The heat floods your senses like disease takes the body. Slowly, inch by inch. Eventually you are overcome by a total sense of continual warmth. Perhaps it was the heat. Maybe it was the stench of the city and human refuse that finally snapped her mind. Nonetheless, she had lost it, and lost it completely.
On the other hand, maybe that is unfair of me to assign such a title to her, without actually knowing her situation.
So let's start from the beginning. I had been in Myanmar for less than a week. As far as I was concerned, that was enough. I checked into a shoddy guest house eight miles from down town. Given the keys to my room, I walked down a hallway that would lead me to my room for the next seven days. Days that would drag into eternity until I upgraded.
Mine was the first on the left, after the shady staircase and narrow hallway mirror. A padlock resembling a lock that once guarded the secrets of my sisters diary hung from a simple hinge. I wouldn't be leaving any valuables in this room.
Three days later, curiosity drove me from my room in the afternoon. Drove me onto a path that led to her. Leaving the guest house, I passed scenes of opulence and poverty. Buddhist temples plated with gold snuggled next to children relieving themselves in gutters.
Each house, each street brought more curious faces and inquisitive stares. I would never get used to being watched so intently.
Kids waved and giggled. Men gave dead eye stares. Women, shy glances. But one stuck out from the rest. As I emerged from the back streets, there she was.
Dishevelled hair. Faded and stained white top. A top that was really more of a stained yellow than white. Spots of dirt, sweat, and God knows what else was paired with a pink skirt stained with dirt and dust.
She stood, amongst dirt and broken cement, waving her hands back and forth through the air as if fending off some viciously invisible assailant. Screaming and groaning she continued until all the energy from her malnourished body was spent. Then she sat. In the dust. Staring while those around her mocked her insanity.
As I returned home, all I could think was, what do we as the church have to offer such a broken world? And how could my heart get so jaded that I could not experience an ounce of sympathy for this woman?
We all have similar experiences. These may visit us daily or weekly, but they do come. Times where we just simply do not have the energy to love. The emotional capacity to dwell in the brokenness of this world.
Our hearts have become jaded, and we live in that bliss. The gospel as always offers distinct remedies to our blissfully jaded hearts.
Theology of the Cross
We begin by understanding that all our reflection and all our activity must stem from a deep understanding of the cross. By reflecting on God being for us in Jesus on the cross, we can be freed from our own ambitions.
The redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross releases us from needing to secure any righteousness of our own. When we love others, our activity can be detached from the need for personal achievement or character growth, and exist solely in the realm of being for the other.
Living in Light of the Promises
The second thing we can reflect on are the promises of God. Isaiah chapter 58 verses 6-8 promise that when we live for the other, substantial change will occur in our own lives.
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard."
So next time you see someone in need. At the office. At the supermarket. At home. In your friend group. Or a stranger on the street. Reach beyond your jaded heart, and see the light of the gospel break forth like the dawn.
Dan Peterson lives near Chicago, Illinois, USA. He enjoys discovering old books, new places, and good coffees. His dream is to summit a mountain on every continent and have a pet pygmy marmoset.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html