Angels with Dirty Faces

Never have I appreciated the luxury that is air conditioning until this weekend. 83+ degrees in my apartment the past two days and it’s nearly been the death of me. Praise God for cold showers, orange julius’, and strawberry lemonade smoothies.

Every year I’m excited for the 4th of July, and it’s mostly because of the fireworks, but after spending my last two summers at Gas Works I’ve begun to appreciate the gathering of people so much more. An estimated 50,000 people came to the park this year, or at least that’s how many was expected, and simply walking through the swarms of all the different breeds of Seattleites has me pumped to be a part of it. Sure, pot and cigarettes inevitably came my way, but they were more than worth the privilege of sitting amongst members of the city I hold dearest. So here’s to you, Seattle, and all your dirty yet beloved glory!

The group of us managed, through a combined effort of multiple shifts, to stand in line for three hours, sit under the smoldering sun for another ten, and then reap our reward of a half hour firework show. One couldn’t ask for better. I took over the blazing shift from 2-6, but only after I slathered on gallons of sunscreen because I refuse to burn as badly as last year. When Cam and I started this tradition we failed to realize the 13 hours straight of sunlight will kill you, as we faced the consequences of massive sunburns from our backs to our eyes. I couldn’t wear contacts for the rest of July after that wretched day. To my utmost joy, Bill’s girlfriend, Mari, left me a massive umbrella, so I sought shelter when I felt my skin crying for sweet mercy.

In the midst of doing my time I read snidbits of multiple books , but the greatest of which was The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. Zosel tipped me off to this book because the SMCs for next year are encouraged to read it in light of aiding their ministry. Looks like God’s doing the same for my role in His divine plan as well.
“The compassionate man stands in the midst of his people but does not get caught in the conformist forces of the peer group, because through his compassion he is able to avoid the distance of pity as well as the exclusiveness of sympathy. Compassion is born when we discover in the center of our own existence not only that God is God and man is man, but also that our neighbor is really our fellow man.

Through compassion it is possible to recognize that the craving for love that men feel resides also in our own hearts, that the cruelty that the world knows all too well is also rooted in our own impulses. Through compassion we also sense that our hope for forgiveness in our friends’ eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths. When they kill we know that we could have done it; when they give life we know that we can do the same. For a compassionate man nothing human is alien; no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.” pg. 41

Jesus, the King of Compassion, knew it all, sought it all, and healed it all. What did He see when the hemorrhaging woman touched His cloak? When He preached to the thousands before miraculously feeding them? When the Gerasene demoniac was locked up in his cave? He saw a people in need, a creation so beautiful that He extended the offer of relationship with Him as His single, most magnificent gift. I’m sure He saw more than the sorrow filled face of the needy, but looked further to see a glimpse of Himself, because He knew that their suffering was His burden to bear as well.

So what are we to do with this? I wonder, usually when I’m walking down the street, but today, while scanning the crowd around me, “How does Jesus see these people, and how is it different from my own vision? What does it mean to be equipped with the eyes of God and to see the brokenness and longing of my brother? To see that man slumped under the overhang and not walk away pitying his situation, but acting on conviction? What does it mean to serve with such fervor that one throws their life away for that given moment only to find it grasped and given back by Christ when He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’” I think it lies in the fact that each person out there is just like us, equally loved and enjoyed by God. And when we understand this love, well, compassion becomes our point of authority in which we derive our strength and voice. We must see the Jesus in people in order to help them, for it’s when we ask how and allow ourselves to bear the eyes of God that we may have confidence in knowing our love is pure and our neighbored cherished.

“It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped.” pg. 44

He’s there. Just keep looking.

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~ by Chris Kyle on July 5, 2009.

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