Hands That Flung Phones Into Space… (Ros' Blog)
A colleague once told me a story which had quite an impact on me, and I have never forgotten it. While he was a student, one of his fellow students was “dumped” by his girlfriend by text message. The young man was devastated both by the ending of the relationship, and by her method of informing him. So he went into a nearby church and sat down in the front pew. He took out his phone, re-read the text message, and then, mustering all his force, flung his phone against the wall of the church behind the altar.
At that precise moment, the priest entered the church. He went and sat down in the pew beside the young man, took out his own phone and looked at it for a moment. Then he flung it with force against the wall behind the altar and asked, “Want to talk about it?”
I can imagine the impact that gesture would have had on the young man. This was not merely a symbol of empathy, but one that involved some sacrifice. The priest was attempting, in this powerful way, to enter into the young man’s suffering, even though he didn’t yet know the nature or cause of the suffering.
This beautiful gesture on the part of the priest reminds me of two things. Firstly, it reminds me of the poignant words written by Isaiah as he tried to convey to God’s people the depth of God’s empathy with them. It’s rendered in various ways by the different translations, each of which adds another layer to our understanding:
“In all their distress He too was distressed, and the Angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63. 9, NIV)
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” (ESV)
“In all their suffering He also suffered, and He personally rescued them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” (NLT)
How wonderful to know, when we are experiencing difficulty or suffering, if we are feeling the limitations of a physical or mental condition, the disabling effects of societal barriers, or the rejection of a world that really doesn’t try very hard to include disabled people, that God feels all that we are feeling, comes to be present Himself with us and carries us through everything we are experiencing.
And secondly, it reminds me of the way in which Jesus expressed His empathy with us. He not only laid aside all He was entitled to and came to share our plight, but He accepted weakness, pain, mental distress and permanent scarring to show how much He loves us, wants to be with us and identifies with our human experience.
The gesture of the priest identifying so wholly with the young man’s distress is a wonderful incarnation of the heart of God, reflecting what the Bible shows us about Him. How can we go and be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to someone today?