Last weekend my husband was away on a business trip. And when he came back the first thing he wanted to do was lay on the bed together with our window AC unit blowing in cool air against the mugginess outside and talk about the things he’d seen and heard.
He told me about an article he read in the NY Times about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and how officials had narrowed the outbreak down to the very first victim, who they were calling Patient Zero: a 2 year old boy. The child brought it home, then the mother got it, then the sister, and the entire family. They all died. So did the doctors treating them. And the others who came into contact. The people at the funeral homes and the families of those people.
Ebola is tearing communities apart.
This is not news to anyone, but because I’m not great at staying up to date with what’s happening in the world, the specifics were news to me. Apparently the article went on to say that only two organizations are on the ground, truly making a difference: Samaritan’s Purse and Doctor’s Without Borders.
They needed gloves, Heshan told me. That’s it. Rubber gloves could have saved lives.
I remembered what it was like when I was denied medical treatment for an illness I went through, and I thought back to two weeks ago when Steph had strep throat and even in our sophisticated medical system had to go to the doctor three times to get the antibiotics she needed to get better. I remembered how much it sucks to be sick or watch the people we love be sick and not be able to do anything about it, and for a moment I felt their pain.
In that split second, I wanted to send the rubber gloves. Or at least the $10 it would take to buy some.
And it was also in that split second that I realized that in order for us to be generous we must feel another’s pain.
In His earthly ministry, Jesus felt other’s pain. A guest speaker at my church told us that the original word used in Mark 1 to describe the way Jesus felt about a man begging to be healed of leprosy is actually better translated to being punched in the gut. Jesus felt His pain. He saw the man suffering and it felt like having the wind knocked out of Him.
A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” – Mark 1:40-41 (NLT)
Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list. Who of us, when we’re stretched thin, has time to enter into another’s pain?
I usually want to run from the ugly stuff, because most days it feels like I have enough problems of my own. One of the reasons I don’t know much about world news is because it can feel a big joy-stealer in the small amount of free time I have.
But Jesus was moved by compassion, and He uses compassion to move us as His hands and feet. When we actually feel someone else’s pain we’re more likely to do something about it.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)
One of the biggest revelations for me emotionally in this whole following Jesus into less experience is that every time I say no to something that’s not a real need (even when I feel guilty about it), I’m actually opening up the door for Jesus to show me what to say yes to, and compassion is a lot easier for me when I’m not feeling overwhelmed or stressed out myself.
I know it’s not a new thing and that people all over are talking about yes and no and how to do each well. I’ll be honest with you that as I’m taking things off my plate I’ve been asking God to help me care about others in the ways He wants me to, because I feel like generosity is something I have a lot of room to grow in. It kind of blows my mind that real compassion (not just the knowledge that I should care about something but the actual caring feeling to do something about it) is something I need a lot of personal space for, and I’m really glad He showed that to me. It’s one of many things that is confirming for me that God is calling me to a slower pace and to a life that’s less about getting things done and more about being available when He calls me to move.
What about you guys? How do you feel about busyness or compassion? Does it come easier to you even when your plate is full or are you more able to feel compassion when you have less on your plate? Let’s talk about it…
Update: the image above was incorrectly attributed via unsplash. Original image by Lizzy Gadd. Modified for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.