Three children are screaming at the top of their lungs. And I mean scream-ing!
Believe me. I have 4 kids. They have screamed in stores. It happens. I get it.
But here, in the checkout line of our local Walmart, I’m bombarded with these cries of frustration. So is everyone around me. I can feel the tension building in our collective shoulders.
- One mother (Is she the mother? Dear God, I hope not.) lashes out in frustration.
- Another family ignores their little guy. “Maybe the kid would stop screaming if they acknowledged his existence.”
- The third screamer? I can’t even see them. But oh, I can hear them.
The cashier laments, “My head is killing me!” (I wonder why.)
I try to be compassionate, telling her I hope she feels better. She’s so sweet and helpful. But really I just want to get out of there. I feel like my own head’s going to explode, and I’ve only been there a half an hour.
In the parking lot, people are cutting each other off, much like they were in the store, just now with cars, not carts. The collective angst spills out of the doors, past the smiley-face price tags, and into the world at large.
“I’ve got to get to my vehicle.”
There’s that angry mom again. Now she’s angrily buckling her toddler into the seat. I can’t quite make out her words. They’re somewhere between a curse and a grunt. My stomach turns.
- Do I step in?
- What would I even say?
- How does a man, by himself, approach an angry Mom in a parking lot?
All this rushes through my head in 5 seconds as I walk toward my car.
Too late. She drives away first. Gone. Now I wonder what life is like for the little girl in her care.
I drive away.
I’m stunned. I can’t escape the thought, “That was awful!”
I’m not trying to be all “emo” here. But my heart is heavy. What was intended to be a casual stop at the store to pick up a few things turned into a deeply disturbing experience. I’m actually sad.
“What the heck just happened?”
It’s not Walmart’s fault.
As a pastor, I deal with broken people on a daily basis. I’m one of them.
But it seems like here, in the aisles of the discount store, we come face to face with the reality of who we are. At our modern day market, where prices are low enough to lure us in from every corner of our community, we come face-to-face with the unvarnished “us”.
A lot of times we don’t like what we see.
As a people, big picture, we are broken.
People don’t treat each other poorly for no reason. It’s a sign of a deep brokenness within that person. As the old saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”
As I drive away from this brief encounter with the hurting people of my community, I think:
- “How does Jesus love people like that?”
- “Wait. That’s exactly what I’m like without Him.”
- “Jesus, how can I love people like you do?”
As I pray, a Scripture flashes to my mind, a fragment of a verse.
“harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”
I look it up. It’s Matthew 9.
Jesus’ attitude toward deep brokenness is laid out here. Let’s see what we can learn:
Matthew 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.
When Jesus came to earth, He immersed Himself in the everyday. He descended into our brokenness and brought Good News!
35 And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
He didn’t just preach. He got his hands dirty. He healed. He reached into broken lives and changed them for the better. Jesus is capable. He is willing. He is able. Am I? Are you?
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
This is how Jesus sees the broken people. What right do I have to see people any differently?
37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Jesus came to earth. He laid down His life for broken us. Then He left. He returned to Heaven. Why?
Jesus wanted us, broken us, healed by Him, to carry on His work until He returns.
He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to equip us to love like He loved. He calls us to touch broken lives with the “Good News of the Kingdom”!
If you are a Christ follower…
- How do you respond to brokenness when you see it?
- Are you part of the solution?
- Are you stepping into the harvest field?
- Are you praying for the Lord of the harvest to send more workers?
Don’t let brokenness repulse you. Let it propel you.
Jesus sent His followers into this world to love people. So let’s get to it.
Compassion must be followed by action. It can start with a prayer.
Here is a prayer for the people of Walmart:
Lord, my heart is heavy when I encounter the ugliness of brokenness.
Help me understand that all people are broken, and in need of Your repair (including me).
Open my eyes so I can see like Jesus, instead of judging and complaining.
Turn my anger and sadness into deep compassion. Help me love like You do.
May the light of Christ shine through me, overcoming darkness wherever I go.
Make me a part of Jesus’ healing, transforming ministry in my home, through my church, and in my community.
In Jesus’ brilliant, healing, life-changing name I pray. Amen.