Have you ever had a life shaking moment? When a prejudice you’ve functioned under your whole life gets deconstructed and you end up staring at all the pieces wondering how you were able to function in the world while believing such a big lie? Have you ever been ingrained with something since childhood and as you grew up realized that maybe your viewpoint wasn’t right?
I had a moment like that this week.
I was talking to a close friend and confessing a sin. It came out slowly and painfully because I had been hiding the truth from myself, and I was ashamed to own up. I was judging a certain group of people. I haltingly explained that I didn’t care about their feelings as much as I should or wanted to. Refusing to feel for them or with them, I turned against them in my heart because I didn’t want to become like them. (As an empath, caring for people’s feelings is very important to me. I feel things so deeply myself and can easily imagine how deeply others could be feeling hurt, depressed, rejected, etc.) In a sense, me blocking out their feelings was like denying their humanity, and that is sin.
I want to be clear here that it isn’t sin to disagree with someone’s beliefs or to disapprove of someone’s actions. Confronting someone for their sin in order to help reconcile them to God and others is biblical (James 5:19-20). But even if you disagree and expose to them their sin, there is a certain level of respect we ought to show to others as all of us are beings made in the image of God.
As I confessed that I hadn’t respected these people as I should have, I had a breakthrough and my world became bigger, because I realized I could embrace these people even at the risk of feeling what they were feeling.
I didn’t think God stretched that far. I thought I would be outside of His reach if I started to accept what other people were feeling. But that’s not the case. He Himself bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, which He did not deserve (Isaiah 53:3-4). I doubt He would have me disregard the feelings of others. My respect for others should by no means restrict the truth from coming from my mouth, but I believe we can both respect others, and challenge and sharpen them.
Caring for people I disagree with released a lot of pressure in my heart, but it was also disorienting. How would I function in a different way than I used to? Would God still be with me even when my worldview changed? Wouldn’t He be angry with me? Thankfully, as I recovered from the shock, I began to understand again that His love exceeds my limitations. As it is written,
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
If death nor life can separate me from Him, I can be confident that caring for others will not.
This was a breakthrough for me, and I’m glad I came to it. I find it so fascinating that no matter how much my worldview and perspective might change as I mature, God is always bigger than my thoughts and feelings. I explained it to my friend like this: You know those trampoline things that firefighters use to rescue people from burning buildings? Well, I imagine my life with God something like living in a safety net like that. He holds me and protects me from what’s outside. Before I saw a smaller world. Now, my world expanded, but instead of that safety net disappearing or becoming insignificant, it grew, because God is bigger than my thoughts.
In addition, when I stop cowering in a box I’m comfortable in, I see the world around me in it’s beautiful colors and interesting thought. Even if I remain within that box because I believe doing so is what God commands, I can still appreciate, encourage, and hold hands with the person next to me.