When I was a teenager I went on a boat ride with my Aunt, Uncle, and younger cousin (she was around 4 years old). They were living in Arizona and we were touring Lake Powell. It was a beautiful trip where I got to see a part of the country I’d never seen before. We had been on the boat for about an hour when we stopped to have lunch in a cove. As soon as we stopped my cousin screamed and started jumping up and down. We were all concerned as it seemed to be more of a scream of pain than a tantrum that we had stopped moving. When we asked her what was wrong she replied, “My foot is sprinkling!” Her foot had fallen asleep.
We’ve all had it happen. Too much time of not moving brings us to the point of numbness. And that numbness, once realized, can often be painful. When you compress nerves in one part of the body, that part stops communicating with the brain. When you begin to move again, you feel the sensations as your brain and body parts start to communicate once more.
I believe that one of the reasons our faith is not as powerful of a witness as it could be is due to our inaction. We’ve stopped communicating with other parts of the “body of Christ” and our nerves have become numb. We not longer see “the least of these” as a call to communicate with, be with and love them but rather we drive past, keep walking, and think they need to get their “stuff” together and fix their own problems. We walk past the stump in the picture above and think that we can just plant another tree and grind the stump so that it doesn’t get in the way.
Just like moving after your foot has fallen asleep, taking action after ignoring your neighbor can be painful. Starting to communicate again disrupts the status quo in our culture and is a threat to the power of those who have vs those to have not.
The prophets knew this in the Old Testament. Isaiah talks about making our minds dull and Jeremiah talks about our broken hearts. The good news is that even our broken hearts still beat! “The prophets understood the possibility of change as linked to emotional extremities of life. They understood the strange incongruence between public conviction and personal yearning.” (Brueggeman’s Prophetic Imagination) Are our hearts breaking for our neighbors who don’t have basic needs? Or have we become numb? Perhaps if we begin to move or do something, we will realize our brokenness and feel it in our hearts.
Jesus understood that movement was critical. He was always on the move (and telling people to go as well). His first movement into this world wasn’t to negotiate with the leaders in power so that he could enact change. It was to shepherds. The poor among us. The least of these. He became helpless with them. He understood.
I’m not sure my faith is strong enough to have such a passionate connection with the poor but I know that I am called to ministry with them. And the more I am with them the more I feel my heart “sprinkling.” I even hate that in this message I’m using the terms “I” and “them” – we are one body. May we begin to communicate with each other and awaken our nerves. No matter how painful it may be.
Until Everyone Hears,