Insufficient Responses- A Thought on Nehemiah 1.4

September 4, 2008

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” -Nehemiah 1.4

The other night I was made keenly aware of a failing I have. By now, most all of us who watch the news have heard the reports of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s pregnant 17-year old daughter. Over the past couple days this story has proliferated all the way out to the covers of celebrity gossip mags such as Us Weekly, and has attracted some attention as to the Governor’s readiness to be President or Vice-President (see David Letterman). Whatever your leanings, it appears that everyone interested has an opinion in this matter.

However, one thing seems to be falling through the cracks. Even in my outrage at the coverage I too missed it until Wednesday evening when I was watching an otherwise innocuous segment on John McCain arriving in Minneapolis for the convention. It was during the footage of his arrival that I saw it. McCain walked down the stairs of his aircraft and casually made his way down the line of family members awaiting him. His wife Cindy and their 7 children were all standing by to give him handshakes and hugs, greeting him for what was sure to be the biggest two nights of his life. Then, following his family, he was greeted by Gov. Palin, her husband, and their 5 children. McCain continued to move through the line the same way he did with his own family, until he got to Gov. Palin’s 17-year old daughter Bristol.

Arriving at Bristol, accompanied by her 18-year old boyfriend Levi, Sen. McCain stopped, held her hands, and spent a few moments talking with and embracing the young girl on that runway. On camera you could not hear what he said, but it was evident from the gentle fathering mannerisms he exhibited that Sen. McCain was doing his best to console and care for a young girl who has just had her most embarrassing secrets shown to the world in a way that most of us can never imagine.

Myself being all too familiar with the frustrations and bitter joys of teenage parenthood was able to relate in some small way with what this young couple is going through, and the moment of attention which Sen. McCain paid to them here touched me deeply. In fact, I didn’t realize how deeply I was touched until I tried telling my wife, who was in the other room, what was being shown and started uncontrollably crying instead. The mixture of knowing how difficult this young girl was having things combined with the genuine compassion being displayed by Sen. McCain struck me in such a way that I could not help but be crushed by the emotion I felt.

Looking back, this raw, emotional response has been serving to convict me of what is normally a more staid, even cold demeanor which I carry towards everything. I was convicted about how I see fellow humans struggling in assorted areas of life and yet am quicker to utter criticism than I am to shed a tear. I was convicted about how I see people who don’t know Christ moving closer to death everyday and yet somehow my heart is unmoved. It is not supposed to be this way. This is not how I should react.

We see in Nehemiah that when he received news of the destruction of God’s city and of the scattering of His people, there rose up a deep and broken response, a response of tears and prayer and fasting, which lasted for days. Nehemiah was troubled over the pain of the Jews. He was troubled over the suffering incurred and the damage which had been done to God’s people.

This type of response is so foreign to me, and yet I am convicted that it is a response that I need to cultivate. In the way that I was moved uncontrollably by the images of this young couple, I need to be moved by the same images of lost people, of suffering people, of people God has commanded me to help and to minister to. This is the heart of Christ and I realize that my current responses are insufficient to capture the love which Jesus called me to exhibit, and that is simply unacceptable.