Slipping into Her Skin
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)
My friend Ann introduced me to Glyn Evan’s Daily with the King and most mornings as I read through the devotional for the day, some sentence he wrote will cut through my complacent spirit to find its mark. Here it is this morning:
“Is there any greater sensitivity to human need than ‘God so loved the world’? The tragedy is that often we become harder toward people as we walk with God. If so, something is terribly amiss.”
Ah. There it is. My hard heart toward others cut out and exposed in the morning light. No denying it. My critical thoughts easily slide from dismissively stereotyping complete strangers to fretting over the minute character flaws of those I love best. Those are the thoughts that do me no good and need to be surgically removed from my mind and my heart.
Recently I shared a day of celebration with my family on the edge of the Chattahoochee River. A picnic lunch. Delicious sandwiches from my son and his girlfriend, deviled eggs made by my son-in-law, lime and coconut cookies baked by my daughter. Sitting in the shade of the trees on a sandy beach, we watched as people waded in the water and dogs chased each other with joy and abandon.
Lobster girl arrived with her boyfriend, who wore a tee shirt with profanity printed boldly on the back, and their two dogs. She was a very uncomfortable looking shade of red, in her bikini and tattoos that seemed to be placed with little forethought here, there and everywhere. Obviously they had spent the day on the water judging by the intensity of her sunburn.
She constantly screamed her youngest dog’s name as he investigated one gathering of people and then the next. “Harley! Harley!” Of course. She was friendly, talking with everyone as she loosely supervised Harley… but I could feel myself cringe and lower my eyes as she entered our little group – relieved as she plodded off again. Yes. Hard heart fully intact.
A man arrived on shore with his bare foot dripping with blood, cut from a broken bottle or sharp rocks beneath the water. His two companions floated up close behind him on an inflatable piece of pizza and an inflatable truck. Towing a Yeti cooler. One of the girl’s faces was covered from eyebrow to chin with dripping and dried mascara in such a way that she appeared to be wearing a strange mask. They made quite the entrance on the crowded beach.
Lobster girl motioned the bleeding man over and is reported to have said, “I’ve got this!” A loose circle of people surrounded her as she expertly poured vodka over his injured foot, holding it to her chest to elevate it. She quickly fashioned a makeshift shoe for him out of a foam drink holder and a shoelace. He clomped around in the rocky sand, appreciatively testing it out. The day was saved.
Other river-goers helped the inflatable trio figure out where they were and called an Uber for them. As we packed up to leave, Lobster girl had wandered into yet another group of people on the shore, demonstrating her older dog’s tricks. I sensed the same desire for distance from them that I had felt earlier. Their conversation slightly changed and they almost took a step back.
What is it about this woman that so quickly makes me (and others) avoid her? Her words are friendly, her actions kind. She possibly has had too much alcohol to drink, but she probably isn’t the only one in a gathering this large. There is just something so disturbing about her… and truthfully, I know what it is…
She is ‘not my people’. She is kind of fascinating to watch from a distance – but seriously, I don’t want her to come too close. And here it is as I read the words of truth this morning of Mr. Evans:
“The tragedy is that often we become harder toward people as we walk with God. If so, something is terribly amiss.”
What is the remedy? The humbling cure for a hard heart is the reminder that Jesus took off his heavenly garments and clothed himself in human flesh to come to us. If he came to us, dressed in our own skin, then I should do the same.
I need to slip on the sunburned, awkwardly tattooed skin of the woman on the beach. Take a deep breath. And smile back.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)
Are you aware of your lack of love or compassion for the people around you? What do you do to soften your heart?
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.