Have you ever felt your heart break deeply over something you never expected? Losing a loved one, a bad breakup, being let go from a job you love... these are things we expect to hurt, to cause cracks in our heart that will take time to heal. But sometimes you see or hear something and it can wreck you in a way you really weren't prepared for.
For me, it happened a few days ago and I'm still seeing that boy's face when I close my eyes at night. It hurts and I'm so far separated from his life that I can only imagine why God wants me to feel this so deeply. I 100% feel like He had a reason for me to be on that sidewalk in Atlanta the exact moment this scene played out, for a reason. I have no idea what it was yet, but the effect this moment is still having on my heart days later... there's most certainly a reason.
I was just in Atlanta for a work trip and the city was suddenly bustling and back to life. When we went on this same trip in January, the place was a ghost town because of the damage both from protesting and the shut downs! It was creepily quiet and still, but 6 months later, the sidewalks were full of people and the rent-a-scooters were littering the sidewalks and roads once again. It actually felt nice in a way to see people living life again, but with all that comes the hard too, because that's part of living.
On the last day of our trip, we were walking back to the hotel to pack up the truck and drive home. I looked up ahead and there were several police cars bunched together in the road. As we got closer there were two prisoner transport vehicles and I saw one boy being handcuffed. He was on the sidewalk so close I could have reached out and touched him as I walked by. When we got close I looked down, to give him privacy in a hard moment, but I don't know if he even noticed me. He had a lot to say to the police about what he thought about their actions and his innocence. But the weight of what was happening was heavy on my heart. As I walked just a bit past him, I looked back up and another boy, around the same age, was being led into one of the transport vans.
That was when it happened. My heart just cracked, I felt it right then and it's still there three days later. In the moment, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't change their situations, I wanted to yell out that I saw them, I wanted to look into their eyes so that they would know that they were seen and their pain felt. I wanted a different future for them, I wanted them to feel enough hope to fight for a different future for themselves. The moment was wrapped up with so many things I wanted for two boys, who couldn't have been older than 2o, and maybe that was what broke.
As I walked past, feeling so insignificant in their plight, I thought, "We failed them". Did anyone try to pour into these boys when they were young, did church members reach out in their community, was someone hanging out on a coffee shop table just to talk to boys on the street who were bound for trouble? Did their mammas have any support in raising them, did their dads have to work and try to figure out how to raise a son on their own? Did they age out of foster care without finding a permanent family to support them? I can't tell you, but I really do wonder.
You can say that one more dangerous person was put away, or that people get what they deserve. But I think the church as a whole has stepped too far away from people and decided that they aren't our responsiblity. All I can say is that Jesus loves like they matter, and instructed us to love in that same way. To look people in the eye and show them they are seen and valued because He did. Not because we like them, not because we agree with their life choices, but because He did. He saw Zacchaeus, and told him that he was coming to have lunch with him, that moment. He didn't put off people until volunteering was convenient or when he felt it was a "safe" environment, He invited himself over for lunch that day lol. Maybe a little forward... but actually might be effective! Sometimes love needs to be forceful to be known that it's real, deep and ready to fight. Our world needs some of that love that isn't easily shaken, and our place is right where we are. Find your one person that needs to be seen, seek them out, look into their eyes. I may not be able to save all the hurting people, but I can love one, and Jesus says that they are worth it.
"Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!" - Luke 15:1-7
What I love about this description of Jesus is that he was purposefully choosing the company of broken people. He wants to be with each of us; when we don't deserve Him and when we don't feel worthy. The second part that strikes me, is the urgency of the shepherd in the parable. It says "he will go after the lost sheep until he finds it.", that's determination, grit and a hope for the future. The shepherd is optimistic about finding his sheep alive and placing him back with the herd to which he belongs. God loves and pursues us with this same determination, and wants us to love the people He's given us with the same boldness. It takes grit and endurance but He put the people in your life next to you for a reason! Take that seriously, those are His beloved in your care.
When you see things that are hard, or hit you deeply... let them matter. Our heartbreak today can motivate us to love like we never have before. Choose to see people, feel heartbreak and let it drive your serve. Let it change your future actions, so that one more person isn't overlooked, missed or forgotten.
Let's love well... in our heartbreak and our joy,