“I like your tattoo,” I said to my server as I tried to hide myself from the other restaurant patrons. With my back to the rest of the world, I was seated at a corner table, my Bible and journal in hand. Grungy clothes. No makeup. I prayed that no one would notice me.
Only weeks after the loss of my five-year-old son, I found myself in such an uncomfortable season of life. This season of raw grief. I was struggling to make it. Shattered and trying to piece what little I could back together. My new reality was pain. Not only did I lose my sweet son, I lost a huge piece of my identity and my purpose. It seemed as though life halted. Everything in my life changed. Absolutely everything. My eyes had been opened to the harsh new world of grief. But, my eyes had been opened to something else as well.
With an abrupt halt to my routine, I found myself with a lofty amount of free time. My life no longer filled with busyness, I slowed down. Way down. And that enabled me to notice people.
I began to wonder about their stories. Before, I had been so busy with my own agendas or concerns that I hadn’t taken the time to ever see those around me. I began to truly see people, to wonder about their stories, their struggles, their dreams. I wondered about their salvation and I genuinely began to care about these people who I had never met or would possibly never see again.
“I like your tattoo,” I said. My sweet server smiled and shared with me the meaning behind it. They were footprints. It reminded her the Lord had carried her through the hard times. That she would never be alone. I shared about our loss of Sawyer and how the Lord was sustaining us. We talked about her daughter, her life, and her faith. I listened and I had compassion.
After breakfast, I walked over to Hobby Lobby and saw two ladies at the fabric counter. They were discussing whether or not they were going to spend the money on a particular devotional. I chimed in, “I love that one. It’s really great. I recently lost my son in a tragic accident and it has really blessed my heart.” We began to share our stories. One of the ladies had also lost her son in a tragic accident. We shared of the Lord’s faithfulness. Again, the Lord gave me compassion and a genuine concern for these ladies.
I was learning something: when I slowed down, I was able to truly see people around me.
A couple of weeks later, I found myself attending a Bible study in my hometown. The study was on the person of Jesus and we went over verse after verse in the Bible reading about how Jesus saw, he had compassion, and then, He acted. (Matt. 14:14, Matt. 9:36, Mark 6:34)
Jesus saw. He cast his eyes on others.
How can we make a diligent effort to see people? By slowing down our schedules and not being so fixated on ourselves or our circumstances. When we take the focus off of us, then we can begin to look at other things, like the people around us.
Jesus had compassion. He didn’t just see people and keep going. He didn’t brush them off or think, “Well, they probably got themselves into that mess. They’ll figure a way to get out.” No. Jesus had compassion.
When we see others, are we engaging our hearts, pausing, and putting ourselves in their shoes? Are we listening, caring, and offering compassion? Or are we just seeing them and moving on? Maybe we’re taking action, but are we doing it with compassion? Or are we just trying to make the problem go away? Are we trying to “fix” things or do we care about heart of the person?
Jesus took action. Jesus didn’t leave the person hanging. No, AFTER he saw, AFTER he had compassion, THEN he acted. He will always meet our needs, but He wants us to know that He cares about our hearts, as well. In fact, He is more concerned with our hearts than anything else, because that is what is eternal.
Too often, I am guilty of trying to rush through life and accomplish everything on my to-do list. When I run across people and their struggles, I’m often tempted to address their needs before truly seeing them. I’m tempted to “fix it” for them before pausing, before listening and before having compassion. I want to do a better job modeling my Savior. How about you?