“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.’” John 1:42 (NIV)
We all know the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees.” But lately, I’ve been finding the opposite to be true: I can’t see the trees for the forest.
These days, I am feeling overwhelmed with the news. Every morning, I turn on the news to start my day. The reports I receive are really more than I can process at 6:30 AM. Protests, murders, the pandemic and death. It’s simply too much.
The responses I hear and read are equally upsetting. People on every side are painting with wide brushes of judgement and separation. Honestly, it can be a little scary at times. It begins to feel as if our nation, our world, is pulling apart at the seams as groups of judgement begin to separate us.
But then, I remind myself to slow down and intentionally look for the individuals, my neighbors, involved in these stories. I remind myself to think about why a group would paint another group with such broad strokes. I remind to see the real people and families who live within these stories. Real loss, pain, sin, consequence and fear all contribute to these stories. While I look for the real people involved in these stories, I can oftentimes see parts of myself within their narratives.
There is more to us than any one label can define. I am not only white: there is more to me. I am not only a Christian: there is more to me. I am not only a veteran: there is more to me. I am not only an American: there is more to me. I feel the same about others. I can’t accept placing a single label on anyone: a single label is a partial truth at best and a total lie at worst.
I believe we are created in the image of God and created to love God as we love others. At the same time, we are all broken and struggle with our innate, self-serving nature. I am created to love my neighbor. I was not created to judge or punish. I was not created to resent or rebuke. I was not created to foster shame or oppress others. I was not created to remove dignity or respect of others. I was not created to fear. I was created to search for truth and peace.
I don’t want to ignore the real human experiences tied up in current circumstances. I want to see the individuals. I want to feel compassion and concern for what they’re experiencing. I want to do something to help. I want to listen more and talk less.
But as we are continuously barraged with biased information from outside influences, it is very easy to lose sight of the individual. I am going to speak with my neighbors firsthand. I am going to say hello and smile. I am going to listen.
I look to my Savior for His example. What would Jesus do? He calls each of us by name (maybe even a nickname) and by family lineage. He looks upon us with the love and patience of a Creator. That is our relationship with Jesus Christ, and I am striving to mirror that relationship with others and to see my neighbors as Christ sees them. We are together in Christ.
I am not lost in the crowd. I am not a number. I am not abandoned. I am James, son of David and Margaret, and I am Jimmy to my Lord.
So, wherever you are and whatever weighs on your spirit these days, I encourage you to take a moment of reflection. Sit on the back porch and listen to the birds’ serenade. Lift your face towards the sun, feel the breeze on your cheek and speak with Jesus about your fears, resentment, anger, loss and confusion. He is there with you, and He is real. Ask His Spirit to lead and guide your decisions. Ask for His mercy regarding actions you have committed and for which you are ashamed and then, commit yourself to not repeat them. Ask Him for His grace in providing you comfort, refuge and peace.
He is right here in the midst of the pandemic, the quarantines, the tornados, the social upheaval and whatever else 2020 has in store for us. Even in a storm, He is Christ!
Yours in Christ,
The Salvation Army of Pickens County | Service Center Director