Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pricking our hearts.......

I've struggled with writing this week.  There's something I started last week that I can't quite finish mostly because it doesn't seem the right time to post something introspective.  There's just too much going on in the world at large this week.  In reality there is always suffering, but the last couple of weeks through social media it's been especially in our faces.

There's an interesting power in social media because in the past if we didn't want to know we could just turn off the newscast or put down the newspaper.  Now, however, we see things just connecting with family and friends.  I usually appreciate this because as I'm settling down for now in a first world nation, I don't want to forget what I've learned and how to globally love.  The world is smaller than we think and we ARE responsible to care and to respond beyond our own comfort zones.

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." 
-William Wilberforce

But this week I'm not liking the empathy I feel with developing nation faces, with the suffering of real live people who dress differently and may look a bit different than I do.  I've had friends like them, ate with them, held their children.......

There's a photo on my Facebook feed of dead children and smiling militants that makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut.  Every time I see it.  I'm sure it would/does you, too.

In my first year of overseas life I was based in Hong Kong and had just spent a couple of months in China when Tiananmen Square hit the news.  It was the first time for me where events in far off places had a face. Most of my English interaction in China had been on 'English corners' where students went to practice their skills.  And then real people just like them were being killed.  For the first time, current events brought real, human faces to mind.  And I wept.

Yesterday the world reacted to the death of Robin Williams.  A man who made us laugh and who more importantly let us hear the laughter of our children.  Because of that we feel like on some level that we knew him and can't believe that a true genius of wit would become low enough to end his own life.  And perhaps during a week of terrible news stories we're especially grateful for the lifetime of laughter he gave us.

Some of the social media reaction I saw was along the line of 'let's stop making a fuss over someone just because he's famous and get back to remembering those who have no voice.'  Part of me agrees, but the life of one man is precious---and no less so just because he's famous.  Maybe others with depression won't go unnoticed because someone near them is learning through the life and death of Robin. 

And after all that's what real compassion is all about----the life of one.  And then one.  And one more.

A danger of our modern glut of instant news is something I've heard referred to as "knee jerk compassion."  An emotional response to an event that pricks our hearts, makes us momentarily bleed and quickly respond (partly to make us feel better), but then quickly scabs over and we move on without it turning into something that evokes real compassion.  

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”
―Henri J.M. Nouwen

Real compassion is not easy.  But real compassion is the example we have in Christ.  We need to let compassion become action and affect lives, one person at a time.

It's not easy letting the pain of others prick our hearts.  

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33) 

There will always be sorrows here----but there will always be Him.  And while pain may have it's way for a little longer, we can walk encouraged that He has already won the battle.  As we let our hearts be broken into action for the sake of others, we'll come closer to what His heart has been all along.  

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:38)

"Jesus wept." (Jn. 11:35)

All photos today by my sister-in-love Megan Lindsay.

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