A Pause To See

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When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

“It’s only common sense that God guards all who have made love their business and who have, as a result, stopped worrying about themselves, having lost that desire.” The Book Of Privy Counsel, pg. 195

When I learned to drive an automobile I was taught to see in a particular way. It was called “defensive driving” where every other car on the road was a potential threat to and danger to my safe arrival at my destination, and ultimately to my life. I was challenged to pause and look both ways to avoid oncoming traffic. I was frequently encouraged to check my review mirror as I backed up to avoid pedestrians and parked cars. I was admonished to check my side mirrors and look over my shoulder as I attempted to change lanes. I was told to keep my eyes on the road and not let other things distract me from the destination and the danger. This was the way I was taught to drive my car.

My car was a small red Austin America that looked sort of cool, but proved to be less than adequate in upkeep or performance. I at times referred to it as a “tin can on wheels”. Being small and lacking in great power, I often felt a little less secure when driving next to a moving van, an eighteen wheeler or a city bus. They, in comparison to my car, were enormous. It was a true David and Goliath scenario, yet with the absence of slingshot and stones with which to fight back. It tended to reinforce the theme of “defensive driving”.

I have realized that I can at times go through life relationally with the same “defensive driving” attitude and perspective. I see people, yet they are characterized as objects to be avoided, obstacles impeding my swift arrival at my destination, and generally a threat to the successful and timely accomplishment of my agenda. They may also at times just be seen as fuel cells to use up and discard along the way. It sounds pretty callous and horrifying even as I write it.

I was reading in the gospel of Matthew today and began reflecting on the way Jesus paused to see people. In one instance it said that while traveling to all the towns and villages teaching and healing He saw the crowd. But the difference in His pause to see the crowd was His reaction to them. Rather than becoming anxious and defensive, Jesus had compassion. Rather than seeing a threat to Himself or His mission He saw them as they truly were, “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. Jesus paused to see them and recognized their condition. He paused to recognize their need. He was neither self absorbed, distracted, or consumed by some agenda. He saw a crowd made up of individuals and had compassion on them. People, their lives and welfare, were the mission of Jesus. Therefore they never seemed to pose a threat, but instead offered an opportunity to pause, to see, to diagnose and respond appropriately to their condition.

I find in my life that in encountering other human beings I can easily either be looking down at my own feet or looking past them to the next place I’m supposed to be. Even in the moments I physically stop to interact with others I may not be pausing the inner striving toward my agenda. It’s that inner work of pause I need so that I might be fully attentive outwardly to the people I encounter along the way. Only as my life is receptive and available to the transforming power of Jesus will I see with His eyes the real condition of the people along the way. Only as I see with His eyes will I notice the true condition of their lives. Only as His love and grace fill me will I have the kind of deep compassion Jesus has for others. But for Jesus it began with the pause to see people, rather than avoid, look beyond or marginalize any human being. It called for a pause to see people and treat people with compassion.

I believe defensive driving in an automobile is a good thing. But I’m not sure it is helpful in the same way when we journey in this world with Jesus. We need to trust Jesus and pray for the vision to see humanity as He sees them, harassed and helpless in need of a good shepherd. Don’t let your defensive driving skills define your following of Jesus and your relational efforts. May you have the grace to pause and truly see as Jesus sees this day!

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