What Do You See?

coffee3.jpgMost of the day, when I am at my desk, I generally listen to music.  The volume is very low, but the music has a way of helping me study and think.  Most of the time I listen to something mellow.  I generally listen through iTunes or Last.fm.  (Are you familiar with Last.fm?  I love it!  They bill themselves as "personalized Internet radio."  Also, it is free.)

While at my desk yesterday, I read an article in the Waco Tribune Herald about a woman who died this week and was found inside an outdoor heating and air conditioning unit at a local middle school.  This woman was only a few steps away from her home where she lived by herself.

She was 68 years old and the daughter of a former mayor of Waco (1960s).  During her childhood years, her parents were wealthy and a popular couple in our city.  Meanwhile, what was unknown to many people was that they had a daughter.  She was rarely seen in public with them.  This daughter had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  One friend of the family said, "This was just a tragic family."

Years later, this woman married and continued to live in Waco.  I met her one day when she came by the office.  We had a brief conversation and she went on her way.

The word "tragic" seems to fit.

I was thinking today about a few other tragic situations I have seen:


  • A high school student raised in a setting where few, if anyone, really seemed to care about him.  He became angry and defiant during his teen years.  He seemed starved for whatever positive attention any adult might give him.
  • A young man whose parents divorced when he was at a very critical age.  He spent his early twenties roaming from one job to another.  He bounced from one relationship to the next.  In his mid-twenties, he seemed very, very lost.
  • An older woman whose son committed suicide years ago.  Since that day, she has pulled away from friends and family and has become a very bitter and angry person through the years.

These are tragedies.  These are just three examples, but I could go on and on citing numerous situations with various people. 

I am impressed that Jesus looked at people like this and saw them for what they were.  They were helpless and lost.  He spoke of them as being "… sheep without a shepherd."  He saw their need and felt compassion (Matthew 9:36-38). 

If I were to look through his eyes, what would I see?  How does this compare with what I see through my own eyes?

Sometimes, I will deal with a person who is just hard to figure out.  I have found it helpful to imagine what that person might have been like as a child.  Somewhere inside this adult, is this child.  Jesus has known this person since she was a child.  He sees more than her obnoxious behavior or her foul attitude.  He sees this person as someone created by the Father and in desperate need of an ongoing relationship with the one who made her.

Now, I would like to see people like that.  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “What Do You See?

  1. The method you mention of looking at someone imagining them in childhood is great, I often do this when I am struggling to have grace with someones character which seems so embittered and contorted by bad experience and age. I imagine them as children, the optimistic attitudes and the care free fun they would have enjoyed, and it always helps me to love them. It can also remind us to be compassionate to people who seems so hard and impersonal, or so authortarian and over bearing it is difficult to ever imagine a relational side to their character. Great post Jim.

  2. We have so many people come through our church office wanting to speak with the pastor and needing money for whatever reason. The stories are so similar, their lies so apparent, that most of them I ignore. (Not proud of that, just a fact of life.) But yesterday a man wanted me to pray with him. It was during study time. Wanda asked if I wanted to take time to see him. I didn’t. But something inside (Holy Spirit) nudged me to take the time, which I did. When we prayed together, I hope my prayer was a blessing to him … for his was definitely a blessing to me, and to the rest of my day! As always, a good post, Jim.

  3. Greg,Thanks for your comment.  Thanks especially for your honesty and candor.  I think many people can identify with you. 

  4. Thanks Liam–What is interesting to me is know something about a person’s childhood and now as an adult.  Sometimes the same old insecurities that were present in the child are still present in this person with a 30 year old body.This has a way of reminding me that this person is not just an obstacle but a human being.  

  5. Jim, I took Jim and Cindy to the store Sunday to get some groceries.  I’ve known Jim for a few months.  He was an alcoholic for over twenty years.  He hasn’t had a drink in 19 years.  Cindy came to church with him this past Sunday.  She called me Father and thought my office (a house next to the church building) was a convent for nuns.  She had called a few days earlier asking to borrow money for food.  They are very poor.  She’s diabetic and had to buy extra medicine last week (Jim has a terribe disease he contracted during his drugging and drinking).  While driving to the store I asked her about her childhood.  What I heard broke my heart.  She wasn’t allowed to eat at the table with her 7 siblings.  Her abusive mother made her eat out of a dog bowl in the basement–with the dog.  She described how lovely the dog was; "He always let me eat mine first before he’d act like he wanted any."  She was locked in a room like a wild animal.  Didn’t have a bed, but was forced to sleep in a Salvation Army box.  Her dad, who eventually commited suicide, was an alchoholic and wasn’t much help.  She’d sneak out at night to get a peanut butter sandwich from a friend in the neighborhood (she slip it through the window).  When she was rescued into foster care she was 30 lbs under weight at 14 years old.  She was quickly abused, and fled.  She grew up unloved on rugged streets where she fell into alcholism and cocaine adiction.  She’s not had either in 8 years.  I told my small group about her situation and we feel blessed that God might use us to love and serve these two beautiful people.  We’ve got their grocery list and will be helping take care of the food needs, while training Cindy how to cook nutritional meals.  And, Jim and Cindy are excited about talking about Jesus in their apartment and inviting their friends every Thursday beginning next week.  My prayer is that Jim and Cindy know a lot of people just like them and that our Father will give us the unthinkable honor of being Christ for them.   To be with them, to serve them, to embrace and feed them is to know why Jesus spent so much time with those oppressed by the effects of sin.  It is what we’re made for; our souls know before I vocabulary even catches up.  Ben 

  6. Dad, I really liked and can relate to what you said at the very end of this blog. I truly beleive that certain people ,whether I like their company or not, are placed into our lives at a particular moment in time in order for particular events to occur.  This person could be a friend, co-worker, teaher, etc. who steps in and out of my life.  I truly believe that God places certain people into my realm to teach me humility, patience, obidience, love, and respect.  At times when I really despise someone, I have to say to myself that the same God that loves me, loves this person as well. I have to realize that we are all God’s children.  As I live day to day, I think it is important to remember everyone has their own particular tradegy in their lives. Whether it be dealing with a mental disorder, divorce in the family, failing a test, whatever, with this in mind, treat everyone with the compassion and mercy that God has taught us about.  You never know what someone is going through, therefore we should always treat people with the love of God. Anyways, I dont know if this made any sense….love u

  7. A while ago, I met a young man who was sixteen. He had had some things go wrong for him. He had lukemia when he was ten. His grandmother had alzheimers. He just had a hard life. I was able to talk to him for a long while one day. I told him that we didn’t have to talk about what had happened, if he didn’t want to. He responded by saying, "No, actually I do. It feels really nice to tell someone who actually listens." I think a main thing that we can do for someone in a tragic situation is just let them know that we care. Bring Jesus to them. Sorry this is a little long. Once again, great blog!

  8. Ben,What a powerful story!  Wow…such a sad and tragic early life.  Unbelievable how someone could treat her that way.  I will be thinking about this story for sometime.How blessed she is to be around you and your life group.I appreciate you, Ben.  You have a heart for the Lord and his heart for people.  Will look forward to hearing more about this couple.  

  9. Jamie (ruby:),What a wonderful comment!  You have expressed this much better than I did in the post.  You are so right.  Everybody does have something they are dealing with.  And—God uses everyone to teach us or shape us in some way.(You need to be writing these posts instead of me!)

  10. Brittany,Good comment!  You are so right. God often uses us in powerful ways–even through listening intently to someone.Thanks!  I hope you will comment again.