When We’re Tempted to Pull In, Reach Out Instead


My daughter was five at the time, and I put my hand gently on her back to usher her into the minivan.

She did not move.

But my lecture about wasting time and ‘please can you hurry because we don’t want to be late!’ caught in my throat when I glanced back at her.

Her head was bowed, her eyes squeezed shut.  Her hands were clasped and tucked under her chin.

She was praying.

I bowed my head to her and heard the whisper:

Dear God, please help the person who is hurt and help the fire truck make them safe and all better.  Amen.

That’s when I finally heard them: The sirens in the distance that I’d been blocking out with busy thoughts and Mom-instructions to “get your seatbelts on quickly” and “take turns sitting in the middle seat” and “make sure you have all your stuff.”

You know.  Life.

Life crowded out the need, crowded out others.  It tunneled my vision so I saw only my agenda, heard only my voice, pushed and shoved and crammed right up to the Father with only my own needy self in mind.

As parents, my husband and I have had our more spiritual moments.  We’ve hushed the general din of six people crowded in the minivan so we could pray about the fire truck or the ambulance passing us on the road.

So my girl took this to heart.  She tucked it into her soul and now she watches and listens and drops her head down the instant she senses the need to pray.

She even stopped the mad dash to the coveted middle seat of the minivan and let her sisters rush in to claim the prime spots in order to pause and pray.

She let go of self.  She focused on another.

My little prayer powerhouse reminded me to get down on my knees and beg for God to help me see.

Because somehow there’s this automatic pull of humanity back to self.  Somehow the noise within us drowns out the noise without….so we no longer hear the cries of need from a needy world.

Somehow we lose the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart of God.

Moses also teaches me to see others with God’s vision.

He stood on a holy mountain preparing to die.  Moses was not to enter the Promised Land and he knew God’s intentions to take him up a mountain he would never climb down.

But his eyes were not on his own immediate need, but on the people of Israel instead.

He could have asked for a legacy.

He could have begged for forgiveness and the chance to step at least one weary foot onto Canaan’s soil.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he prayed:

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

Long before Jesus, Moses stood overlooking the crowd and saw them with God’s eyes as sheep that have no shepherd.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself stood and saw this same need:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 ESV).

Moses got right to the heart of the matter, right to the need before him and put aside his own affairs—he was, after all, moments from death—-in order to intercede on behalf of God’s people.

His heart matched God’s own heart.

He had 20/20 vision instead of cataracts of selfishness marring his perspective.

Selfishness takes up time and takes up space; it muscles out God and keeps us from loving others.

Today, let’s lay it down.

In the moments we’re tempted to focus our vision on our own need, our own circumstances, our own weariness, may we deliberately choose to prayerfully reach out to and lift up another.

Because it’s in our moments of deepest need that we can be most sensitive, most compassionate, most prayerfully passionate on behalf of others.


Originally published 3/18/2015

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