As I write this post I am sitting in a café working away at my laptop. I can tune out most of what is going on around me. But not at the moment. Two parents and a teenage daughter are having a dispute at the next table. It’s simple really. The father wants to protect his daughter and she is resisting. He loves her. She knows best. Her friend sleeps with her boyfriend, so why can’t she? Friends matter more than some old-fashioned morals. The mother is sitting silently on the sidelines, but the Dad is obviously hurting. So is the daughter. He wouldn’t move her from one school to another, would he? Emotions run high. I’m starting to feel emotion just sitting here trying not to listen.
Real life is raw. Real life stirs emotions. People don’t worry for a moment. They lie awake fretting. People don’t solve problems in a vacuum. The emotions rise and relationships fray. People don’t live life in three-second statements. They live it in the raw. Life is complex. Life is painful. Life is real.
As I sit here I am reminded that simply referring to the fact that people have struggles with health, or in marriage, or raising teens, is not enough to guarantee connection. Empathy requires an emotional engagement with the pain of peoples’ lives. God sovereignly allows us to experience certain pain to increase our empathy. But let’s not rely on that, let’s be sure to engage our emotions and try to feel the reality of the life people live. Maybe then our empathy will be more complete, and our connection to real life in the pulpit more effective.