Friday, November 16, 2012

The Spiritual Discipline of Compassion

How did Jesus do it?  I think often of Jesus and compassion and how to live in the world when one is open to the suffering of others.

I spent yesterday morning watching my husband try to cope with agonizing back pain.  Some days are better than others, and yesterday was a bad day.  I can do nothing except to be present, and sometimes I wonder if my presence is worse than my absence.  Yesterday morning, I just happened to be home.

I wish I could do more, but I'm no neurosurgeon.  We're going to the neurosurgeon after Thanksgiving.

I drove to work listening to the Diane Rehm show.  She was talking about homeless youth, and on the short drive to work, I heard such tales of woe.  I was already in a weepy mode, so I cried.

I worked to stabilize my mood before I went in the building to my office.  But it was the kind of day that drove me to tears.  And later, my colleague friend appeared to tell me that she's arranging hospice care for her mother, who has never really recovered from a fall that she took in August.  She stood in my doorway collapsing into sobs, and so, I hugged her and cried some tears of my own.

By the end of the day, I felt like all my nerve endings were exposed.  I felt exhausted.  Not for the first time, I wondered how Jesus did it. 

Of course, Jesus had the advantage of being part of the Triune God, which I am not.  But our creeds teach us that Jesus was also human.

I picture Jesus, trapped in human form, thinking about his nerve endings, his emotional self, the parts of his brain he wouldn't have to deal with if he wasn't incarnate.  I picture him thinking about how hard it is to deal with human problems while stuck in human form.

But Jesus also came to show us how to be more fully human, to show us what is possible if we want to live a full human life.  A large part of Christ's ministry involved healing, and a large part of that healing comes from being fully present.

And so, even though my response to human suffering tends to be a turning away, I'll resist my urge.  I'll continue to try to learn to be more fully present, more fully human.

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