Life In The Shadows

On a recent visit to Mexico I had the opportunity to visit the small island of Isla Mujeres. This small five mile island is just 400 yards wide at its largest section. As with many of these places, the ocean is warm and beautiful and the scenery is a tropical paradise in some places.


For a short time in the afternoon my wife and I wandered the streets of the island. The center of the small town on Isla Mujeres is one shop after another of people selling various items and small restaurants dispersed throughout between the many shops. The streets are narrow and packed with tourist from all over the world and the sound of Spanish music provides the soundtrack for the experience.


  I’m not sure when the experience began turning for us from one of pleasure to one of sadness, but we began to notice things which our eyes could not turn from.  Behind the brightly painted buildings of the street we started to notice the squalor of housing that those who sold to us their trinkets would return to at night.  There were stores with only a husband and wife operating it, with posted business hours of 14 to 16 hours a day. Or the two small children who played in the back of the truck as their father worked his day as a guard of the gate at the back of a hotel.  Maybe saddest of all was the quiet desperation I’d see in the faces of men and women hoping we’d enter their business and make a purchase and the resignation when we did not.  I found myself thinking in the shadows of the paradises of this world, you will always find the poor and abused who keep it running on their backs.


Some of you probably will tell me that I’m too sensitive. This is the way it is in the Third World.  These are the fortunate ones.  Maybe you’re right.   Yet I can’t shake the feeling that Jesus would want us to notice these things because it’s where you would have found him if he were there.


I am more and more convinced that Christianity is so much bigger than the Sunday morning experience. If we are to truly be like Christ we must feel like Christ. The message of the Gospel has always been easier accepted by the poor than the rich, and yet so much of the American church experience is being directed to the accumulation of wealth.  Is it just me that thinks we have grown terrible out of balance?


A passage from an autobiography of the great revivalist George Whitefield speaks to this issue so directly. This man who repeatedly was attacked and barred from the pulpit found his way by following the hard road. Listen to his words.


Before long, however, a scheduled execution brought it about. Whitefield’s heart had been broken by the coalminers at Kingswood, Bristol – men as violent as they were vulgar. Once the date for the hanging had been set the miners began anticipating the celebrations surrounding the entertainment.  When the murderer “cheated” them of their amusement by committing suicide, the miners dug up the corpse and partied around it.

They and their families were 100 percent illiterate, stuck in a degradation that defies description. Whitefield walked among them, in full clerical attire, and began speaking to them from Matthew 5:3  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Thoroughly despised and contemptuously shunned, these people found in Whitefield someone who loved them and therefore did not fear them. Grimy with caked-on dirt and coated in coal dust as they were, Whitefield wrote of them in his diary that as he preached he saw “the white gutters made by their tears down their black cheeks.”

            I ask you today… when was the last time you really saw the people in the shadows?  The people who the Bible calls the least of them?   I believe that if we could again see as God sees this country would experience one of the greatest revivals to ever happen.  Instead of us being worldly minded we would again be Kingdom minded and the effect on society would be astonishing.

            God help me to have your eyes.  Help me to smell the lost, desperate and broken as the sweet perfume they are in your nostrils.  Change my heart to one who chooses to walk in the shadows because there I will find you; changing lives, bringing hope, and healing the broken.


Isaiah 61:1 – 2 (NKJV) 1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”