Today’s blog comes from ROOM’s Missions Director, Cassie Murray. Cassie has served in various aspects of ROOM’s ministry–often stepping into the place where she is most needed and feeling inadequate and ineffective all the way.
Not too long ago, I posted a picture on my personal social media of my son, Oliver Jack, and my daughter, Finley. We had braved the spring showers to run a few errands and although the rain had stopped long enough for us to shop, the drops started falling once we stepped back outside. We started running across the parking lot trying to get to the car before becoming drenched. I laughed and fumbled for my phone to snap a quick picture of Finley sheltering Oliver Jack from the storm with her jacket.
It wasn’t posed or thought through. It was just a moment. I wanted to remember it because those two have something special in the world of siblings. It’s a gift so rare I find myself trying to bottle up the moments in case the magic wears off. And this was one of those moments.
It made me smile. I thought maybe it would make other people smile too; so I shared it. It was a comment made by a friend I used to teach with that really got me thinking. She said,
Wonderful photo! Poetry, motion, play of stripes & squares, grays, blues, whites and bright yellow, the wet pavement, the reflection of the red light waiting like a flame in the rain past the handicap parking space. Her ineffective protection, but oh, the love and tenderness!
I had no plans on making this photo something important or particularly meaningful, but those words! They struck a chord in my soul and kept me thinking for days.
My sensitivity is much closer to the surface these days than it has been in the past, and for so long I’ve struggled with what I feel is “ineffective protection” in my ministry.
Not that long ago I posted the picture above of the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. I wrote:
This country, more specifically, this city, has burrowed it’s way deep into my heart. I wish I knew more. Every time I am here I leave wishing I knew more… did more… could do more… was more… laughed less… cried less… hurt less… Each time my legs quake with my inability to bring anything of worth to a city I love full of people I love. I feel like I am a disappointment, but how silly of me to put such stock in my own worth! He is enough. He loves enough… He understands the desires of even the most confused hearts… He sees into the most desperate of situations AND knows the answer to healing those wounds. My hands aren’t dirty enough from serving… I have so much to learn and so far to grow. I am thankful that He is patient with me as I separate what is me and what is Him. I know there is too much of me in me.
Most importantly, this country has taught me that I want more of Him.
I feel like Finley trying to protect Oliver Jack from the rain.
All day, every day.
And Oliver Jack is still getting wet.
And for so long, that has been my perspective. I was focusing on how the people I serve still suffer. But when I looked at the picture of Finley and Oliver Jack I was struck by how beautiful it was that she tried. Or actually, my friend helped me realize that beauty. My heart was brought joy, but she helped me see the significance.
How many times do we let productivity–or our ability to fix things–get in the way of feeling someone else’s pain?
The reality is, not many people expect the deepest sources of pain to be fixed by human understanding or human capabilities. We understand that reality even more when it comes to our own pain. Of course, not a soul reading this can make my son’s adoption process go quicker. But when you ask about him, I feel the tenderness of Finley’s coat stretching over my shoulders. For a moment, parts of me are sheltered from the fullness of what I am experiencing. And it’s because someone paused and risked feeling what I am feeling in order for those parts of me to be sheltered. I never expect it to be completely alleviated.
However, for some reason, when it comes to other people, the inability to “fix” the suffering gets in the way of compassion.
Because we are afraid of being ineffective, we fail at being compassionate.
Finley wasn’t afraid of being ineffective. She knew that her coat couldn’t possibly be big enough to shelter herself and Oliver Jack. But she decided that it was better to run with him, sheltering what she could, than to be dry while he becomes drenched.
This verse comes right before Lazarus is raised from the dead. The same man that cried, moments later raised him from the dead. I highly doubt that Jesus was surprised by the act of raising Lazarus from the dead.
Yet, He paused before the miracle to step into the pain.
Jesus isn’t afraid of pain. He calls us to step into that pain and feel what others are feeling. Because then, “Oh, the love and tenderness!”
Is there someone you know that is suffering in ways that make you feel uncomfortable in your inadequacy to protect them? Reach out to them. More than likely, you won’t fix their problem, but for a minute, they will be sheltered from the rain.