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it is easier to live in the world than to engage in it

Responding to a Broken World

 

Admittedly, I’m not really what you’d call a “caretaker.” Ask any of my roommates from over the past seven years and they’d all probably tell you a similar story: they come down with a cold, a mysterious stomach bug, a migraine--whatever it might be, I’m out the door. If they’re lucky, I might reluctantly offer to get them soup or even make them a cup of tea, all the while standing a clear ten feet away from germ-range. I would like to think there’s some valid reason for my behavior, but if we’re being honest, most of it is my selfishness. I remove myself quickly from the situation before I have time to see how sick they are. Afterall, I don’t want to get too close; too close to the pain, to the helplessness, to the fatigue, to the need. If I keep myself at a safe distance, maybe I won’t have to deal with it. Because I can’t offer the full solution to their problem, I decide to not help at all.  

Isn’t this so often how we see other people? We scroll through our Facebook newsfeed and within minutes we’re faced with the very real suffering that exists all around us: there’s another mass shooting, another person diagnosed with cancer, another family friend wrongfully incarcerated. And much like my response to my roommates, I choose to keep my distance. I continually numb my heart to compassion, mindlessly scrolling right past the uncomfortable feelings.

I see this desire in me to help others when it’s comfortable for me, when it’s at no personal risk or cost to myself. For me, it’s easier to simply live in the world than to reach in and engage with it. In our age of information and 24-hour news cycle, I often feel paralyzed and unwilling to act. I resist opening myself to the pain of others, because it immediately overwhelms me. But as hard as I try, I can’t avoid the reality of living in a broken world. So how do we respond? How do we move forward when it feels overwhelming or even scary to us? What hope do we have?

Jesus didn’t shy away from pain, whether it was His own on the cross or even the pain of others’ experiences and lives. He came down from heaven to a broken world, actively choosing not only to live in it as a human but to respond to it as God. Through the passage we just read and many more, we see a humble Savior, willing to sacrifice His power, His love,  and His compassion. Recently I read that the word compassion originates from Latin to literally mean, “to suffer with.” Something so beautiful to me about Jesus is His nearness: his absolute proximity to where these people were at physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Jesus’ ministry wasn’t based on producing the miraculous alone. His ministry was also about the glorious beauty of reaching out to touch each one; seeing them for who they were in their entirety, looking into the eyes He’d created far before they were born, honoring and acknowledging their individual story of pain.

I’ve seen Jesus come close in my brokenness and suffering. In the times my head is heavy with guilt and shame from whatever idol I’ve produced and chosen above Jesus, He draws me in gently and powerfully, binding up every wound with no concern of personal cost to Himself. When I’ve struggled to love the people around me and extend myself into their pain. Those moments I’ve preferred to keep myself clean and out of the way while ignoring the world around me. Jesus meets me there. Jesus never counted the hours it took to see someone healed. He didn’t keep record of the number of times any one person came to find Him in their strife. And He still doesn’t.

 

Margo Basse