"Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength." - Frederick Buechner
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
"And I...I'm feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I...will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl"-Say Something, A Great Big World
There seems to be a growing darkness. Maybe it has always been there, but I have just been more keen to its presence as our own dreary season lingers on.
Have you ever been in a place where the sad songs make more sense? Where the grey skies are a comfort to the rain that pours on your soul? Where the haunting melodies are gripping and intriguing and the walls of your home seem like the only safe place?
I walked into the grocery store after being iced in for two days and feeling a little cabin feverish. I only had a couple of things to pick up. As I approached the check out isle to pay, there she was. The sour puss. I always feel like I’m a nuisance when she has to ring up my groceries. If I ask how she is, I usually get a grunt or a snort resounding her disdain for being there. I’ve never seen her smile or even so much as a crook in her lips. Her face is weathered with deep groves of time and I can hardly make out any of her words as they roll of her tongue with a mumble.
I waited for her to begin scanning my things and braced myself for hurling rumbles. She honestly doesn’t offend me. I just don’t want to be another burden to her already bitter world.
I know what it’s like to be caught in an ugly rut that you just can’t shake off. Tangled in a mess of disappointments and sadness and feeling your joy leaking right out.
And then facing people. Some of them want to fix it…or you...they are law lovers. Some of them want you to fake it so they can go on their merry way without pause...awww, the ceremonial. Some are repulsed as if you’re pain will make them unclean…might I say, the hypocrite? I’m ashamed to say I’ve been all three. All characters cast in the great story of the Good Samaritan.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” –Luke 10:25-32
But there is one I haven’t mentioned…the one that offers mercy. The unlikely hero of the story. The one who knew the pain of the man who was in pain. Who stopped to help him…care for him…love him.
33” But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” –Luke 10:33-37
This time I did not try and dodge her aloofness but earnestly asked how she was…maybe because I understood her a little more that day...and this time her grunt didn’t sound so much like an air horn but more like a steamboat lost at sea.
She murmured something under her breath as her eyes clandestinely avoided mine…in which I daringly asked her to repeat herself. And as her words began to take shape and her voice scored a new note, she simply said she was happy. Happy that it was snowing. She hadn’t seen snow since she was a kid.
I had never heard this woman utter one pleasant or positive thing and she shared with me something that made her joyful…something she hadn’t experienced since she was a child. And for a second, I could see that little girl. Her vulnerability peaking out behind those pursed lips. I think I even saw one side of them turn up a bit. It was a gift, no doubt, that changed the course of our encounter into something sweet.
I started to ask her where she was from and how long she had been here. Wondering what her story was.
I began to see her soften. She looked at me a little confused. Surprised that I would want to know anything about her. She clearly doesn’t strive for the “most liked” employee of the store and my guess is that is her defense to keep people out.
The Lord opened my eyes a little wider that day. To the image He bears in all. To the love He has for all. There are no throwaways. He lavished her with the gift of snow and joy and then she gave me the gift of openness and it made my day a little brighter and warmer because of it.
I learned that day that I don’t have to have it all together to reach out and love someone. In fact…it’s thru the tears that reaching out might actually part the rain.
A simple act of kindness may be the seed of hope a suffering soul is longing for to move on from a life of just surviving…to a life that begins thriving. Thriving in the storms…thriving in the wastelands…thriving in the deserts. Just like the Good Samaritan, filled with compassion, gave away.
“The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” –Micah 6:8
Those sad songs…the ones that speak our feelings and sing our hurts. Awaken our souls to the call of mercy. To come to the throne Grace where we can be filled. So that the next time we encounter a sour puss…mercy’s melodies can usher in those healing rains.
"Guess there are times when we all need to share a little pain
And ironing out the rough spots
Is the hardest part when memories remain
And it's times like these when we all need to hear the radio
`Cause from the lips of some old singer
We can share the troubles we already know
Turn them on, turn them on
Turn on those sad songs
When all hope is gone
Why don't you tune in and turn them on"
-Sad Songs, Elton John