I have a bad habit of walking too fast.
This serves me well when I’m trying to get some exercise and burn off extra calories from last night’s bowl of chocolate chip mint ice cream (please tell me I’m not the only one). But it’s not helpful when I’m walking through my house while simultaneously working remotely, negotiating with teenagers, and doing the laundry. Let’s just say I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve stubbed — and broken — a toe on a table leg or bed frame. Few things throb quite as strongly as a busted baby toe. Although small and seemingly inconsequential, a broken toe quickly becomes all I can feel and think about, the pain all-consuming and blinding.
Even so, I still catch myself moving too fast. My life feels completely overwhelming. And often I’m so focused on where I’m headed and what I need to accomplish that I fail to give attention to everything else around me. I’m like a train, determined to get to the safety of the station that I’m oblivious to the scenery I pass on my way. Problem is, I sometimes plow through more than table legs, including the people in my path, without a second thought.
Like a bruised baby toe, difficult life seasons — like the one we’re all currently in the middle of — can be all-consuming. Whatever our unique crises and challenges, our individual pain throbs like a bruised and broken toe until it’s all we can think about. Personal challenges blind us to the individual challenges of the people all around us. This is understandable, for a time. Pain, by its very nature, requires attention. It’s an alarm that alerts us to the fact that something is wrong. We must heed the warning so that in time we may heal.
But temporary attention can easily slip into a habit of self-consumption. We think our trials are bigger than the next person’s, our struggles more impossible and life-altering than what another endures. Learning to ‘see beyond me’ is about choosing to slow down, to make space, to listen, and to intentionally resist the isolation of individual pain in order to share life — and its heartaches — together. At best, we’re simply clueless. At worst, we’re utterly hardened and unmoved.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)
Following Jesus’ example of humility before God, Paul urges each of us to learn to see (and serve) beyond ourselves. This doesn’t mean beating ourselves to a pulp in constant, tireless service without caring for our health and families. And this doesn’t mean completely disregarding the very real day-to-day pain points that require our honest attention.
But this does mean that we willingly, intentionally, consciously strive to see the faces and challenges of the real people all around us and that we seek to serve them with the same tender compassion and tangible love we ourselves have received from the Savior Himself.
I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, the past year of near constant national and global crises has left you a bit near-sighted. It’s understandable, my friend. I’m right there with you. I’m juggling more than enough tension and difficulty within the four walls of my home. I have little energy or mercy leftover for anyone else.
And yet, we are people saved by a God who left the comfort of heaven for the predicament of earth. And if I want to follow His lead, as much as my tired flesh will allow me, I need to intentionally push against the self-consumption that tempts me to grow callous and hardened to the needs of a broken world.
Want to join me? Here are a few questions I’m learning to ask when I’m with others. I may not be able to solve their problems or cure their pain, but I can listen. And I can see.
- What is the best part of your life right now?
- What is the hardest thing in your life right now?
- What is it like for you, day to day?
- What do you wish was different about your day-to-day life?
- What has been helpful for you over the past few days/weeks/months/year?
- What do you wish people knew about you?
- What gives you a sense of peace or joy right now?
- What do you need more of?
Remember, learning to “see beyond me” isn’t about solving problems or fixing what’s broken. It’s about choosing to slow down, to lift our heads and see beyond our own agendas and stubbed toes, to make space, to listen, and to intentionally resist the isolation of individual pain in order to share life — and its heartaches — together.Leave a Comment