How you do stay soft in a hard world?

People who allow their hearts to be broken for the brokenness in the world have something that most of us don’t.
– Jeff Goins, Wrecked


There are maybe 20 people in the room. All seated in folding chairs except the bride, groom, pastor, best man, and maid of honor. Great aunt holds the baby in her lap for now.

The wedding is at 9 a.m. on the Saturday before Christmas in a side room of Manna House. I’ve never seen the room so straight and uncluttered. Usually it holds people needing cash, maybe someone huddled over them praying, someone else waiting for guidance to set up disability benefits.

     But not this morning.

Today at the front of the room is a clean table with a white tablecloth. And a beautifully decorated white cake from somewhere. We’ve laid out paper plates, napkins, forks beside it.

The bride holds a bouquet of flowers that also appeared from out of nowhere. I’m guessing from the same place as the cake.

     Or, rather, from the same person.

It’s the maid of honor.
It all has to be from her.

I watch her from my seat.
It’s the maid of honor dripping tears.

And all I can think is, How does she do it???”


She’s seen as much badness as the world can show. She’s been lied to, taken advantage of, and stolen from. She’s given her time, her money, her energy to people who don’t and can’t appreciate it.

Yet, she’s still touched enough to cry for this young bride who’s stepping from one hard life into hopefully a better one.

And she still answers her phone at 3 a.m. when a trying-to-be-ex-prostitute calls her because she’s scared of the dark.

And she still feeds the hungry and clothes the naked and provides benches for the homeless men to sleep on at night when it’s cold.

     She still has a heart.
     Where can I get one like that?

She tells me. From Jesus. It’s his heart that beats inside her. It’s his love for the school kids that she’s fighting for, scheduling another hot meal into their week. It’s his love for the elderly man that she’s making sure has fresh fruit in his kitchen. It’s his love for the immigrant family that she’s packed up enough canned goods for seven straight dinners.

She doesn’t walk away from the broken. She walks toward them. Not because she can fix all their problems. But because she can help with one.

     And because she hopes in Jesus who can heal them all.

I watch her live with Jesus’ heart. And I ask him for more of his heart in mine, too.

And I choose “compassion” as my One Word 2014 because I don’t want to just see the wound of another and turn hardened or repulsed by it—I want to be brave enough and kind enough and hopeful enough to touch it.

The wedding is now over so I cut the cake and Jenna snaps photos and the happy couple feeds their baby a fingertip of icing.

And the maid of honor gives them hugs and a turkey and a box of groceries.

     And hope–through her compassion.

I’ve seen some grow cynical, grow bitter, from hard experiences, theirs or others.

But I’ve seen others grow softer, grow better, because of what they see.

In the pain, they believe God is still good.
They believe it’s possible to keep a soft heart in a hard world.

     I’ll choose to believe it, too.

* * *

What situations bring out your compassion? What can make you hard?



26 thoughts on “How you do stay soft in a hard world?

  1. Joanne Viola

    Lisa – this is such a touching post. May God keep our hearts soft. May we not ever grow cynical. May He continue to break our hearts with the very things that break His. I love your word. May you remain focused throughout the year on your word. And on Him!

  2. Beverley

    … because you do not want to give back any of the bad stuff to anyone else and the only way to make it lie low is to do good stuff instead.

    The day sounds like it was amazing.

  3. bluecottonmemory

    There’s a situation, Lisa – where I ask my husband, “Why is the mean people are getting all the love and respect – and we’re treated like the bad guys?” I don’t know why – it breaks my heart – but I don’t want it to harden my heart. I want to believe unconditional love, no matter how ungraceless and awkward – wins every time! I needed this post – because you explained it so much more gracefully than I could:)

  4. Dianna

    Oh my friend…have you read Authentic Faith by Gary Thomas? If not, you need to! I’m covering it slowly, digesting chapter by chapter. It is where He meets us…it is where we surrender to His disciplines…that is where we find this incredible grace for the discipline of selflessness. xo

  5. Barbara H.

    This puts me to shame. Too often either I don’t see a need because I am caught up in my own things I’m doing or I am so overwhelmed that I’m paralyzed with, “Well, what can ‘I’ do about it?” thoughts, because there is no way I can meet some of the needs. But just meeting one need at a time as He brings it to our attention and directs and provides – that’s all He asks.

  6. Jerralea

    Oh, wise Lisa, you are so right. We can’t help solve all their problems but we can help with one. Thank you for your touching post. It is so easy to become hard-hearted when faced with benevolent requests at the church office where I work. I’ve been lied to so very many times. Yet, I still want to give a “cup of cold water” in Jesus’ name. I have to ask Him to love through me because in the natural, I don’t have enough compassion.

  7. Tracy

    Hi Lisa, wow, what a great post. I find myself reacting “hard” sometimes and I often come before the Lord and ask Him to help me not be hard. I too want to always grow softer in the Lord and be able to see to help not be blinded by the hardness of the world and what it can do to someone. Again, great post
    God bless

  8. Melissa

    Lisa, your post brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

    I think cynicism, and being around cynical people, can make us hard. Conversely, I see people who just overflow with the love of Christ and I want to be like them.

  9. Shelly Miller

    Oh Lisa, tearful here. What a beautiful story of a servants heart inspiring faith put into action. May we all be beacons like the one you witnessed, doing the work of his hands not for what we gain from but because we love well.

  10. Patty

    I so hear you … there is brushing by Jesus, there is touching the hem of His garment and then there is walking with Him and in Him in such a way that His heart beats within you. I long for it too. Thank you for this post! It is just the vision and encouragement I need. Beautiful.

  11. Renee

    What a powerful post, Lisa….speaking to me more today than you can ever know. The heart of Jesus…a challenge, but not impossible because He lives in us! Thank you…

  12. tcavey

    What a great post! Only God can enlarge our hearts with that kind of love.

    Love this sentence- “It’s his heart that beats inside her. ”
    I pray I can love like that…with His heart and not my own.

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  14. Joan

    Compassion and empathy are wonderful traits to have. Sometimes they come easily, but at other times not at all…But, when we pray and ask God to let us see others as He sees them, our hearts will soften.

    Blessings, Joan

  15. Debbie

    I love your one word for 2014 Lisa! What a beautiful story of love and compassion as you described this wedding and the amazing maid of honor. I hope to also have such compassion for others that can only come from Jesus. My one word for 2014 is love as I hope to allow His love to overflow from me to others.

    God bless you and happy new year!

    Blessings and love,

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