Last Sunday I was sitting in a Catholic mass, watching as mostly everyone else went up to partake of the sacraments, or get a blessing from the priest. Not being a Catholic meant I didn't go up to take the eucharist (since I don't believe in transubstantiation), and being lazy meant I don't go up for the blessing.
As I sat I watched row after row of people returning to their seat with that solemn look people get post-eucharist. It's the same look people get when at a funeral, or any important procession. To me it speaks of an eagerness to be worthy of the occasion. It was then that a thought struck me out of nowhere:
We are all trying so hard.
Just before, I had looked over at the elderly woman siting to my left, alone at the end of the aisle, and dressed very properly. Who was appreciating that she came today, or had taken the time to dress up, or her voice as she was silently singing the hymns? Among seven billion people, who was noticing that she was alive? Who was paying attention to the small part she was writing in the great story of the world?
My glance moved to an older mother walking up the aisle with an earnest face and a family in tow. I watched her walk back to her seat and felt compassion. I believed that she was trying so hard to be good, to do right, and to live a life of integrity and meaning. I know nothing about this woman, but that was what just came to me. I wanted to go up to her and tell her that I saw her, that I knew she was trying, and that she was doing a good job.
I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and hopelessness. Who would see all of these people, would know how hard they are truly trying, and how much they want to be good and do right? I wondered at how few of them have been told that they are loved, and how many fewer still actually believe it. It's moments like these that the world seems old and tired. That a collective sigh passes through our civilization as we hope for tomorrow.
This experience gave me a small glimpse into what I believe God must feel. I imagine he sees us trying so hard, working so hard, plumbing the depths of our strength, struggling to push forward, step by bloody step. He just wants us to know that we don't have to struggle anymore. He tells each of us that he knows us.
More than sin, or salvation, or grace, or any other doctrine, that was my glimpse of the gospel that morning. We are all trying so hard, and can feel so lost, and yet are so boundlessly loved by God. We fall down, we fail, and he says to us "I know child, I know it's hard, remember that I sent my son to face the same things, and worst still. I love you no matter what. Know that I love you no matter what."
That he loves us is the most heartbreaking thing of all.