Imagine this. A friend calls you upset and in need of help. She invites you to her house—something she's never done in the many years you've known her.
You pull up to the quaint house with a nicely manicured lawn, you walk to the front door, and ring the door bell. Within a few moments your friend answers. Her face is red and splotchy. It's clear she's been crying.
As you step into her house you immediately notice how dark and smelly it is. All the shades are drawn and a single lamp lights her large living room. Mildew and dust mix in the air and flood your nostrils with stench. Once your eyes adjust you notice piles of books, newspapers, and magazines stacked up along each wall. The end table near the couch is covered with used tissues. A bowl of moldy food sits on the floor.
What stirs up inside you?
Are you completely disgusted, ready to run out the door? Are you ready to get to work, helping your friend clean her home? Are you angry that she's kept this secret from you? Do you feel claustrophobic, eager to throw open the shades and windows to let in some sunlight? Are you filled with compassion for your friend, wondering what could have led to her home becoming like an episode of Hoarders?
Although none of these responses are necessarily bad, they do reveal what's happening in your heart. And God's been teaching me lately how important it is to be aware of what's happening there—especially when I'm trying to help others.1