Last weekend our entire community rallied together to find a lost runner. A local doctor went for a run on Friday morning and got lost. Thankfully she was discovered alive 56 hours later. She spent two nights in the mountains wearing only her running shorts, a tee shirt and baseball cap. She had no food or water or cell phone. As the hours rolled on dire images of what might have happened to her filled our minds as we prayed and searched.
Days later, after her joyful discovery, our local newspaper ran an article about what happens to people who get lost in a forest. Something called “woods shock” takes place. Under the influence of woods shock a lost person can begin to behave erratically and fail to recognize familiar scenes. They can actually go into a trance-like state where they do not recognize their rescuers or respond to those conducting the search. They can be so deep into woods shock they can walk right by a rescuer without engaging them.
As I read about woods shock, I heard the word “truth shock.” There are people in your life who have become so disoriented to truth they have begun to act erratically. Their lives now resemble a lost person in a forest experiencing woods shock. You can walk right up to someone who has been given over to a lie and try your best to communicate, but to no avail. At this point you have a choice to make between judgment and mercy.
When the young doctor was finally rescued she was taken to a local hospital where her dehydration and injuries we treated with compassion and professionalism by the hospital staff. She didn’t need a lecture on why she didn’t take a cell phone with her or why she neglected to tell someone where she was going to run on that fateful morning. She need time to get well. She needed time to recover.
Giving a person space for healing is what mercy looks like. Many times the Church is so desirous to correct a culture’s behavior that we can appear merciless. If you are part of the Church you are on a search and rescue mission on Earth. When you find the lost ones let mercy be the first act you extend. Later on, when they have recovered from truth shock and being exposed to the elements of sin, then with great compassion you can engage in a conversation to help them see where they took the wrong trail and got lost.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17