I was driving in my truck to work just today when, at one stoplight, I just so happened to glance in my rearview mirror to check my surroundings.
It was not a conscious glance – or, rather, I can’t recall having made the conscious decision to look around – but more so one of those involuntary checkups you do as you wait those endless moments for the light to switch from red to green so that you can go back to your busy, fast-paced life. But, in this moment, as I made this subconscious glance, I was not worried about the frantic business and constant go-go-go of life: I was still; I was calm; I was aware. Phil Wickham’s “Cielo” was humming through the speakers, my fingers were horse-trotting to the beat along my steering wheel, and I was just living in the present moment.
What I saw when I looked in that rearview mirror was something that tore me to pieces. I saw a woman sitting in the car behind me, looking off into the distance with a blank expression on her face. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but then again I think that when we require big shows or spectacles to stir up our affections, we lead ourselves into lives of egotistic apathy in which we care for no one save ourselves and those in our immediate social circles. In this woman’s face was nothing but a lack of expression, and while that might not speak to most people, it spoke novels – sagas – to me.
You see, in this woman’s face was something I can’t describe physically. There was not a tightening of her lips or a tear falling from her eye that drew my attention, but just that blank expression in and of itself. There was no smile playing at her eyes, and beyond that blank expression I saw no hint of any sort of hidden joy. It was as if, through her lack of any formal expression, she had made herself totally vulnerable, and I felt that I could read the very thoughts that passed through her mind as she stared off into the distance.
“There’s got to be more than this.”
“I get up every day, bright and early, and work, work, work, but…all for what?”
“Why am I not happy?”
But it was this last question that got me: “Am I loved?”
In this woman’s blank expression, I saw a sense of longing – of some desire for a lasting satisfaction – yet also an unquenchable fright at the fact that she knew not how to attain it. Her face bore no expression and yet it spoke worlds of meaning, and in that moment, my heart shattered. It is very possible that I was reading far too much into that subtle glance, but even if I did, it is undeniable that there are bounties of people in this world who are struggling with those same questions and longings today.
So often, we live our life as if it is a long-lasting audition, living to impress people by placing on façades of happiness and joy and contentment so that in the long run people do not grow to love us, but the fake “us” that they have come to know. We do not express our true selves in public, but instead choose to bottle up the fears and insecurities and discontent until we believe no one is looking. As I took that glance in the rearview mirror this morning, that is what I felt; I saw a woman who, while sitting in her car, was at last willing to contemplate on the tougher subjects that she would never verbally express except possibly to a close friend. How many times have I done the same thing? There, in the comfort of her own vehicle at 8 o’clock in the morning – as she thought nobody was looking – she at last allowed herself to embrace her brokenness. Her face grew blank, and she stared off into the distance. Lost. Scared. Unsure. Hollow. Broken-hearted. Nobody was looking, so she could at last be her true self, and that true self scared her.
But somebody was looking. And my heart broke with her.
Do you see the issue here? This is our problem, my friends. It is so easy to go about our lives acting as if we are the center of the universe, but that simply isn’t the case. It is so easy to look in the rearview mirror without truly considering the person behind you – they are most likely just cameos in the story of your life – but it is our job to remember that they, like you, have places where they are going, things that they are thinking, and problems they are struggling with. We so quickly get caught up in our own issues that we fail to consider the problems that others face in life, but this needs to change! Especially as Christians, isn’t this our fundamental calling, to love? But how can we love others if we fail to truly look at them? Are we willing to go throughout life simply addressing the façade that that person puts up? By no means! There is a real human being behind that façade, somebody who has things they are struggling with and demons they can’t seem to cast out. They might make it seem like they have it all together, but I guarantee you they do not.
The most heart-wrenching thing about that little glance in the rearview mirror is this: when I considered the woman’s face, I saw desperation. She was lost little lamb without a shepherd to come find her, longing without any idea of where she could turn. I know that for me, in times of trouble it is very easy to realign myself, because I have a shepherd to run to, and He will welcome me with open arms. I have a Father who is eagerly awaiting the prodigal to return, I have a Creator who is bounding over the hills to help restore His creation to the best that it can be. But for this woman I did not see that hope. For me, I can rejoice even in the sufferings because I know that I am safe in the arms of an almighty King who would never let anything bad happen if it was not for some greater good. But for this woman, I did not see that joy. For me, I can find laughter even amidst the tears because I recognize that my sorrows are purely a result of me being misaligned to what is True, and by simply realigning myself I can once again be surprised by the joy my Father has to offer. But for this woman, I did not see that laughter.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…this is where we, as Christians, fail the world each and every day. It is as if a bridge is broken just down the road and we know this to be the case, but as one passerby after another walk on past us, we don’t give them the warning that the bridge is out. We simply let them pass on by without batting an eyelash, hoping that they will find the answer when they reach the bridge themselves. But is that the loving way to go? By no means! We should stand up and warn them with all we have, waving them down and shouting that “The bridge is out! The bridge is out!” We have the answer yet we do not share it, and so many people go walking towards that bridge without the slightest clue that they will fall to their deaths.
Here is why simply sitting by does not and cannot work: as Christians, we see the light, but for those who have not yet found God, we must recognize that they are still shrouded in darkness. Of course we, in the light of the day, can see that the bridge is out, but it becomes a lot more difficult when you are travelling in the deepest dark of night! So why do we hold our silence and send those we claim to love off to a certain death? We must take actions, my friends!
I speak of this glance in the rearview mirror as if it is the first time such an occurrence as happened, but this is not so. This happens on a fairly frequent basis – it is amazing how vulnerable people can be when they believe no one is looking – but it is now that I have decided I need to begin to start taking my own advice and start doing something about it. To stare at the sheep in search of its Shepherd without knowing that the shepherd even existed; to see that daughter in search of a Father who she doubts is even around; to see the creation seeking to be mended by a Creator who it believes has abandoned it. We have the answers, yet for some reason we cling to our silence selfishly as if the answer is only ours to be had. Oh Christian, Christian, is that even your name.
You see, I wasn’t the only person who took a glance at that woman in the rearview mirror. There is someone – that Shepherd, that Father, that Creator – who was looking at her as well, but His gaze was much more than just a glance. I wasn’t the only one whose heart broke with hers, nor the only one who saw the need for action; God was there too, and He begs us to pay more attention. He strives to bring His sheep back to the fold; He hungers for His children to come running into His arms; He delights in fixing that masterpiece which is oh-so-broken.
We know this to be true; shouldn’t we share this as we are called to do?
Start glancing in the mirrors, my friends. You may be shocked at what you find.