Tonight, I am sitting on the bed in my hotel room, staring in the face of a buffalo. He's on a flat and somewhat shiny canvas. When I look in those dark, sad buffalo eyes, a familiar ache returns. An ache I thought would just fade away as the days went by. But since it hasn't, I'd better get it down.
Earlier this week, as we traveled through the north end of Denver in a taxi van, we drove by the homeless mission. Just before dinner. Almost dusk. And the square was full. This was a sight I think I thought I had seen before, and I was prepared to breath calmly and let us pass by... without giving it a second thought. Until my coworker gasped. She'd never seen this before. Never imagined those who live this way. My other coworker snorted.... something about this being just like Tampa.
I wasn't going to give it a second thought. We help the homeless and poor on a daily basis. That's my job. And it jades me sometimes. My inner cynic wants to pipe in a bit too often these days.
But this time there was something different. A man in his sixties was slowly shuffling across the street. Heading towards the door to wait in the growing line. There was a difference in his gait, a slump in his step, a droop in his shoulders. I could feel his heart hurting as I watched him. His pride had long ago been set aside. He walked as if he had no hope, but lacked the strength to give up entirely.
The lyrics from Mark Wills' song "Don't Laugh at Me" flashed through my mind. I didn't know his story. I didn't know a single story of a single man, woman, or child in that line. Those who would sleep on the street tonight. Those who were perfectly content to live off the grid, off the radar, dependent upon the charity of others, slave to their addictions... whatever the case. But watching that man, I couldn't assume he was an addict. I couldn't assume he'd never worked a day in his life. All I could do was hold back my tears and send up a prayer.
When we sing "Hosanna" in church on Sunday, and I sing, "Break my heart for what breaks yours..." I always choke up. God's heart breaks for His creation all. the. time. Do I really want my heart to break like His does? Could I survive it? No. I know I couldn't. And it hurts to even sing it. To even think that I would have to feel the hurt our Father feels for His children.
But in that moment, I could tangibly feel the hurt rising from the growing crowd. The pain, the brokenness in that small segment of humanity. And underneath it all they were no different than me. They were no different than the angry, demanding clients I see back home, than the clean cut, sharply dressed businessmen leaving offices just blocks away. Than any other human being in that city, in our country, on this planet. Underneath it all, when we see past the layers and masks to our very souls, we are all broken. When we see what God sees, we are all the same. What right do I have to be jaded by a client who constantly demands what they feel is owed to them? What right do I have to write someone off because of an addiction or their life circumstances? Does God love them less? Does His heart only break for those who contribute to society?
Jesus said it best....
When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17
"Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
"For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost" Luke 19:10
God wants to heal hurting hearts. He wants our hearts to hurt like His for the broken... so that we can be His hands and feet. So that we can minister to those who are wounded and weary and lost. So that we never forget the value of a soul.