Why does Jesus have to be so compassionate?
It’s not that I don’t want Him to be. I do; I know that I do. I wouldn’t want Him to be any other way. Neither would you. I don’t think that I want a cold, impersonal Savior, really. But, sometimes, that compassion hurts. Sometimes, that compassion is painful.
I went to bed a bit stirred up last night. My oldest boy spoke so openly and honestly with me in the evening about his fears and nervousness for the upcoming weeks as he quickly approaches Boot Camp. He also spoke much to me about how much he misses his father. First time he has been that open about his ache. He’s scared. And I’m scared for him, although I know that the potential and opportunities are immense for him, in choosing the Navy route. But it is going to be anything but easy. He has some unique physical/mental challenges to overcome. He can do it, I’m sure of it. But still.
Unable to sleep, and wanting to quiet my mind, I did what I do occasionally–I listened to a sermon. Many times, that helps me fall asleep–not necessarily because I wish to be bored to sleep (although that certainly has worked in my favor at times), but often because it just gets my mind to switch gears.
Not so, last night.
The sermon I played was centered, primarily, on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, which was this past weekend. I didn’t know that when I clicked “Play”; the passage in the subject line didn’t indicate that it would be–it was not your typical “Sanctity Sunday” passage. Had I known it was on that topic, I probably would not clicked-not because I don’t think Sanctity of Human Life is important, I do. But it is also a bit difficult to listen to–it’s not a topic I, right or wrong, give deep thought to, for many reasons. However, once it got going, it was like a train wreck–I couldn’t seem to make myself shut it down. And so, there it was–that topic, with an emphasis on the compassion of Jesus, our need to be compassionate, and a call to act in some way.
But what got me was the compassion of Jesus.
I didn’t sleep much.
Then, this morning, in my inbox was an email from a new friend, walking through a hell that I am all-too-familiar with. It is a gift and privilege to walk with her–it is always an honor and gift to be granted the chance to sit with someone in their pain, always–but it so aches as well; like a scab ripped off.
The compassion of God, O, my soul, can be a painful thing, though.
Let me explain:
Several years ago, I tripped while walking (physical grace I do not possess, in any way, shape or form). That trip resulted in a shattered leg and several pins, screws and a plate. The pain was intense as I sat on the ground trying to figure out what to do next. It was increasingly intense sitting in the waiting room alone for 4 hours until it was finally my turn. It was excruciating during the x-rays and examination and prior to surgery. But, you know what? After the surgery, during the healing, the pain was intense as well. The actual healing and the “binding up” of the wounds after surgery was painful–in some ways, more painful than the original breakage itself.
Sometimes, I find the same thing to be true with compassion.
Maybe I’m an odd duck. I know I’m an odd duck. But it is truth.
I can be hard-hearted, cold and cynical. I pride myself on stoicism–always have, and not the good kind of pride, either, if there is such a thing as good pride. I obsess over what others think—I despise the idea of anyone seeing me as weak. As being not strong. I get immense pride (the ugly kind, this I know for sure–the ugly kind) when people say things like “You are so strong!” I even crave such words! It feeds into that inner pull to say “Why, yes I am. I am strong. I don’t need anyone or anything.” Not even God.
But, that is not truth. I need God. I need His salvation, His justification. I need His grace. And, as much as I hate the need–despise it even, I need His mercy–His compassion.
I can give out compassion all day long (that sounds callous, but I can’t find any other words). But I can’t take it.
When someone speaks compassionate words to me, I cringe. When someone looks me in the eyes with compassion, it burns like fire–I look away. And on the rare occasion that someone dares to hug me not in greeting, but with a hint of a “compassionate-feel” to it, well, I can’t describe it other than to say it hurts, deeply. It slays me. It’s painful. Always has been.
And, when the God of all compassion turns His eyes upon me through words in scripture, through the intimacy of time spent in prayer before Him, through music, and through actions of others, I tend to run.
Give me something to debate theologically or doctrine-wise and I’m great. Give me spiritual disciplines to march to, and I’m good to go. Give me a need to fill–a bathroom to clean, a yard to rake, a “mission” to do and I do it efficiently. Voicing my doubts? Yeah, I can even do that fairly well now. But compassion from God? Not so much.
His gaze is intense. It sears.
But, just like my broken leg (and your sprained ankle, or dislocated shoulder, or toothache, or heart attack, or whatever injury/illness you have faced in your life) had to be painfully healed through the “binding up” that came with pins/screws/plates/staples and a series of casts, so do the things of the soul–the painful things. The ugly things. The dark things. The back-road/dark paneled, noisy air-conditioned rooms/dank bathrooms/despairing things. The broken marriages. The jail sentences. The death of loved ones. The wayward child. The painful things.
Even our own, ugly sin.
And He heals through His compassion. He sees and knows. And binds up the things that are broken. Painful, yes. Necessary, yes.
I don’t often look full-on at Jesus. I take side-ways glances–I find them safer, less painful. But someone I once knew said something along these lines one day: “When we want to run away from Him, that is probably the time we are most in need of running to Him.”
I have found this to be truth, even when running to Him has been painful. Is painful. Is painful today. Every hesitant, stumbling, lurching step. His saving grace, love and compassion, while painful, is the healing surgery I need on my soul.
Only He can cut out the cancer. I can’t do it. I wish I could.
And neither can you.