Tuesday, May 13, 2008

the rearview mirror

i heard a story a couple of weeks ago. it was about a guy who was struggling to pray for the people around the world who were hurting. not that he didn't want to. he just didn't know what to say, essentially. he was specifically talking about those who are left in pain from the iraqi war. i don't know if he was feeling it for both sides, or one in particular. in the end it doesn't really matter.

the story went that while in this difficult time of feeling intense compassion, yet unable to pray, that he was driving home through wisconsin and saw a doe and fawn on the side of a 4 lane highway. the deer decided to cross traffic as deer are prone to do. the doe made it, but the car in front of this guy hit the fawn's back legs and sent it spiraling down to the pavement. (at this point in the story, a collective gasp of empathy went out from the 100 or so folks in attendance.) this man made it around the deer without crippling it any further and then looked back through his rearview mirror to see the fawn frantically struggling to get up, but destined to its fate because of the injuries it sustained.

you know the number of thoughts that can flash through your mind in mere seconds...well, he had the same thing happen. he thought about going back to put it out of it's misery. he wondered how he would do that. he thought about the doe. and eventually, as the deer got smaller and smaller, he reasoned that someone else would have already intervened...called 911...called someone...and that going back now would be futile, redundant, or unnecessary. all this time his concern for the picture in the mirror never wavered. his heart was still full of feeling for that broken fawn.

but the mirror eventually showed only the empty road behind him...

or perhaps the headlights of other cars that drove past thinking it was a horrible situation...

but someone behind him would surely have done something...

to be honest, i can't recall how that sight allowed him, upon reflection, to pray for those people he had on his heart. i was busy sorting out this part of the story as it relates to the very difficulties he was having. i think we all see the bulk of this world through the rearview mirror. it's a picture or video on a small rectangular piece of glass showing us things that genuinely move us. they bring us to tears or make our hearts swell in anger or compassion or any number of genuine emotions. but the picture changes soon enough and, while we may reflect on it, we rarely go to the places where death and life hang in the balance. we rarely go to the places where it might cause our planned path to alter...where we might have to go back...where we might have to get out of our box containing the picture holder and touch the ones in the picture.

we hear that a cyclone could leave 1.5 million people dead...and we're deeply moved...but just inside. we're not physically moved. we see another 8 year old girl is shot while standing outside her house...and we think "what a world we live in"...but we stay in ours. we watch countless stories...each day they fill our windshields, and we manage to avoid them, and then watch sadly as they disappear.

it's tough. there's so many stories...never-ending stories. and sometimes getting hit and lying sprawled out on the pavement is entirely the fault of the story. why would we ever intervene when it's someone's own fault? even if it isn't, how can we ever keep up? as fast as one disappears, another one comes. sometimes they're 10 or 20 at a time. it's all we can do to keep from colliding with those stories. we're on a straight and narrow road and we've got somewhere to go. just the driving part of the story has loads of unpacking in it (what if we slowed down...walked? stayed?).

but what if we just stopped the car for one story...one picture. what if we turned around and didn't just feel for the situation...didn't just watch it slowly fade from memory? what if we all turned around for once...put the story back in front of us, stopped the car, and got involved? i think there's enough pictures to go around. i think we might see the collision that mattered was when we got out and met the story...met the people...met with Jesus. He did say that when we do intertwine with the story, we've done it unto Him. He also said if we don't, we don't know Him...not like we think we do.

that feeling we get when we look in the rearview is a good thing. it's a very good thing. it's just not designed to be the end of the story. it's not supposed to be left to wither under "someone else will get to that." it's supposed to make us turn around. without the action, we might as well just take down the mirrors. why entangle ourselves in those emotions if there's not gonna be some step, some turn, taken? we can focus on the race to the end of that straight and narrow road if we don't get distracted by these things. any runner will tell you turning around slows you down. any race car driver will tell you if you turn around you're gonna get passed. what kind of race would we be called to that asks us to turn around? maybe we're not supposed to turn around. maybe we're supposed to stop in the first place. maybe we should be so in tune with compassion, with loving mercy, that the race is walking humbly...and stopping at the collision instead of passing it. maybe we should be looking for places where collisions happen frequently and watching and waiting in those places.

i'm sure that all these pictures, whether a deer, the war in Iraq, or the 8 year old girl cause something in us. i'm sure that the response to pray...deeply...interventionally...would be a good thing. but we're praying for God to step in...and He's doing the same thing with us.