I mentioned the water truck day, one of the days that we went into Cite Soleil. It was crazy to be in such a dangerous place and even more crazy to realize the way that people were living and what poverty really looks like. People can really live without running water? They can really live amongst so much trash and filth? They can really live with so little? Yes. They can. However, that is not what sticks out to me the most from that day.
A few years ago I was at a retreat where a friend spoke, challenging us to really try to see people the same way that Jesus sees them. He spoke of how we interact with people all day long, from standing in line at the grocery store, to passing someone on the sidewalk, to being noticed by another driver on the road, to our kids, or spouse, or friends. We are constantly interacting with other human beings, and what if we actually started to look at them with the same lens of love that Jesus uses? I can’t even fully grasp the overwhelming and intense love of Jesus, but from that day forward it hasn’t stopped me from trying.
In many situations, especially the times when I am getting frustrated with someone or a person is being unlovely towards me, I try to stop and think, “How would Jesus feel about this person right now?” Or in tough situations I think, “This is not how Jesus would respond. What would he say instead?” I tell you what, it has changed me.Of course, I am no expert at “being Jesus” but I can’t tell you the number of times thinking along these lines has changed my heart towards someone. It is humbling to realize how many icky thoughts I can think about people and about how self serving I can really be. When I try to see someone like Jesus would see them, my heart always crumbles a little bit more.
So, at the second water truck stop of the day last Friday the thought just popped into my head, as it so often does, “I wonder what Jesus would be doing if he were here right now?” And you know what? For the very first time in my life I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be standing right beside me doing the very thing that I was doing. In fact, when I realized that I almost felt as if I could see Jesus out of the corner of my eye. If I turned my head just fast enough, maybe, just maybe I would catch a glimpse of him.
There amongst filthy and unclothed humanity I had a holy moment.
I couldn’t understand this for awhile. I think we can be like Jesus wherever and whenever. Standing in 100 degree weather in Haiti holding dirty children and handing out water is not the only way to be like Jesus. Yes, Jesus does say in Matthew 25,
“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I think I figured it out today. It wasn’t because of what I was doing, it was because of how I was doing it. See, if I had run across one of those kids standing naked and dirty down at the end of my block, I probably would have called 911 so that someone could come and help me find her parents. I did actually do that once when I was living in North Minneapolis. I wouldn’t have picked up anybody’s naked child but my own, and especially not one with sores on her legs. I would have held her at arm’s length, if I had touched her, or him, at all. But while I was standing there in Cite Soleil I didn’t just let kids come up to me. I reached out to them. I picked them up. I held them close, and hugged them, and kissed their cheeks, and loved them with all the love that I had to offer in that moment. And that was the difference. It was me. It was my heart.
I think that every time Jesus encountered someone, whether they were in desperate need or not, he reached out to them and loved them with all the love that he had to offer. He never cared if they were dirty. He never cared if they were unlovely. He never cared if they were clothed. He never cared if they were diseased. In that moment last week it was so clear to because I was able to put myself aside for awhile and just love some kids who so desperately needed to be loved. I wasn't thinking about myself. I wasn't asking or hoping for anything in return. I was just pouring out what I had to offer, love. I got to love those kids like Jesus would have loved them if he had been standing next to me, and that love mattered to them. I got to see those precious babies through his eyes. And they were oh so beautiful.