As I browsed some of my old blog posts today looking for more information on faith and the mind, I came across a very old post on compassion. It shocks me that I wrote this over 2 years ago, never imagining that we would be leaving the United States and building a life in another country. God is absolutely, positively surprising... His mystery is without comparison. I'm amazed that He cared enough to 'begin a good work' in this family. Why? Because He is God and that is just what He does!
What is Compassion? - written in November of 2007Well, yes... yes, in fact in appears, I am. Only I did not realize just how long God has been asking me that very question. He sure could have given up on me a looooong time ago. That He didn't is to His great credit by His sheer grace.
My definition of compassion has been challenged; mixed up, mashed, and kneaded until it no longer resembles that which once was. You see, I thought compassion was more about me than anything else... about me feeling sorry for another, as if my 'feeling sorry' actually accomplished anything. My attempts at compassion were easy for me, my attempts at compassion never required me to get my hands dirty.
The most beautiful, compelling definition of compassion was introduced to me on another blog called Seeking the Forgotten. The definition of compassion that she shared was attributed to Henri Nouwen and others when I searched on the web. Here is the definition:
"Compassion ~ is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull - .....On the contrary, compassion means going to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God's compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation. It is the compassion of one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as he knows that there are still human beings with tears in their eyes."
My self-righteous thoughts about compassion are nipped right in the bud when I read this. What about you? Is compassion something reserved for those few who are 'called' to missions work overseas? Or is compassion something we are all called to as followers of Jesus? Aren't there plenty of opportunities for real, authentic compassion right in front of our eyes?
Is compassion something to only think about a few times per year as we write a check for missions or scan the Angel Tree? Or is compassion a lifestyle, a way of existing?
I'm challenged here... am I really willing to relinquish my 'privileged' position here in my comfy world and extend a hand horizontally to another who might not look, smell or understand anything common to me?