Once upon a time, the street was lined with newly constructed homes and manicured lawns and perennials that came back every year. With neighbors that greeted each other as they walked from their cars and up the steps into their homes. With vehicles left unlocked and front doors left open. With the sound of children playing and laughing as daylight receded and drew to a close.
But that was some time ago. And now, those houses have chipped paint and tattered flags. Now the windows frame torn curtains and the roofs have Christmas lights that are falling off in spring. Now the flowerbeds are overgrown, and the leaves from fall gather on the steps even though it is summer, mixed with garbage all around. Now the laughter has grown silent, and the children have turned into adults with gaunt faces and eyes that lack hope.
This is what it looks like when people have given up, I think to myself as my daughter pushes her doll in a stroller down this street of broken dreams.
I wanted to give up, too, by this point. This wasn’t what we signed up for when we scribed our signatures on that lease and unpacked boxes and hung pictures on our walls. I didn’t know when we moved in that addiction owned my new street. I didn’t know until it became apparent that all signs of life only appeared after dark, and until I saw someone using at the curb of my front lawn.
And here’s the thing that I realized as I looked out my bedroom window and saw him sink onto the concrete step and drop his head into his hands. As a flicker of compassion began to invade my feelings of being inconvenienced: I may want to move out, but God does not. God moves in. I grow weary and annoyed, but he is compassionate.
In Matthew 9:36, it says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” It is all laid bare before him. The stories of the people who live behind these doors that stay closed. The events that happened along the way in their lives. The trigger that led Steve to pick up a bottle for the first time. The reason that Annie sells herself and has sad eyes. The memories that harass and leave them helpless, like a sheep that is lost and wandering in open pasture with no sense of direction.
And on this street where it seems that dreams have been buried and have come to die, there I saw him that day as we took a walk. He was on his knees in his front yard digging his hands into the soil, weeding his flowerbed and planting new flowers. Like a picture of God himself, right in the middle of this street where no one else looks up and where no one bothers to pick up what has been dropped. Where no one cares to plant flowers anymore or even tries to change the landscape of what it has become.
He had not lost his ability to care. He didn’t ask himself what’s the point. Instead, he drove his truck to the local garden center and loaded the bed down with peonies and thought to himself, I think I will plant some beauty here. He believed it was still worth investing in.
May we remember that God does the same. May resurrection be something that we don’t just confess with our mouths, but something that we believe in our hearts and live out in our actions. When we walk in desolate areas, may we still see the daffodils that bloom in unlikely places and hear the wind chime that was hung and forgotten, but still plays its beautiful melody. May God resurrect us to the place in our hearts where childlike innocence still exists and our view of the world is one that refuses to give up hope.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Take a moment and think about a person or a situation in your life that seems beyond hope, or likely to never change. We are finite human beings and our comprehension of time and the work of God is limited to our human understanding. We are prone to compassion fatigue, and to grow weary and disheartened rather than trusting God to intervene in lives and situations that appear hopeless. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” May we remember that when Jesus looked upon the crowd that seemed helpless, he felt compassion. He feels it toward others; He feels it toward our situation. May we do the same.
PRAYER Father, thank you that your understanding and compassion far exceeds my own. Help me to continually grow in my ability to see others the way that you do and to show them the love of God that does not grow weary or run short in supply. Thank you for the reminder that you can resurrect and redeem situations that seem beyond hope, including my own. Amen.
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