I have probably been to New York City sixty times. But I still act like a tourist when I walk the streets of Manhattan. I look at people and make eye contact with those I encounter. That makes me weird in a place where weird is almost the norm. Today on a morning walk in search of Dunkin Donuts coffee I passed a woman who was weeping as she walked down the street. My heart went out to her and I wondered what her pain might be. Did she lose a loved one? A relationship? Did she lose her job? Perhaps she or someone she loves had received a devastating diagnosis. Or maybe she felt hopeless and alone. I wanted to pray with her but I feared that my intrusion might be misunderstood. So I prayed silently for her. A mystery women in pain amongst ten million people with their own problems. I will never know the cause of her tears. But God does.
Not fifteen minutes later I noticed a young woman standing outside the door of an office building. She was crying softly. Again I wondered what was going on in her life? I prayed for her as I walked. I have to tell you that the morning walk was a bit sobering today. Maybe that is why New Yorkers mind their own business. There is so much pain and so many hurting people in this city and if you look around around it is easy to see. And you feel helpless in many ways. But I believe that God hears my prayers. So I am trusting God to send His people into the lives of these hurting souls.
I thought about how self-centered and self-absorbed I can become. I don’t have any idea what other people are going through when I get frustrated with them. There is a powerful song by the country group Sawyer Brown about how infrequently we stop to consider that other people might be enduring real trials. The video is well worth three minutes of your time. Here is a sample of the lyrics from the song “They Don’t Understand”.
Everybody’s busy with their own situation
Everybody’s lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurried up trying to make a dream come true
They don’t understand
Everybody’s living like there ain’t no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
‘Cause you never really know what your neighbors going through
They don’t understand
I remember driving away from one of Joni’s early doctor appointments after her breast cancer diagnosis. Joni was driving her car as I followed her home. She was distracted (imagine that) and missed her turn. She drove forward to the next opportunity to turn left and double back. Because she temporarily blocked the left lane a guy laid on his horn and started gesturing. I remembering thinking that this guy was not a quality human being (rough translation). I wondered if it would make a difference in the attitude of this, uhhh, not really nice homosapian if he knew what was going through my wife’s mind. He was busy worrying about his 20 second delay as she was thinking about her health, her family, her job and maybe her life. So I try to step back, breathe, and ask for patience.
When I get too self-righteous I have a sure fire cure. I look in the mirror. What I see there is a man who is capable of nearly everything I get angry about with others. And I am humbled again that somehow God is patient with me as I work this out. Regular readers know of my admiration for the group Casting Crowns. The song “Who Am I” comes to mind in this context.
Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Take a moment to meditate on that. Then take a moment to meditate on a later verse.
Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
That God sees my sin and looks on me with love is mind boggling. How can I accept that love and not at least attempt to offer it to others? Because there is not a (Christian cussing warning) dang thing that I have done to deserve mercy like that. Too often I fear that I judge and have judged people who acted poorly because of incredible pain and difficulty in their life. The thought that I might add to the song is who am I that I should not extend the grace to others that I have received in spite of who I am? This is my favorite bridge of the lyric.
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who you are.
That is the message I hope to spend my remaining days proclaiming. I have hope and freedom and joy. Not because of who I am or what I have done. My hope, freedom and joy are because of Christ. Because of what He did for me. Christ has given me a new identity. I am given His righteousness and I am freed from condemnation, guilt and shame. I wish I could have shared that with those two souls who were shedding tears today. Pray that someone will.