I have a bad habit of walking too fast.
This serves me well when I’m trying to get some exercise and burn off extra calories from last night’s bowl of chocolate chip mint ice cream (please tell me I’m not the only one). But it’s not helpful when I’m walking through my house while simultaneously working remotely, negotiating with teenagers, and doing the laundry. Let’s just say I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve stubbed — and broken — a toe on a table leg or bed frame. Few things throb quite as strongly as a busted baby toe. Although small and seemingly inconsequential, a broken toe quickly becomes all I can feel and think about, the pain all-consuming and blinding.
Even so, I still catch myself moving too fast. My life feels completely overwhelming. And often I’m so focused on where I’m headed and what I need to accomplish that I fail to give attention to everything else around me. I’m like a train, determined to get to the safety of the station that I’m oblivious to the scenery I pass on my way. Problem is, I sometimes plow through more than table legs, including the people in my path, without a second thought.
Like a bruised baby toe, difficult life seasons — like the one we’re all currently in the middle of — can be all-consuming. Whatever our unique crises and challenges, our individual pain throbs like a bruised and broken toe until it’s all we can think about. Personal challenges blind us to the individual challenges of the people all around us. This is understandable, for a time. Pain, by its very nature, requires attention. It’s an alarm that alerts us to the fact that something is wrong. We must heed the warning so that in time we may heal.
But temporary attention can easily slip into a habit of self-consumption. We think our trials are bigger than the next person’s, our struggles more impossible and life-altering than what another endures. Learning to ‘see beyond me’ is about choosing to slow down, to make space, to listen, and to intentionally resist the isolation of individual pain in order to share life — and its heartaches — together. At best, we’re simply clueless. At worst, we’re utterly hardened and unmoved.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)
Following Jesus’ example of humility before God, Paul urges each of us to learn to see (and serve) beyond ourselves. This doesn’t mean beating ourselves to a pulp in constant, tireless service without caring for our health and families. And this doesn’t mean completely disregarding the very real day-to-day pain points that require our honest attention.
But this does mean that we willingly, intentionally, consciously strive to see the faces and challenges of the real people all around us and that we seek to serve them with the same tender compassion and tangible love we ourselves have received from the Savior Himself.
I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, the past year of near constant national and global crises has left you a bit near-sighted. It’s understandable, my friend. I’m right there with you. I’m juggling more than enough tension and difficulty within the four walls of my home. I have little energy or mercy leftover for anyone else.
And yet, we are people saved by a God who left the comfort of heaven for the predicament of earth. And if I want to follow His lead, as much as my tired flesh will allow me, I need to intentionally push against the self-consumption that tempts me to grow callous and hardened to the needs of a broken world.
Want to join me? Here are a few questions I’m learning to ask when I’m with others. I may not be able to solve their problems or cure their pain, but I can listen. And I can see.
- What is the best part of your life right now?
- What is the hardest thing in your life right now?
- What is it like for you, day to day?
- What do you wish was different about your day-to-day life?
- What has been helpful for you over the past few days/weeks/months/year?
- What do you wish people knew about you?
- What gives you a sense of peace or joy right now?
- What do you need more of?
Remember, learning to “see beyond me” isn’t about solving problems or fixing what’s broken. It’s about choosing to slow down, to lift our heads and see beyond our own agendas and stubbed toes, to make space, to listen, and to intentionally resist the isolation of individual pain in order to share life — and its heartaches — together.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
What a terrific post and list of thought-provoking questions! I’ve smashed a few toes on door jams and bed frames in my hurry-scurry existence. Humility requires us to slow down and take a look around us to the needs of others. It coaxes us out of our absorption with “self.” I find that when I focus on others’ needs, my problems tend to shrink from the forefront of my mind. Joining with you in learning to see beyond me!
Michele Cushatt says
“Humility requires us to slow down.” Such a thought-provoking statement. Thank you, Bev.
Beth Williams says
I, too, tend to walk fast. Always rushing from one thing to the next. God brings people to mind that I should pray or write a note to. Yet often times I get busy with life & forget to do it. Since the pandemic we haven’t had church much. I lose contact with my tribe. You know the old saying “out of sight out of mind.” That happened to me during this pandemic. One day I made myself intentionally stop & write that note & mail it. My pastor brought some homemade sour dough bread for our anniversary. I called to thank her & check on her mom. After that I called a friend, talked for a while & let her know about Kathy’s mom. I’m usually an encourager. One who wants to send texts, cards, etc. I just need gentle reminders to slow down, make space & listen to others. They want to know they are loved & thought of just like I do.
Michele Cushatt says
Yes, I need the ongoing, gentle reminders too, Beth. As they say, we write about that with which we struggle. 😉 Glad we’re in this together.
Susan McGuire says
Thank you! I needed this today!
Michele Cushatt says
Me too, Susan. With you.
Ruth Mills says
I love the questions! My tried & true ‘what’s your biggest concern & what is your greatest anticipated joy today?’ are getting worn & tired. Thanks for upping my game with fresh caring questions! Great post! Thank you!
What a great reminder. J.O.Y.—-Jesus, others, you
Michele Cushatt says
Yes, thank you Courtney.
Thank you, Michele! Very thought provoking. And a call to action. I’m going to meditate on your questions so I can use them in my interactions with others. Well done!
Michele Cushatt says
I’m so glad it encouraged, Irene.
Nelu Mbingu says
I love this. Thank you for the reminder we absolutely need to see beyond our stubbed toes
Michele Cushatt says
And to think our Father sees each one of us, and our pains big and small. Such an extraordinary, unfathomable gift! Thanks for sharing, Nelu.
This may only be understood by similar thinking people so please do not think I’m being heartless as I say I had to laugh while reading this. For the first time in my life I realize that being an introvert and an old recluse is not the worse thing that’s ever happened to me.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I am so glad for you writting what you did. I love you all incourage. I pray for you all the way from Enniskillen Co Fermanagh N.Ireland. That is the other side of the world. I just love your teaching. I learnt so much from you all. I grown closer to Jesus from your teachings. Michael what give me the most important sense of peace plus made me thankful was. When I look at people like you. All you come through with your cancer. Other like you. I say Dawn I thank full I am alive to enjoy another day in God beautiful world. As when I was I said this many times on incourage. When I was 7 my appendix burst. If I not got to Hospital on time.To get to theatre. To have them out right away. I not be here today. Like you God has me and you here for a reason. I thank God for that. Plus people like you. Who inspire me. Especially when I hear your stories. Of all you been through. Your still here smiling no matter what. Because Jesus help you trust him to help you get through it all. You are just brilliant in my eye. You didn’t let Satan the Old Devil whisper in your ear you not get through this. You put your trust bin Jesus. Look at you today. Jesus help you get through it all. You are were you are today. You should be proud of yourself. Praying for you and you all incourage. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxx
Jennifer Johnson says
Your comment about moving too fast reminded me of something I deal with. I’m in a wheelchair and can’t tell you how many times at work I would be approaching a corner and someone would come barreling around and almost always were not looking in the direction they were walking! I never had anyone land in my lap, but it was pretty close a few times!
Margo Stretch says
Great post, thank you! As I read it, and many of the comments, I can’t help but recommend a book to my sisters here that I’m currently reading, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”, by John Mark Comer. This is a theme that is really emerging in our culture and in the church so there are other similar books I’m sure. The title is based on a single comment Dallas Willard said to the author, the One Thing that believers need to do in order to have a spiritual life of enough depth to grow in us the Love, Peace, and Joy that will anchor us in life: ruthlessly eliminate hurry. If this gets your attention, I’d encourage you to explore through this book! I believe it could save our lives, to heed this kind of warning.
Yikes Jennifer! Most of us are moving too fast and in somewhat of a daze!
I’m currently feeling guilty because I cut someone short that was trying to explain their current challenges and crises. This person seems to be stuck in a rut of problems for which I have become a personal sounding board. Sometimes it feels like a burden to be the compassionate one who really listens because the complaints never seem to stop. I fear I may tune out the real issues that I need to help with because I’m lumping it together with a whole list of problems. How do I readjust my feelings so that I’m not being dismissive?
God has shown me in little whispers this week that we are to show others God’s love even when it is hard for us to do so. God loves each of us, and by asking God to help me when it’s hard to love someone else, He has changed me and allowed me to see that person through His eyes. By showing His love through my actions, I am giving Him the glory by allowing Him to love through me. I cannot do it by myself. I need God to help me do it.