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Stand UP

September 6, 2010

Suddenly a pungent odor entered the subway car, hitting my nose with alarm. No longer engulfed in the book I was reading, but interrupted by this smell of days old fish, I looked up to see the source of this putrid smell.

He walked in, filthy and undignified. He had to be– it’s how he survived. Walking from passenger to passenger, he held out a cup for donations and money, mumbling something in Korean, repeatedly.

They shifted in their seats, turned their gaze away– as if their shame was better to wear than pity. For a moment I was glad he could not see. Though, the coldness in the air was thick. Some couples began to whisper and chuckle. Others held their noses. I have to admit, I nearly covered my nose.

I saw a lady digging in her purse, pulling out her wallet. She pulled out some money. The man had passed by already, so she tried to reach out to him. She hovered over her seat with her legs still bent, arm exteded. The overly sized purse resting on her lap and a bag between her feet kept her imobile. She thought for a moment to get up and hand the money to him, but perhaps as she looked around the people standing in front of her ready to lunge and take her seat kept her from following through. Instead she lowered her stance and sat fully on the subway seat once again, money in hand. The man passed into the next car.

Conversation started again and their eyes were no longer shifting. The smell slowly faded, though it lingered– as if to remind us all of an opportunity to help a soul.

As I watched all of this my heart sank for that man. All at the same time I felt judgement rising in my heart. I knew that I had no room to judge, for I had been just as complacent as the others. Perhaps I said some prayers. Perhaps I intended good– even had compassion. Yet, I too, remained seated.

I realize that it is impossible to give money to everyone. There are times that the Lord prompts us to do something. I cannot put such a burden on myself as to give money to every single person in need that I come across.

Though, I did learn a lesson that day. As I watched the lady who began to give the man some money, I saw her heart. I saw that she did indeed want to extend compassion. She wanted to help. In the end, it proved too inconvenient. She might have lost her subway seat. She couldn’t reach. She couldn’t even speak up to call his attention. Her bags were too big. Her seat was too comfortable to lose.

Isn’t this how it is for so many of us. We want to help. We want to reach out. Our heart is there but then something prevents us. Whether it be our own selfishness, our own needs, time, resources, etc… we find ourselves only standing halfway, more ready to sit back down before fully standing and diving into another’s need.

I also thought about what compelled that lady to stand… but didn’t compel her enough to go all the way… When we reach out in our own capacity, it doesn’t follow-through. We end up landing upon our own needs and wants.

In contrast, Christ’s love is enough to compel us to reach out all the way. It’s HIS love that is extended when we reach out. We become HIS hands and HIS feet. What causes us to have compassion and lend a hand, some money, a prayer… it must be Christ’s love in us. On our own, we will only have enough in us to stand halfway and then sit back down. Christ’s love never fails. It endures. It is faithful to the end.

I was very convicted that day as I watched. We need to be a people who are willing to go all the way. If our hearts are there but we only stand halfway, what good have we done? What good did that lady do?

Whatever it is that you have a heart to do– have the courage, the stamina, the perseverance, the faithfulness, the selflessness– and above all — have Christ’s love which enables you to stand all the way and complete the call.

Even if you lose your seat, so to speak, stand all the way.

———

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

————–

Take note: The picture above is not the actual lady, but it was a picture I had that closely resembled the scene.
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