Coffee shops are interesting places. Tonight I am just sitting here at the on campus Starbucks doing what I am best at: people watching. So far tonight I have watched a number of different social phenomenon and a vast array of interactions. There is anything from huge groups of people walking together in workout attire to the one girl sitting alone at a table pouring over a notebook emptying herself into the mysterious pages. I can’t help but sit in a weird sense of awe when I decide to sit and watch. It’s like I’m a little kid again.
Whenever I do this I always get really sentimental because I begin to ask questions about each individual. Where did they all come from? What is their aim today? Why do they look so sad? Why are they so happy? The questions haunt me because I’ll never get an answer and the truth of the matter is that this world is full of people just like the ones I’m watching from my seat.
There was a group of about 10 motorcycles that drove up Dickson earlier, each one with a leather-riddled rider who looked about 60 years old. They were followed by a group of five runners who all had bright neon colored clothing on and one lady was bald, sporting a white bandana. Why? First, why are they all wearing neon but even more so, why is she bald? Is she sick? And if she is sick, then why is she running? Were the other four runners with her also sick? Were they her family? Friends? I’ve been watching a girl wearing rope sandals walk aimlessly around. She has already come into Starbucks once and disappeared into the hallway leading to Quiznos only to show up and walk out of the front doors. And then a short two minutes later, she appeared again from the hallways and once again, you guessed it, walked out the front of Starbucks. Was she lost? Was she looking for someone? Something? Trying to kill time? There is a middle-aged man with an old baby blue North Carolina Tarheels jersey on drinking an orange Fanta. There is beautiful Indian girl getting coffee and a guy walking passed in a full suit, visibly uncomfortable from the massive amount of sweat that is finding it’s way out of his pores.
Whenever I do this, my heart screams at me. Because I know that whenever I choose to sit and watch these people, then my sorrow will begin to soak into the empty places of my heart. See the thing is that people break my heart more than anything else in this whole world. Not because I don’t like them, but actually, just the opposite. I love them. I love them with a reckless abandon that may or may not be my downfall one day. I am desperate to take each of them by the hand and tell them how much they mean to humanity. I get this way everywhere I go, almost everyday. It is really bad when I’m in Africa, but tonight it’s killing me. I wonder if each of these people knows that their important and that they have a story, an amazing story and that each decision they make directly affects me as well as the person riding the motorcycle on Dickson. I hurt because I yearn for each one of them to know that they are loved deeply and intimately by a God who is very real.
Sorrow is a funny thing. Jesus once said that the ones who learn to mourn will be blessed and be comforted. So obviously it’s not such a bad thing that my heart tears within me when I see someone who is totally smashed stumbling around campus late at night. So it’s not such a bad thing when I can’t concentrate while talking to my friends at lunch because there is a kid sitting alone staring at his food with stone cold eyes. I learned to mourn a couple of years ago one night when I was watching Extreme Home Makeover. I won’t go into the whole story but I’m pretty sure I blogged on that night a while ago, so if you’re interested in knowing the story, you can look back on the post “how I learned to mourn”. But I since that night, things haven’t been the same. My interactions with people aren’t the same and certain things hit me much harder than they ever did before. I can’t read the death totals from the war or the revolutions in the Middle East in the newspaper anymore and I can’t watch the same war movies that I used to love. I can’t pretend that the death penalty doesn’t bother me and I can’t look away from injustice any longer. Ignorance stopped being bliss the night that I learned to mourn.
I was just recently introduced to the idea that sorrow and joy go hand in hand. At first, I was extremely skeptical and brushed it off, but as the idea kept being pushed, it started to make sense. In the Prophet, Kahlil Gibran actually says “Sorrow is your joy unmasked” and “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain”. Those words were foreign to me once, but now I hold them close to my chest. Because although my sorrow comes from people hurting and people not being known, my joy also comes from people loving and being found. Jesus has, for some reason, given me the untold sorrow of the lost and the uncontainable joy of the found. Gibran says, “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
In Romans 9, Paul delivers one of the most haunting sets of verses in the whole Bible. I can imagine how he said these words through gritted teeth with clenched fists and tears streaming down his face, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Paul loved people so much (they were through and through his sorrow) that he would have given up his place in Heaven, eternity with his soul’s once desire that they may know Christ. Later in his letters he refers to church in Philippi, “my joy and crown.” So Paul’s sorrow and Paul’s joy were both the people he was ministering to. I can’t even begin to say I know the same sorrow that Paul did, and I really cant make the claim of willing to be damned for other people to know. But I pray that as I continue to learn to walk with Jesus that He’ll allow me to one day be at that place, but today I can only let the Spirit continue to melt me and mold me and let me love people like He does.
I wonder how different the world would look if the sorrow and joy of the Church was people. I think that is coming soon though. I feel very deeply that soon and very soon the foundations of this world will be burned and a fresh revolution will arise from the underground; a revolution painted and marked with the genuine love of Christ, a revolution free of the American dream and intent on reaching the Nations. Mark my words, friends because Jesus is changing all of us.