Search My Heart – Then Change It


Written by Cindy Western, Pastor of Discipleship Materials

Beautiful | Unbeautiful

Before moving to Oklahoma, I spent fourteen years living in a beach community in Southern California, less than five miles from the filming location of two popular cable TV shows that highlight the glamorous and wealthy lifestyles of the rich and “wannabe” famous. The area was very upscale – beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful people. I really liked it. No, I LOVED it…until I didn’t.

I was writing a Bible study for our local church about Jesus’ heart for the poor, the needy…the “neighbor.” I wrote about how Jesus sought out unbeautiful people in unbeautiful places. And as I was writing, I began to weep.

This thought his me like a ton of bricks -if Jesus walked the earth at this moment I would most certainly miss Him. You see, I enjoyed pretty and pristine so much I managed to drive specific routes just to avoid ugly and dirty. I didn’t know homeless. I didn’t know poor. I didn’t know my neighbor. And I wept.

I stopped writing and started praying. “But who can discern their own errors?” (Psalm 19:12a). I asked God to search my heart.

Searching and Challenging

He did. And He let me know what He found. Arrogance. Apathy. Denial. Pretense. Greed. Selfishness. Complacency. I had spent so much time trying to avoid ugliness, but it turns out I was harboring the ugliest in my own heart. It was time for a change. “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12b-13). I asked God to forgive me and to change my heart.

He did. The weight and burden of my ugliness was lifted and was replaced with a desire to seek out those who burdened the heart of my Lord. And while I knew there was brokenness around me and that those pristine homes harbored wounded souls who hungered for a Savior, I knew I was being called to leave my neighborhood to find my neighbor.

So I did. I drove outside my regular route and started looking and noticing. I ran into people who didn’t have homes, who lived on the street. I was more than uncomfortable … I was shaken. Men, women, children, pets, you name it—they were there. I started wondering about their stories. I became less afraid and more interested in how God saw them, and I kept asking Him how I could be Jesus to them.

[blockquote]How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” {Isaiah 52:7}[/blockquote]

He showed me their feet. “Feet?” I asked, “God, I understand my feet bring good news, but what about their feet?” Then I noticed that most of those on the street had shoes being held together with tape or string, if they had shoes at all. Many didn’t have socks. And they had to do a lot of walking to find their next meal and a place to rest their heads.

I started going to garage sales and collecting shoes, in every size. We bought socks—lots of them. Clean, new socks. We put them in my car, my husband’s car and the cars my kids drove. We found ourselves looking for homeless people or anyone who could use our bounty. We didn’t drive our familiar routes; we went off the beaten path to find people who needed our shoes and socks. Sometimes they didn’t need shoes. They just needed to be noticed. So we did that, too.

Bigger Than the Comfort Zone

It takes energy to look past appearance and actually see the face, to look into the eyes and know their story. Sometimes the simple act of noticing is a good deed. Treating individuals with dignity—noticing they are human beings—is a beautiful start to restoring them to a worthiness they may not have felt for some time, or maybe even ever.

Where I used to be afraid when I encountered the homeless, now I was excited. I wanted to meet them so I could give them shoes, yes, but more so I could offer them recognition. I couldn’t wait for opportunities to present something that could bless them, and then I would pray for them—with them if they would let me.

I think this is how Jesus was on earth. I think He was sad there were people in need, but I believe His heart leapt for joy when He could give them something they needed – value, forgiveness, grace, hope, life.

Jesus’ idea when He sent His disciples to reach the world with His message of grace was that we would put off our selfish concerns and sinful desires and put on compassion for a broken and needy world. Following Him would mean following the example He set – feeding hungry people, clothing people who crave warmth and comfort, and providing resources to people who are poor. For me, it wasn’t really about the shoes; it was about changing my heart toward the world around me, a world bigger than my comfort zone.

“Search My Heart – Then Change It” originally published by Cindy Western, Pastor of Discipleship Materials, in the Winter 2014 edition of Crossings Magazine.