How could you just leave me standing
alone in a world that's so cold?
Does that sound familiar? I mean, apart from the fact that it is a lyric to a popular 80s song. Does it sound like the cry of a human heart, maybe even your own at some point in time? It's familiar to me.
The world is cold, and we're all still trying to find our place in it for our time here. It pulls in so many ways. It tells us so many partial truths. It leads this way and that, and never, never brings safety or satisfaction. Don't we all know it, deep inside?
I wrote a few days back about the lack of understanding we often have for one another, and how for believers, even where we have differences in our perspective, we're all still covered by grace. (That post is here.)
We need grace so much, even those of us who have received it from God. We still need it from one another. Do we forget? Do we forget how desperate we were for it when it came? Do we forget that those who don't yet know it are standing alone in a world that's so cold?
I know at one time I held a smug satisfaction that somehow I had found answers. I was convinced that I was good. Had it all together. I could look down, then, on those who weren't there yet. I could see their specks even around my own arrogant plank. I am thankful that through a number of different (and some catastrophic) events, God took me down on that position. He peeled me raw and showed me anew my own need. He showed me anew his mercies, and this not of myself, so that I could no longer boast. He opened my eyes to my poor state, and the poor state of others around me. Standing, alone in a world that's so cold.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, he says. Poor in spirit. If poverty is the absence of wealth, then the poor in spirit may just be those who are not indwelt with the powerful Holy Spirit--the ones standing alone, for the presence of the Spirit removes that solitude in a way that binds us eternally and inseparably to our Maker and Savior. I was poor in spirit when he came to me.
And it is because of his mercies (Romans 12:1) that I can see my poverty being met by the one and only thing that works: his own riches.
When Jesus looked on the masses of humanity, though he can see in a way none of us can, he didn't see their filth and turn away in disgust. He didn't comment on their provocative behavior, their greed, their flaunting of material wealth, their confidence in themselves. He saw their poverty. He saw sheep without a Shepherd. He saw neediness. And he filled it--practically with bread that multiplied in his own hand to meet every need with abundance, but we all know that was just a symbol of the reality of the soul-needs he meets in intimate communion with those who were once his enemies--the unfaithful people he made into a people, he elevated to Bride, to joint heirs with himself. You who were not my people shall be called My People.
I think it's significant that in the Bible, the dove represents the poor, the poor in spirit, and it also represents peace, provision, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, descending from heaven. The dove, you may know, was the sacrifice of choice for those who could not afford mammals at offering time. Jesus himself was ritually covered by the bird sacrifice when his parents went to the Temple after his birth. The Man of Sorrows.
When God made his covenant with Abraham and the animals representing the two parties were presented, they were cut apart, but it was God himself who passed between the pieces to say, "If this covenant is broken, then this is what will be: that I, God himself, will be divided and suffer the punishment of death." And that is what happened. The triune God separated himself. The Trinity was rent, and one Person of it took the death penalty. But note: even looking ahead from that point in Genesis, the dove at the Abrahamic covenant was not cut up. It was not rent. It was simply spread open at the heart.
From that point forward, the sacrificial system recognized this. The sacrifice of the poor was not to be broken, merely opened up.
We are the doves, we poor in spirit. We who understand our impoverished state and cry out for mercy, and he does not break us. He broke for us, and we respond, by opening our hearts wide and offering that openness to receive him.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, because of the mercies of God, we offer ourselves, our bodies, as living sacrifices. Living! No longer alone in a world that's so cold. We so need that grace.
Can we then look out at the masses, can we see them that way too? As doves crying, poor in spirit, but still at a loss for what they need?
If Jesus, who had every right to condemn us for our lost state, chose not to bring blanket condemnation but instead to come to save, with mercy and compassion and affirming, unquestionable love, can we do the same, even for those whose style of crying out makes us uncomfortable?
I decided recently that I was going to choose not to be a picketer, nor a bumper-sticker preacher. I want, instead, to be one who puts an arm around a shoulder. It's hard. I have to remind myself frequently of the position I want to take, the one I think is the more appropriate response. That smug satisfaction wants to come back. It keeps creeping up and I have to remember God's mercies, and my own poverty-stricken state, and reject it. It's harder for me in some areas than others, but compassion for the lost or for the seeking or the wounded is growing.
I can't say for certain what all the right actions are in every situation. But venting frustration at what I consider to be a flaw in another person is unlikely to bring that person the sustenance he or she needs to be filled. Instead, I hope to learn to see those who ______ (fill in the blank here with the action that irritates you most: try to get something for nothing; show cleavage or belly buttons on Facebook; elevate themselves by cutting down others; ignore the needs of friends to pursue their own gain; etc.), as the needy ones, declaring that need in a way that lets someone know, "I have a hole in my heart! My identity is not complete! I need! I need!"
This is what it sounds like when doves cry.