Can a self-centered person learn to care for others?
This is the questions I have been wrestling with during the Capital Mosaic Just Words series. After each session I take a moment to write a brief response. Last week Wayne Kirkland shared with us his stories of engaging with the call to “do justice.”
As Wayne spoke of the self-contained world I got the sense that he believes the pull of the self-contained world gets stronger as we age. That there is a momentum to it. It seems to takes some radical decisions throughout life to break through this bubble and even after making these decisions this pull is always present. The decisions help create an environment where caring and encounters with otherness can occur.
These environments are ideal for heartbreak. It seems though that if I want to learn to care for others heartbreak may be required. Wayne described his own journey a foster parent as an environment that lead to heart break. For him it was a holy heartbreak, one that gave him a glimpse of the heartbreak he believes God has for those suffering. It seems that for those of us stuck in the self-contained world, we have to do the work of staying open long enough to the suffering of others to wear down the walls of self-centered life.
It is in this relational context that Wayne frames the work of doing justice. He gave us three powerful ideas for framing our thinking on justice.
- Justice is primarily about right relationships and right behavior
- Justice is costly
- Justice is best done in community
As I listened to Wayne I could tell for him that this conversation had passed away from the conceptual and was raised up in flesh and blood. It had been named. These weren’t just issues of justice but someone and their story. This seems to be a turning point in the conversation. The lens of heart break gives the discussion new eyes.
And as romantic as we want to make the relational idea sound we know there is cost to enter the mess. Speaking of justice conceptually is often easier then listening to a person and their suffering. To do justice, then, is to step into the myst of relationships and learn in the haze how to care for each other. Learning as bump into each other how we encourage each other to pursue life and aliveness.
Wayne finished up with a quote which summarizes for him the call to do justice. He quoted Frederick Buechner who said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wayne challenged us not to just ask the question “What brings us to life?” but “Where does it intersect with the needs of others?”
I am challenged to listen humbly to those around me now; to listen for their hunger. That in this listening I would step outside of the self-contained world and catch a glimpse of their otherness. And if I should discover in their hunger something I can offer that I would act with humble generosity; as one beggar who has discovered bread. And over time this will wear down the walls of the self-centered life.