I feel terrible today, and not for the usual reasons of illness or fatigue, though I am still sick with congestion and completely burnt out from report cards.
The reason why I feel terrible was initially rather inexplicable, actually; it was this jumble of mixed feelings that sort of leapt into my heart when I stopped at a red light while I was driving home this afternoon. As I was stopped, I happened to look to the left side of the intersection, where a person in a wheelchair was perched near the garbage can close to the crosswalk. I think that the individula was waiting to cross. I couldn't help but stare at this person, because her (I presume it was a woman though I couldn't really tell through the layers of clothing) upper body was twisted up in a completely contorted manner, and it was difficult to figure out what she was doing. After a few moments of impolite staring, I directed my attention to the right side of the street, where several people, who appeared to be returning to the office after a business lunch, stood waiting to cross.
Again, my eyes were drawn back to the lone individual on the left. By now, she had de-contorted her torso and was sitting upright in her chair. I can only imagine that the contortionist movement was an attempt to scratch a hard-to-reach area of her back that was made even less accessible by the back of the wheelchair. Anyway, I don't know that this person noticed as I observed her slowly wheeling her ride across the street, several quiet moments before the light actually turned green. I awkwardly stared as long as I could, but then my light did turn green and my focus redirected towards the road. Through my peripheral I could see that the business people had taken no notice of the one in the wheelchair, it seems they were lost in their own conversation on the opposite side of the road, still waiting to cross.
It was at that moment that this absolutely awful feeling crept into my heart and gripped at it violently. Was it pity? Compassion? Even on a good day I'm pretty self-centered, so I found myself ruling out those possibilities. As other psychoanalytical thoughts raced through my brain to make sense of my sudden emotional response, it dawned on me.
I felt terrible because, for a split second, metaphysical reality became physical reality, and in that brief moment I was seeing this person, this world, through Jesus' eyes, and experiencing Jesus' sadness. The awful ache in my heart was His ache - maybe not for that woman in the wheelchair, or for those who ignored her, but for the general hurting world that seems to be so wrapped up in itself that it no longer sees anyone else in it. I was getting a temporary glance at fallen humanity, and my heart was revealing the groaning of a world lost that has become lost and without hope.
This terrible feeling of grief mingled with sadness and sorrow only lasted briefly, and then it released its hold and began to fade away. My thoughts, however, did not disappear quite so quickly, and even now the image of that contorted body in the wheelchair is vivid in my mind's eye.
As we approach a cooler season, and the build-up towards the holiday season, I cannot help but think about those who will find themselves alone again this Dec. 25th, without family or friends or hope to sustain their lives. Once more the starkness of the contrast between the ones who have much and the ones who have nothing will become increasingly apparent; again we who are blessed with abundance will turn away awkwardly, not wishing to stare or not willing to acknowledge those less fortunate than we are on the other side of the road. Again we will find ourselves wrapped up in our own conversations about gifts and turkey dinners and reuniting with family and friends, oblivious to the ones around us who have nothing to be joyful for and nobody to be joyful with. Or will we?
I would like this year to be different for me. I hope you do, too.