Saturday, February 13, 2016

It's Not What it Looks Like

I have a small scrape on the heel of my right hand. It's tiny. If I showed it to you and told you that it hurt, you would look at me like I was crazy and think that I'm a whiner. You would think I was just exaggerating unless I explained to you how I got the little mark on my hand.
A week ago I was trying to smash some trash down into the trashcan when I felt a biting pain. Earlier that day my husband had been doing some work in the hallway and thrown out the mess in the trash. I had pressed my hand down right onto a nail. The tiny mark on my hand is not a scrape, it's a puncture.
What looks like a tiny mark was a very painful wound. My whole hand hurt. Even now, it's almost healed on the surface, but really it's still very tender.You can't tell just by looking that it goes deeper.
And it makes me think about assumptions we make. A few days ago I wrote about judgement. I stand by what I said before, people use the "don't judge me" excuse to justify their bad decisions. That "don't judge me because I sin differently than you" statement I see all the time really rubs me the wrong way. Another way of saying that, in my opinion, is "I know I'm being foolish but I don't want anyone to think less of me for it. Other people are foolish too!"  We can't expect people not to lose respect for us if we admittedly do what we know is wrong.
But today I'm talking about something a little different. Sometimes people judge each other, not about right actions and wrong actions, but on the superficial. I'm talking about compassion.
 That clingy child was tiresome, but it turns out she was in foster care and was starving for affection. That girl who keeps to herself that everyone thought was a conceited snob is actually painfully shy. The person behind the counter seemed rude but really he's still stinging because his boss just yelled at him.
We just can't always know what someone else is going though. So let's be guided by what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:

  1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Galatians 6:1-6

All kinds of good stuff in there. Notice that he advises us to get over ourselves and help each other out? At first it may seem contradictory that he says we should carry each other's burdens but everyone has to shoulder their own load.
My pastor explained it in a really great sermon once: A burden is more than one person can handle on their own. Something that's too much for one person. We should pitch in and help. A load is someone's personal responsibility. Something like a backpack. Even children have their own loads that they should be able to take on without help.
If we're too focused on our own loads we won't notice when someone is being crushed by a burden.
We should all go around wearing compassion colored glasses.
Check out this short video made by Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock Arkansas.  It's a powerful representation of seeing others with empathy and compassion instead of selfishness. Because sometimes what looks like a scrape is really a puncture. Sometimes we have to ask to find out that what looks like a load is really a burden.

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