This morning my Google phone alarm woke me at 5:00 a.m. as usual. Because Google has thought of everything, a robotic feminine voice proceeded to inform me of the headlines in the news: the continuing war between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East that has killed more than 200 people, the Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case that may challenge Roe v. Wade, the unenforceable (read: problematic) honor code system effected by the CDC’s recent announcement to allow vaccinated people to discontinue wearing masks except in certain places…To top this off, I received an email informing me that dear friends of our church are today facing the devastation of flood waters destroying their home and office where their missions work is headquartered. All this in my head. At 5:00 a.m. Why? Why am I checking email in bed? Why do I allow Google to download all this heavy news into my head before I have even brushed my teeth?
I didn’t used to. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to. I used to shut off the alarm and give myself permission to enjoy a few more minutes of peace under my white Sherpa comforter before getting up. It is a common leadership principle to guard the Morning Routine by not checking email, or social media, or the news before the most important tasks have been accomplished—reading, writing, praying, writing down the goals of the day. By 8:00 a.m. It’s a productivity hack. A way to carve out peace in a world of chaos. And it worked quite well for me.
Until one day when a friend was talking about something in the news that I knew nothing about. She looked at me like, “Where have you been?” The answer was embarrassing. I had been in my own controlled, closed world, working on my own projects and goals. I had made the choice to remain uninformed of what was happening in the global scope of my world, and therefore I was unaffected, at least directly. But here I was, caught in intentional ignorance, and intentional negligence, affected. I felt sheepish and irresponsible. It was a moment of Holy Spirit conviction. Suddenly my clever productivity hack, my executive habit for a highly effective person, my secret to growing a focused, “millionaire mindset,” exposed itself as the “haughty eyes” of the proud that Tim Keller addresses on May 12 of his devotional book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life:
“[The proud] look past [people] to the goals they have for themselves, for which others are mere instruments. They see others as a means to an end, as dispensers of acclaim, admiration, and other ways to bolster their self-image. Pride makes sympathy nearly impossible. Pride keeps us from really noticing people, from putting ourselves in their shoes, from recognizing when they are hurting or unhappy. It keeps us absorbed with our own agenda and needs.”
Keller is right—our own self-pity and self-absorption make us impatient with people who have problems. We want to surround ourselves with “low-maintenance” people. But that is only because we deceive ourselves into believing that we are low-maintenance people. The harsh reality is, we live in a sin-filled world of sinful people. Sin is high-maintenance. Dealing with our sins and others’ sins, managing its effects on us and those we love, trying to form the daily spiritual habit of repenting and believing…these are all high-maintenance activities that demand our intellect, emotions, energies, time, and finances. Because of our sins, we are high-maintenance people.
Keller reminds us that Jesus never looked past people and their problems. He, in Keller’s words, “looks us in the eye with a full ability to enter into our troubles.” When Jesus stepped into our world that holy night in Bethlehem, He did not enter a world of peace and calm. He entered into a world of conflict and chaos. Sin had reached its breaking point. When I reach my breaking point, I withdraw. I don’t read the news. I don’t socialize on Facebook. I delay in responding to email, texts, and voice messages. Instead of looking people in the eye to sympathize and understand their realities, I choose to protect myself by lifting my eyes to see past them. There is only so much I can handle.
But not Jesus. When sin reached its breaking point, Mary’s water broke. Jesus came to handle what I cannot. Because Jesus already assumed full responsibility for the problems in my world, I can look the problems in the eye without feeling overly pressured to solve them. So, God-enabling, I can handle the news at 5:00 a.m. in the morning. I can simply do my part to help—sometimes by giving, sometimes by going, always praying. In Christ, I can empathize with those in need without fear of getting crushed by their needs. This gradually increasing capacity to handle a high-maintenance world, it’s the miraculous, spiritual work of sanctification. Let us enjoy the experience of God gradually increasing not only our ability to acknowledge the state of sin in the world, but also our desire to counteract sin by blessing the world however we can. We begin by lowering our pupils to look into people’s eyes and not past them.
Today we have a timely opportunity to bless a EFCA ministry partner.
From our missions partner, Katrina Welch, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, yesterday:
“Our ministry center and my camper. 16 inches of rain in 6 hours. 8 inches inside. It is horrible. The folks of lake charles are hurting again. It is crazy. 4th record setting weather event in 8 months”
“Out of town for night. No power. No dry camper. So, staying away till morning. Will try to get back in tomorrow morning. Praying water recedes enough. The west end of our road is still waist deep. But we were able to get to church from the east side. But it took an hour to go five miles.” “It's ok. I'm good. Just hurting for all of the folks that we just rebuilt that have water again. Praying for the folks that just are so overwhelmed they don't know what to do. We lost our office stuff and our refrigerators. My camper will need a little work. But, I am good.”
Please send Katrina a text or email with your prayers and words of encouragement. She can be reached at: email@example.com
To give financially, go to
Give to a Missionary > Memo - Katrina Welch, Lake Charles
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