As I traveled back from California this week, I was blessed to meet Lena. Our encounter would be no more than 15 minutes. Yet in that short time, I would learn much. I greeted her as I stood in front of her as we lined up to enter the plane. She told me she was going to visit family and in that moment, I felt she was inviting me into her story. I would learn that this would be her first trip by herself. Her husband recently passed away after what was a lifetime of marriage and he had always taken care of all the details when they traveled. She was healing from her own ailments and now she found that she was fearful over so many things ranging from relationships with her children and grandchildren, to how to put the bag she carried in the bin above the seats. She shared of a disappointment that had strained her relationship with her daughter and her fear of what their relationship would be like over the holidays. She touched on the anxiety of knowing she was in her last stages of life and how desperately she wanted to know her grandkids, and how she worried of what legacy she would leave behind. I told her that I could handle the bag in the bin and I knew of a great God who could help her with the rest. And in just the minute or so we had left, assured her that God knew her and cared deeply for her. She was very grateful for the help with the bag and said she has contemplated much about what she believed about God and heaven and the meaning of life in these days of turmoil. And with that, she chose a seat by a familiar face to her and outside of getting her bag down and wishing her well, our interaction ceased.
Sunday, as we studied the account of the prodigal son, we looked at it from the place of brokenness. And part of what I learned afresh from Lena was this… we live around people who are broken but who hide it well, masking that truth deep in their hearts. Had I not said hi and Lena not opened up, I would have believed her to be a woman who was used to traveling and seemed happy with life. She was pleasant and smiling and seemed to have it together. But then I entered her story, as my dear friends Dave and Cathy often say, and I was blessed to get beyond the surface and found a woman fearful and broken. Brokenness comes in different forms and out of different experiences. Some brokenness is self inflicted as we saw in the prodigal son where other times it is simply the result of living in a fallen world. God saw our brokenness and He entered in. That is the joy of Christmas. I have been reminded that He is calling me to do the same… to enter into the brokenness and share of truth and life and hope and joy.
This season is filled with such joyous sights and sounds that we miss the broken and hurting and declare them to be Scrooges in a season meant for happiness. My righteous indignation at their hardness and pain is a dismissal of a deeper reality that exists at a heart level. They are broken. They are hurting. They are lost. What a privilege God has given us to enter in their brokenness and share with them that a healer exists to bind up the broken hearts and bestow the oil of gladness instead of sorrow. That is what Christmas is all about. Not the shopping nor the great sales. Not the family meal and the abundant presents. Christmas is the story of God entering into the world to meet us where we are… broken, fallen and hurting. The question remains then for each of us… Will you enter in?