At the end of my last post I said, “I’m coming to find that being a person of compassion is to be the type of person who allows their heart to break for the things that break God’s heart.” For me, this week it unexpectedly happened. Here’s the story.
It was Tuesday morning around 7:30 and I was headed into work. My commute to work is only about 7 minutes, just enough time to listen to about 2 and a half songs on my ipod. On that morning I was listening to the title track off Matt Redman’s new album 10,000 Reasons. As I was driving I had one of those experiences where I was cut to the heart by the Spirit of God. All of sorts of emotions began to surface inside me and I was completely taken off guard. About 3 minutes into my drive, while listening to the song tears began to well up in my eyes. During the remaining 4 minutes of my drive I fought them back so as not to walk into work looking as though I had been crying.
Once I got into my office, I started a pot of coffee (Yes, I have a coffee pot in my office. Every coffee drinker should.) and began to think about the work I had scheduled for the morning. But as I sat down behind my desk to work I felt this tug at my heart to write down my morning experience in my journal. My thought was, “I will quickly jot down what happened and then get to work.” Little did I know that writing down my experience was going to alter my morning plans. Here’s what I started to write in my journal:
“Today, while driving into work, provoked by a Matt Redman song 10,000 Reasons I was overwhelmed with the brevity of life. The part of the song that got me was,
On that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near and my time has come.
Still my soul will sing your praise unending,
Ten thousand year and then forever more.
In that moment it was as though all of life was put into perspective for me. In a flash I thought about the e…..”
At that moment, as I was writing, I dropped my pen and started to cry, and it wasn’t just a few tears. I came undone. Pushing back my chair from my desk, I buried my head in my hands and the tears spilled out of my eyes. I don’t know exactly how long I cried, but it seemed like forever.
Now, I can imagine, after reading what I wrote in my journal it may leave one wondering from where this strong emotional surge came. But it wasn’t so much what I had written that caused the tears, it was what I was going to write next that stopped me dead in my tracks. This is what was going to come next:
“In a flash I thought about the end of my life, and the first thing to come to mind was the people I love most. I also thought about how in my ideal scenario, I would want to leave this world surround by those people. I realized that at the end of my life I am not going to be concerned with my accomplishments, how much recognition I have acquired, the size of the church that I pastor or whether or not I have made a name for myself. Instead, in that moment I will want to be with those I love.”
The reason this paragraph broke my heart and caused such a strong emotional reaction, was because in that moment it was like I heard the voice of God as though He was sitting on the other side of my desk. And what I heard was, “Bryan, that’s great that you want to be surrounded by the people you love most when you leave this world, but what about while you are still here? What about right now?” What God was and has been revealing to me is that in the here and now I need to change the way that I see people.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read this about the way that Jesus sees people, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (italics mine, 9v35-36)” When Jesus saw the crowds he had great concern for them. These were strangers, people Jesus didn’t really know and his instinct was to care for them and protect them. His heart went out to them.
The reason my heart broke was because, in that moment God showed me the condition of my heart in contrast to the heart of Christ. See, instead of viewing people as Jesus did “…harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” I often view people as a means to an end. Meaning, that when I often meet new people my initial thought is, “Is this person someone who can help me advance further in my career? Is this person a good networked connection for me? Can they move me to the next level of ministry and recognition? Are they able to advance my potential success?” If I think that they are, then I view them in a certain light and seek out spending time with them. If I get the sense that they are not, I avoid them. In that moment God clearly revealed to me in that instead of loving people, I use people. I see them as a means to an end.
What has been most sobering about this is that it’s one thing to do this with strangers, but it is another thing to do this with the people you love most (i.e. – my wife and daughter). I often times see them as a hinderance in my self-advancement program when I should see them as a precious gift from God. They are my primary responsibility and my first circle of ministry. So, while writing in my journal, when I realized I want those around me that I love most when I die, I was confronted with the reality that the default motive of my heart isn’t compassion. Rather, it is to throw people under the bus in order to get ahead.
That morning in my office my plan for the morning was thrown out the window. Instead of a morning focused on striving, achieving and career advancement God stopped me dead in my tracks to break my heart and teach me what it means to be a person of compassion. He showed me that growing in compassion means putting others needs ahead of myself. It means pursuing the people who seemingly have nothing to offer. It means continually dying to myself in order to see people the way Jesus see people and to bring hope and healing to those who are ‘harassed and helpless.’
May we long to be people of great compassion.
May we be open to being people with broken hearts.
May we have eyes to see people like Christ sees people.