A number of days ago I decided to visit our youngest daughter who lives 20 some miles away, near downtown Los Angeles. Twenty miles in LA traffic can be at minimum a 40 minute drive so I decided — just for the adventure of it — to take the metro to see her: a bus ride and then catching the Gold Line train to Union Station. The last part was a three-mile walk through China Town and Echo Park. I’m a people-watcher so public transportation and long walks bring rest to my soul. On a good day, I see people . . . I’m reminded that everyone I see — from the man being reprimanded for smoking weed on the bus, to those living in tents on the sidewalk beneath the freeway — everyone, including me, is a soul that needs Jesus.
On a bad day, I see others through the lenses of pride and insecurity. At Starbucks I am the customer who is easily irritated when someone else gets my favorite spot to sit. Social gatherings might momentarily drift toward others as long as the attention always returns to me. I skim posts and tweets only to judge the intentions of those who write them. I see the accomplishments of others and envy their success. On a bad day, no matter how much there is to be grateful for in my own life, I see the success of others and ask, “Why them?” Or, “Where’s mine?” On my bad days, people are soul-less interruptions at best.
I just finished reading a New York Times Bestseller by Christina Baker Kline where one of the main characters was confronted by her own self-centeredness: “Why is [the main character] so hostile? She should be grateful. . . . But it kind of feels nice to nurture her resentment, to foster it. It’s something she can savor and control, this feeling of having been wronged by the world.” That’s me on a bad day: resentment and ingratitude are justified through my warped perspective of right and wrong. My soul demands to be fed first.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says that the greatest things we learn about God are not “new truths,” but instead basic truths that we need to be reminded of again and again. The “basic truth” of the gospel is that God loves me whether or not I feel, or believe, it is true. No matter how much I try to deny God’s existence, God still loves me. God has a plan. God hasn’t forgotten me. As I remind myself of God’s steadfast love and mercy, I remember that it’s all going to be okay. It is well with my soul.
I need to daily remind myself of God’s love and then live His love for others. Michael Oh says, “Revisit the gospel . . . rehearse the gospel, and live your life as an echo to the gospel.” The gospel says “God loves me,” so I quietly share His love to others. God says He hasn’t forgotten me and I then echo His faithfulness to others. God tells me it’s all going to be okay and I generously offer the same hope to others. “Mingling in this wide swath of strangers shifts my attention from myself, that tedious subject, to the world around me” (Christina Baker Kline). As my attention is lifted beyond myself, my eyes are opened to the souls of others and in that sweet spot comes healing.