Almost a decade ago I was headed to an early morning class with a friend. We had an exam. It felt like a weighty exam. Looking back, I think I overimbued the test’s significance, but at the time my future felt in the hands of the test. As we scooted down the highway, which was an early Saturday morning trafficless route, we passed a large green exit sign with a body laying at the bottom of it. My carpool friend/classmate and I asked one another, “Did you see that?” We changed lanes, pulled onto the shoulder of the road, and tried to sort out what we were going to do.
Our conversation went something like this:
Do you have your first aid?
No, do you?
We really can’t be late to the test.
We can’t just leave the person.
He’s too far back there. We’ll have to exit. Go the other way, and come back around.
What about the test?
What will we do when we get to the body?
Do we walk back?
We could call 911.
I don’t have a cell.
Well, I do. What do I say?
We saw a body between this exit and this exit at a base of sign for east bound traffic. Well we’re no Good Samaritan today.
And that’s what we did. I drove. She called 911. I threw in a few details, and we got to our test on time. After the exam, we told the instructor about the preadventure, and we ruefully became the un-Good Samaritans. Both of us have lives steeped in the Good Samaritan story, in compassion, in goodness, but in that moment we just didn’t know what to do.
So here I am almost a decade later, still praying for the person and their family. Knowing that if I had a do-over, I would do differently. Still wondering if the person is ok. Still sorry I didn’t sit with them until the first responders arrived. Still kind of appalled that a test demanded more of my time and energy that a human.
Yesterday I listened to a podcast that created an Aha moment for me. Actually several Aha moments came to me. Juanita Rasmus read the parable of the Good Samaritan three times inviting the listeners to imagine being the priest, the Good Samaritan, and the man who had been attacked.
Aha #1: The priest: It’s complicated.
Maybe the priest was like me, focusedly heading to do something central to his purpose, his call, his future. Did he not know what to do? Did he wonder about the injured man a decade later? Did he send someone back to help? Did he think through the passing by and think about what he would do differently next time? I know the story is a parable, but yesterday was the first time ever I thought about the priest as anything but a villain.
Aha #2: Justice and compassion definitions
Mrs. Rasmus said that to her “Justice is love gone public.” and that her understanding of “Compassion is the experience of a heart that has known its own suffering and has been made expansive by the healing power of the love of God.”
These definitions are beautiful; they give me pause. They broaden my grasp of these words. When she defined justice and compassion this way, I am moved to look at the state of my own heart. Is it full of love? If the contents of thinking and feeling go public, what will it look like? justice? or not?
Have I sat with my own suffering? You see when I passed the body on the side of the road, I had not yet lived through moments where having someone with me mattered even when they could not do anything for me. I had not learned to sit with my own pain or how healing presence could be as an extension of the healing power of the love of God.
Aha #3: Justice and compassion diagnostics
While listening to Rasmus’ podcast for the second or third time lightbulbs started flickering on; connections began to be made. I’m going to try on the ideas here.
Backstory: Part of my job is to remediate a student’s reading and writing. The more accurately I can pinpoint why they make the mistakes they do, the more effectively the learning vulnerability can be supported. For a simple example a student who spells dad as bab has letter reversals to work on where as a a student who spells grant as grat does not hear all of the sounds and needs to work on phonemic awareness.
I have a friend who works as an NIS practitioner, and through her I have learned that the same health symptoms do not have the same root causes. This seems applicable to so many things what looks the same rarely is.
I have longed for a discipleship diagnostic. Also, I have been confused when people I experientially know to be just and compassionate post on social media statements or articles that minimize, deny, or deflect others’ call to justice or compassion Like profoundly befuddled.
So I’m trying on Rasmus’ definitions. Maybe some people’s dismissing of other’s experiences and calls to justice come because they do not yet love the people who make the call. What’s gone public in the news, in social media, in social exchanges might be a lack of love.
And maybe there are love filled hearts who have not known their own suffering. All humans have pain and suffering, but not all of us know how to sit with our own suffering, get to know it. We
- grin and bear it
- hide our crazy
- get it together
- don’t burden anyone
- roll with the punches
- be positive
- stomach something
- hold our tongues
- shake it off
- suck it up
and try so hard not to pay attention to our own pain. Then when others begin drawing attention to their pain, their plight, their situation, their injustice, their natural disaster, their horror, their grief, we want them to also grin and bear it. We have little to extend because we are holding it in.
What if we started to
- cry and share
- show our crazy
- let it fall apart
- share our burden
- defend from the punches
- be real
Then maybe, after getting to know our own suffering, we will get to know God as the Father of compassion and God of all comfort in a new way; we will receive His “healing power,” and we become “expansive” in extending His love and comfort, His justice and compassion.
Maybe today I crossed to the other side of the social media street; I looked the other way from someone’s misfortune, pain, suffering, and maybe today I will make a new plan for what I will do next time.
Where am I not goodsamaritaning? And what suffering do I need to sit with?
The wilderness road can become a stream of living water when the Spirit of Jesus brings healing.
Look at the current event headlines and let’s ask ourselves “how can I respond with justice and compassion?” And if I don’t have these to muster, why not?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-8