When my daughter was two years old and my son was two months old, my husband and I sold our house and moved back to Chicago so he could pursue his Master’s of Divinity. We went back to the school where we met and moved back into the same building I was living in while waiting for him to graduate the first time around.
Part of the master’s program requirements was to attend weekend retreats a couple of times a year. Students were required to go, and families were encouraged to. So we did. The kids and I participated in everything offered for families of grad students.
One weekend in February 2001 we were in a camp in Wisconsin on one of these retreats. We spent the last morning in the camp dining hall eating breakfast. The place was filled with about 300 grad students, their families and faculty. Nick was ten months old at the time. I have to stop here and mention how different my two kids have always been. Abby didn’t crawl until she was 9 months old. She kept her hands to herself, could sit in church on my lap quietly reading, and never showed any interest in anything outside of her immediate reach.
Nick was not like this. Not even a little. His interest piqued over shiny silverware, pieces of fuzz, his sister’s pigtails, anything. He was on the move months earlier than Abby. I frequently dressed him in overalls so that in a moment I could grab him by the straps from the jaws of disaster. Everyone should have a child like this. It’s only fair.
Why I didn’t have this in mind that morning I will never know. Maybe because I hadn’t had my coffee, and the gray matter was still fuzzy. I was attempting to remedy that very thing as I set the cup of scalding hot brain juice in front of me and turned my head for 3 seconds to grab the creamer. Within those three seconds Nick’s busy marshmallow fingers grabbed the cup, and he was wearing it.
His screams drowned out the noise of those 300 people. My husband jumped in, grabbed him from his seat and ordered whoever would listen to rip his clothes off and get him to cold water. When I saw the layers of skin literally peeling back from his stomach, I froze. I didn’t know what to do.
Suddenly, there were about 5 people with nursing degrees, some students some spouses of students, that went into emergency mode and started doing things to help. They asked me questions I should have known the answers to. They handed Nick to me so I could comfort him while waiting for the ambulance. I handed him back. I didn’t know how to comfort a baby writhing in pain who was experiencing this because of my oversight. I couldn’t answer any of their simple questions. I shut down.
This week we take the “A” in ENGAGE. Assess the damage. Assess the need.
I love this quote by musician Kathleen Casey Thiesen:
“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.”
In the example I gave, protocol demanded that the situation be assessed by those with the correct skills and abilities and then determine what needed to happen next. Not only did I not have any medical training or knowledge, I had nothing mentally to contribute to the situation. Left to my own devices I would have sunk into a pit of despair with the cries of my injured baby somewhere in the distance.
Sounds bleak, but that is exactly where our culture is. If we’ve decided to engage it with the message of Jesus then we’ve taken the first step toward in being a light in the darkness-not burying our heads in the sand and trying to live around it. What comes next is an honest assessment of the damage and then assessing the need.
We see the damage broadcast all over the news, on our college campuses and behind the doors of abortion clinics. We see it on our streets where the homeless wander, at the food banks where the starving wait for a meal. We see it in our courtrooms and on Capitol Hill; some decisions made to undermine righteousness others made in an attempt to “fix” things. And if you look closely you can see the damage on the faces of friends and coworkers who muddle through life wondering “what went wrong with society.” The damage is sin. The need is Jesus.
For those of us who know Him personally, we have the solution to every one of those issues.
In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read these words from the prophet Isaiah:
“’The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (NIV).
Jesus just declared Himself the solution to every problem that plagues humanity. Just like I didn’t have it in me to deal with the situation that day, those in our culture don’t have what they need to deal with the situations they find themselves in. I needed clearheaded medical professionals to jump in and help Nick and me. The world needs those of us who have access to the Expert. They need what we know.
I can’t imagine how I would have felt to be in a room full of people that, not only couldn’t figure out what needed to be done, but worse, didn’t even get up and assess the situation. To respond that way would have drifted into the area of malpractice for those with medical degrees. How devastating to be in trouble with no acknowledgement of that trouble from those who have the solution.
We’ve heard the saying that “nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”
So what are you doing? What are the needs in your family, your neighborhood, your circle of friends, your corner of the world? Who do you know that needs freedom proclaimed to them, good news preached to them, and a release from oppression? You can’t do everything, but you can do something. Assess the damage around you, and assess the need. Then do it.