>[[I started this blog last night]]
I have to admit, I’ve never always had a “passion for the lost”. It used to be just a bunch of buzz words to me. In all honesty, in the past I’m not sure I really cared, even in the same breath that I said I loved Jesus. But as I started going through life, trying some things on my own (unfortunately the big things), I realized how much I need Jesus. For grace. For the sustenance that pure and unadulterated truth brings to my soul. For a sense of self that goes beyond me. As I began to trust Him in my weaknesses, even the big ones, I was strengthened. I didn’t have to be in a pit of depression, addicted to feeding my own self-pity. And I began to see that no one needed to be addicted to, well, anything. Emotional or physical.
And I think that’s when my heart of compassion began to grow. Let me give you a little visual here. This is where my heart of compassion used to be.
For my first “real” job I worked at a grocery store (I taught piano before that). In a store like that, you see every type of person. Rich, poor, young, old, big, small. Everyone needs food, right? Well, there was this one lady who came in a lot. You have a lot of people pass through the lanes every week, but some are regulars. She was one of them. I used to make fun of her, either in my mind or with other fellow customer service associates behind the desk.
She had faded, grown-out bleached blonde hair, probably hadn’t had a shower in awhile, and old clothes that weren’t clean and didn’t match. She would buy the most random things, which was one funny thing. But the kicker was that she was probably either high or in between highs. She twitched, her hands shook and she stuttered a lot. She wasn’t always the nicest person either. I don’t have experience in that area but it was easy to tell that she had.
So, you know, there were the obvious comments, and making fun of not only her but how she of course single-handedly characterized the town I grew up in.
The other day on my third job in retail, I was working the register and guess who I saw. Her. The same lady. I hadn’t worked at the grocery store in two years, but she was still the same. And at first I had my same old reaction: defensive just in case she was rude and judgmental just in case she was high.
And then I realized that I was playing favorites. I was being nicer to the people who looked nicer or who were friendly and chatty with me, and had a blanket smile with everyone else. I realized what I was doing in my own head (granted this is a whole two seconds of my life that I had this conversation with myself) and all of a sudden I felt such a heaviness on my heart for her.
What had she been through in life? Was she addicted? Did she have children she was trying to care for? Had her children been taken away? Had she been clean and now her chemical makeup was permanently altered? Or had she never taken substances and just been born with mannerisms she couldn’t control? Then I began to think more, all while ringing up her purchase of $3 and answering her questions about how much fabric costs and how to make a scarf. Had anyone shown her compassion a day in her life? Had she ever known true love, from a man or anyone else? The biggest question to me was: Had she ever heard of someone named Jesus? And if so, did she know that He loves her?
I wanted to just reach out right there and give her a hug and talk to her, ask her about her life. I was reminded that all of us were created with a God-given purpose in mind. We all deserve to have dignity, and it can be restored if it’s been shattered. We all have come from dust, and He remembers that because He made us. I was reminded of the woman at the well and the compassion Jesus showed her that day, and how her life was changed forever.
I have prayed for a heart of compassion, both for people I know and people I meet elsewhere. I know that the Lord has started this work in me for a purpose. Sometimes I hear about things that happen in people’s lives that are just so atrocious and horrific and I just want to bawl. Cry for what, I’m not sure. For their pain, their loss.
I think a major part of this journey of compassion for me has been teaching. Since 2000 when I started teaching piano, I have met so many different kinds of students and families. When a student acted out, I really tried to understand why. Sometimes the reasons boggled my mind. And instead then of getting frustrated right away, I would personify who they were and get them out of this mental box I had put them in.
This practice helped me keep so much patience when teaching 100 students per day. Every morning before classes started I would just think through how I would react to certain situations. Sometimes when they were at their desks or working quietly (or not haha) in groups I would silently pray for them. I rarely lost my patience, and very rarely did I act out in anger. I also tried to be very intuitive with how each and every one of my students was feeling that day. My first goal was not to teach Spanish; it was to let them know that I cared.
In no way with this am I trying to say that people are not responsible for their actions. When Jesus talked with the woman at the well, He acknowledged her sin. Then He forgave her and told her to sin no more. But he had compassion on her first. I want my heart of compassion to grow bigger, especially for the people I’m already in relationship with. So big that I’m not even capable of judging first but of loving.
So here is a visual of how my heart feels now: