guide.
The Lenten Season is my favorite liturgical season. Some people think it is strange to like Lent. It seems too somber and penitential to be liked – like a facebook status that shares sad or painful news yet news that has the potential to lead to something good. Is it appropriate to “like” such a status?
Is it appropriate to like Lent? A season where we are reminded of our mortality with a holy smudge. A season of self-reflection on the pervasiveness of our sin and our humanity. Perhaps it is if we see the potential for good. As Sara Parsons says, “perhaps Lent is a season of joy when we look at ourselves, not so we may criticize ourselves more harshly but so we can identify the obstructions that keep us from God.” What prevents us from being fully devoted followers of Jesus? How do we avoid God and why? What is standing in the way of us surrendering fully to the leadership of the Lord? Lent provides a regular rhythm for us to seek out these hindrances and, with God’s grace and strength, cut these hindrances out of our lives to fully fling ourselves into God’s grace and mercy.