Just as you’re created with specific physical traits (eye color and height, for example), you’re also created with different parts of your soul. These parts develop over time. When they’re hurt, rejected, or traumatized, they can take on extreme thoughts and feelings, and painful memories can weigh them down. And then they can cause you to behave in ways you wish you wouldn’t.
Imagine that your soul has three categories of parts: 1) the parts that are suffering, 2) the parts that are straying, and 3) the parts that are sanctimonious. And it helps to get to know these parts of you, so that you can invite the Holy Spirit to speak to them. We can look to characters in the Gospels to understand more about the parts of yourself needing God’s care.
When Jesus walked the earth, he spent time with three kinds of people, including the sanctimonious ones trying to keep everyone in line, the straying ones breaking the rules, and the suffering ones who lived on the fringes. And he had his own way of connecting with the people in each category.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus interacted frequently with the religious leaders who knew every letter of the law . . . and who, when they had mastered laws, created more. They excelled at keeping up a positive appearance while masking their insecurities and weaknesses (Luke 11:43–44). Jesus expressed his desire to be close to them when he quoted Isaiah, saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6–8).
Jesus also spent time with people whom the religious leaders called “sinners,” those whose sin was more obvious. These were people who committed adultery, rebelled, cheated, stole, and routinely stepped out of line. When the religious leaders criticized Jesus for being friends with these people, he answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Typically, Jesus didn’t have harsh words for sinners. He often befriended them, forgave them, and then called them to change: “Neither do I condemn you. . . . Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
Jesus also encountered many people who were suffering. He didn’t blame the suffering, nor did he marginalize them. Instead, he encouraged them, helped them, and treated them with respect. And in many cases, he healed them.
In each of these cases, Jesus asked the suffering person to do something before being healed: “Get up! Pick up your mat and go home” (Mark 2:11). Jesus healed the sick and gave them a new role.
Jesus loves every part of who you are—the sanctimonious, straying, and suffering parts of you, too. Welcome these parts of you—don’t push them away. Get to know them and invite Jesus to be near. You might be surprised how these parts of you respond to his presence, and to your curiosity and compassion.