For the first time this year (and the first significant time this whole winter long), snow rages through the air and settles deep on the ground. And as I sit here, coffee betwixt my fingers and thumb, warm to the bones and full to the brim with everything I need and many of the things I want, I remember...
I remember Walter, the man with the cardboard sign who only asked for help to keep his 6-year-old son off the streets. I remember the many veterans, men and women, who have fought long and hard with body and mind, now frail in both, who sit on the side of the highway exits, judged for being physically and emotionally and mentally scarred by the battles they've seen. I remember the man under the overpass, his bed of old, smelly sleeping bags made with care, practicing his kirate -- or dancing; I couldn't quite tell. And the snow flew anyway. And as the ground beneath them froze, so did my heart. And I realize I don't know the meaning of these words as well as I often think I do:
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.
No, that I do not remember. But they do.
But it's not too late for them, for their frozen bodies. Nor me, for my frozen heart.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
His lovingkindness and compassion are extended to my heart each and every day, and I have the choice each day to extend it beyond myself, to those in need.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
I was raised in a culture that said, "God helps those who help themselves" and "You reap what you sow" and "I'll help you if you prove to me you're worth it." Nowhere in any of those statements is the gospel present. The gospel is about God helping people who cannot help themselves, and reaping something that someone else sowed, and understanding that we're all unworthy of help and that's why it's so awesome that God's love and care is not based on worth! The gospel is God helping the poor, namely me and you. And those who've heard and understood and accepted this gospel are called to be extenders of the same grace we were given.
That means helping people who can't -- maybe even won't -- help themselves.
That means giving people things that they didn't work for.
That means extending care and grace and provision to people whether we deem them "worthy" or not. Because neither are we. Yet, God lavished all of his fullness on us anyway.
And you know what? You and every other person on this planet may not be worthy of another's unconditional love and provision, but we all have eternal, immeasurable value -- God's image imprinted on every eye and every fingerprint and every soul. And with that value comes responsibility for making that choice, for extending that grace, for loving God by loving our neighbors.
Yes, my heart is often distracted -- or even intentionally turned away -- from the needs of others. But I pray God above and within will help me turn my eyes and spirit to those in need, and help me extend to them my arms and my love, cold though it may be, that His love working through me might warm and thaw this frozen heart.