By: Kelsey Briggs ‘18
I’m sitting here on my bed really struggling right now. I think it’s because…well actually, I won’t give a reason. I’m not sure why. But I have a deep sense that these people matter to God. I also have a nagging feeling that I have so much to learn, that there is so much I don’t know.
On my first night in Rome, I sat on a bench in Villa Borghese and watched the sun set over the white washed buildings, hiding thousands of years of history and yet bidding those stories not to die. As I sat there, the words that echoed in my mind were these: “Lost people matter to God.”
So some parts of me still feels confused, in the dark, and so unaware of the suffering around me, but a part of me also knows this sentiment is far more than a few simple words. I can attest to the fact that there are many people right now who feel lost. They are ripped out of their countries, with hearts and homes ravaged by war, void of family and often hope, with more than their fair share of violent images burned into their minds. Yes, they most certainly feel lost. Just take a minute to imagine this for yourself. You come home from work, or what should be home, what should be a place to feel safe and loved and cared for. And instead you find nothing. Your house is gone. Your family is gone. So much of what makes you yourself is no more. Gone. As I type this story, there is an ache in my heart, I can feel it. I feel it on behalf of a good friend of mine, whose face I see in my mind as I type is his story. He matters to God, he matters so much to God.
I also see the face of a man whose entire family is gone, somewhere between Iran and Pakistan. It has been nearly a decade since he has heard anything, so he assumes they are dead when he lays awake at night thinking about them. The ache deepens. On my wall is a picture of a boy, younger than me. Beaten by his neighbors. Threatened by the Taliban. His mother is dead. He hasn’t talked to his sisters in over a year. When he stays awake until four in the morning crying, I can’t help but do the same.
Yes, lost people matter to God. I don’t know why I am writing this, maybe it is just for my own sake. Maybe I still need to process the things I’ve heard. But if I need to process just hearing stories, then please, realize the depths of pain these people have experienced in living these stories. Please, take a moment to imagine the other. Imagine the pain of leaving your home, losing all that you own, having no family, perhaps suffering physical violence. You are leaving the place you love not because you want to, but because you must. And then to be told “you are not welcome here.” With that, even the nothing that you had has been stripped from you. This is not meant to be a political argument, this is not about welcoming refugees into our country, or into our borders, though I believe we should. This is about welcoming them into our hearts.
Jesus talked a lot about the poor and powerless. About the least of these. Not only did Jesus talk about these people, he breathed them into being, and he loves them, just like he loves you. They are not the elusive “other.” They have faces and names. Mohammed. Hiessan. Ali. Matmud. I’ve looked into these faces, and I don’t see dangerous Muslims. I see lost people, who matter to God. I see people created in the image of the God I serve. When I look into their eyes, I see Jesus. “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”
God has not called us to make the easy choice, he has not asked us to sit back and do nothing. He has called us to get uncomfortable, to go beyond ourselves, to pick up our crosses and follow him. To lay down our lives. These men, women and children have lost so much. Surely we can lose a bit of our time, our pride, our ego, our judgement. Let’s lay these things down at the feet of Jesus, and go forth as lovers of our neighbors. “Who is my neighbor?” The one lying on the side of the road. A different language, culture, social status. The despised, rejected, different, other.
“The one who has mercy on him.” That is the one who acts as a neighbor. It is just like Jesus to be so powerful, and yet so profoundly simple, “go, and do likewise.” I can almost imagine these words as the moved their way from his heart to his mouth. Go, and care for the beaten, the abused, the rejected. We are living in hard times, yet this provides abundant opportunity to be the neighbor, to go and do likewise. The rejected and abused and lonely and hurting are all around us. Let us not ignore this call any longer. Lost people matter to God. Allow them into your heart, hear their stories, listen to their cries and cry with them. Let their pain become your own so that they don’t need to hurt alone anymore. Yes, this is so profound and yet so simple. Lost people matter to God.