Thursday, May 16, 2013

Loving Plants More Than People

     My family frequently reminds me that I am not the most compassionate person in the world. I definitely belong to the "rub some dirt in it" school of thought. Now don't get me wrong, if my daughter is hurt then I will drop everything to pick her up and hold her until she is all better. And if someone beats me to her, then I will straight up pry her out of their arms. God has also given me a significant amount of grace with teenagers. I don't know why, but teenagers rarely make me genuinely frustrated.

     But since my sister has been sick, I feel like my little bit of compassion has begun to dwindle. I see people complaining on Facebook and a part of me is tempted to say, "You think you have problems! Look at my life. Look at my sister's life!" It is almost like I have decided that no one else deserves to feel pain or stress because they aren't living with MY problems. It's like I think that I have the corner market on pain and suffering.

     How hard-hearted is that?!

     When did Jesus look at His disciples and say, "Your problems are insignificant"? Sure, He told them that they focused on the wrong things, but even in Gethsemane, He had compassion for their frailty. After finding His disciples sleeping when He had asked them to pray, He said to them, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is week" (Matt. 26:41). Jesus was about to die to make atonement for the world's sin (including His sleepy disciples), and yet, in this time of agony, He recognized their human frailty. It is in passages like this that I am amazed and astounded at the perfection of Jesus. The Lord know that my best response would have probably been "Father,  I will atone for the world... except for my lazy and unfaithful disciples." It is in passages like this where I am confronted with how often spite resides in my heart.

     I was recently reading through the book of Jonah in my devotional time and I was again reminded to be on guard against hard-heartedness. In children's books, the story of Jonah ends with God sparing the repentant city of Nineveh from destruction after Jonah gives them a warning. The people repent and God is merciful.

     But this leaves out the whole ending of the story! After walking through the city while preaching his one sentence sermon, Jonah goes outside the city, sits on a hill, and begins the count down to fire and brimstone. The repentance of Nineveh"displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry" (Jonah 4:1), so he begged God to kill him. Instead, God causes a plant to grow to provide Jonah with shade. When God allows the plant to die the next day, Jonah again tells God He is unfair and, again, asks God to kill him. The Lord responds by saying, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:10-11). And the book ends. No response from Jonah. Did he remain hard-hearted and continue to whine before the Lord? What he repentant? Indifferent? I don't know. The book ends with the Lord's merciful correction hanging in the air.

    Perhaps, Jonah's response isn't important. Maybe the focus should be how do I respond when I am confronted with my own callousness. Maybe I am supposed to question how I respond when I realize that I love plants or money or comfort or my own self-pity more than other people.

May my heart break for the things that truly matter. Thank you for being gracious and compassionate even though I do not deserve it.

1 comment:

  1. Was glad to slip in on you and read your thoughts. Yes, everyone is carry some kind of problem. We all need to remember that when our problems seem so great! Love Ya! Marlynne