The last 2 weeks I have been prayer-walking through the Main Street area of Northampton walking a circle from Smith College to the Post Office and back to our offices on Armory Street. As I walk, I have been trying to sense God's heart for the people and how he would have me pray for them and for the city as a whole. The walks have been inspiring and deepening. God lets me see into things as I walk.
First, I have been struck by how much Northampton is an "occupied city" spiritually. It is as if the city is enshrouded and fraudulently commandeered by unseen minions of darkness, oppression and death. If you linger and look carefully this sense is palpable. My daughter, Eslie, referred to it by saying, "It is as if there is beauty underneath, but it has been covered and suppressed." I am also unnerved by the realization that most people there live unaware that a tyrannical alien army has infiltrated the city, and stolen its true Heart. A tragedy really.
The second more disturbing awareness I have as I walk is that I do not really love this city or its people. My heart is not consistently broken by their bondage and blindness. Yeah, sometimes I feel it, starting as a sadness for what could be, and then becoming a welling anger at the one who came to kill and destroy. This feeling is almost a flash of holy rage.
What I know would be better for my heart is that it be overtaken by compassion which won't leave and unsettles me to loving service and spending my best time doing good for these people. I want to, but I am still in my head most of the time. I want eyes that see and a heart that takes selfless action almost as an instinct. Their pain and oppression needs to be mine -- their despair and brokenness my passion -- their blindness and fear my call. I need to be about their freedom and life through the One who has it always near His heart and asks me to share it.
So superficial caring will not do. Its insulting and barbaric. I know I need grace and a heart of flesh if I am going to leave anything good behind in this place after my watch. Jesus has to make this real or I will be easily satisfied with my puny idea of helping. Have mercy on me, Lord.