My heart has been heavy this week. My mind has been consumed with thoughts and prayers and desires to do something for my family and friends in my home state of South Carolina following the “unprecedented, 1000-year flooding.”
I’ve seen more photos of my old neighborhood roads covered in water than I care to ever see again. I’ve seen more videos of national news and weather correspondents reporting from just down the street from my house I just sold than necessary. I’ve seen more photos of houses submerged in lake water that break my heart over and over again.
And then I see the calls for offering help. And I see the outpouring of love and care. And I see the first responders risking their own lives (and sometimes losing theirs) to save others. And I see corporations driving in trucks of water, cans of soup, boxes of cleaning supplies. And I see other colleges around the nation donating dollars in the thousands and equipment trucks full of bottled water. And I see teachers, who have been at home (if not displaced) all week long, volunteering to watch other people’s children so that parents can volunteer, or even just have a break. And I see my dear friend opening his salon and offering to wash hair and give a cup of coffee to anyone wanting respite. And then I see Facebook posts like this one floating around…
I see that. I see the body of Christ at work in miraculous ways. I see people who care so much for their neighbor that they give and give, even out of the little that they may possess. I see amazing love. And I think Christ would agree with me when I say:
empathy is worship.
In all of this, in all of the crappy-ness of flooded houses, washed out roads, days without water, etc. In all of this, there is a resounding reminder that “it’s just stuff, y’all.” These people are resilient! These people who have been handed a raw deal this year – between the shooting in June and now this – these people, are living, breathing, worship-minded people. And these people are reminding me to worship!
They live out faith with amazing grace.
I’m reminded of these words from our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Sometimes we’re just too far away to do hands-on work. Sometimes all we can do is pray, weep, and listen. Sometimes, our hearts are heavy and that’s all we can be when we wish that we could be and say and do so, so much more.
But sometimes, God gives us the chance to worship through empathy. We worship through caring. We worship through checking in and asking what we can do, and inquiring. And we’ll get the answer that makes our heart hurt even more: just pray. It hurts us because we want to help and pitch in and we don’t feel like sitting in prayer is going to be effective in the midst of the problems.
But y’all, this answer is the empathic worship that our God needs for us to have. It’s the worship that transforms lives. It’s the worship that comforts when even new clothes and baby diapers just can’t. It’s the worship that reminds us that it’s not one bit about us. It’s the worship that builds the Kindgom.
It’s all about our brothers and sisters in Christ for whom we’ve been entrusted to love and care. It’s about serving God through a heart of empathy.
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
Others above self.
That’s the heart of worship, y’all.
That all being said, and after your prayers, if you wish to make a financial contribution to help with the flood relief and recovery efforts in South Carolina, below are some links:
**This is by no means and exhaustive list. Rather, it’s a list of places that will have both an immediate and a long-term impact in Columbia and across South Carolina that happen to also be near and dear to my heart.**