Working at a school, I have an especially keen sense of brokenness. Families who are broken apart by divorce and now the kids are being shuffled back and forth from one home to the other. Allegations of abuse as child protective service workers interview students in the adjacent conference room. Grandparents raising their grandchildren because parents are strung out on drugs. Police involvement because of an altercation between adults in front of the school.
I don’t need to turn on the nightly news to see the brokenness of our world. I see it every single day at work. The information that I know, the conversations that I hear, the involvement that I have…makes it quite clear there are a lot of hurting people.
It would be fairly easy to ignore the hurt and pain surrounding me. To stay comfortable in my little bubble. To focus solely on completing my tasks and going home to my safe, mostly normal family.
Maybe it’s because I come from a childhood of brokenness that I can see beyond the “bad behavior” of students to the hurt that’s inside. This sensitivity isn’t always appreciated by others. Some would prefer to focus on the child’s actions, with no thought to what else may be happening in his world.
Psalm 82:3 talks about defending the weak and the fatherless; upholding the cause of the poor and oppressed. If we want to even remotely portray Jesus to the world, there has to be a willingness to stand up for those who don’t have a voice. To see beyond the surface level of stuff to the deeper issues at hand.
I don’t say all this as a declaration of how I live each and every day. In all honesty, most days I can put aside the events that have transpired and go on with my business. I sit on the sidelines, watching things unfold, thinking only about getting to the end of my workday.
Every-once-in-a-while I get out of myself and genuinely care about someone else. I sincerely desire to improve the situation, understand the underlying issues and try to make some kind of positive difference.
It’s always risky to be a selfless person.
Maybe that’s why we’re prone to not step out. To turn our eyes away. To pretend it’s not a problem. To justify our inaction.
Sometimes there is a price to pay to be a selfless person. It may cost a relationship, your reputation or even your pride.
This past week I took a selfless risk. I came to the defense of two middle school boys, who from outward appearances didn’t “deserve” it. You might agree if you had heard their language and seen their body language. Yet I knew there was more going on than disrespect and cursing. I had knowledge of their backstory. I also observed the way they were being handled and how it wasn’t helping the situation.
So I stepped in. Or should I say, I stepped on some toes. In a school setting, the secretary doesn’t exactly rank above a teaching professional. But I felt the boys were at a disadvantage and I had to defend the weak.
It was one of those (sad to say) rarer moments of choosing not to bury my head in the sand, taking a risk, and ultimately, paying a price. In that moment I saw beyond myself. Overriding the outward behavior was an understanding of the inner hurt. This caused me to go into a protective mode, shielding them from what I felt was an inappropriate response and handling of the situation.
They needed someone to defend them, to have their backs. Because there really was more to the story than a couple of “unruly” students showing disrespect. I truly believe this insight and understanding came from God. In that moment, He called me to defend the weak.
It became a messy situation, with parents and police involved. Definitely uncomfortable. Certainly risky.
But here’s the thing. You can never go wrong in any situation when God is involved. The discomfort is a small price to pay when compared to the joy of knowing God has used you. And that’s what it’s really about…God. Not me choosing to care. Not me focusing on someone other than self.
I’m challenged to pay more attention to the hurt and pain surrounding me. To step out of my comfort zone. To focus on meeting the needs of others instead of watching the clock. To do what all believers are called to do…not just talk the talk but actually walk the walk. To be a true reflection of God’s love and grace.