Compassion – suffering with someone with the desire to help them, this is what my husband told a youth group we pastored 16 years ago. I thought I understood the meaning of compassion back then but I had not even begun to comprehend it’s depth of meaning.
Life for us has been crazy this last month with the closing of the café, my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and the experimental medications the insurance company has made me go through before I can take the one my doctor actually thinks will help me. So for me, this week wraps up a four year long journey as we will lock the door to Offerings Holy Grounds Café for the last time this Saturday. What a journey it has been. Just penning these words springs up a well of tears filling my eyes.
We have met so many people. We have seen the good, the bad and the truly ugly. I have so many stories that it would take me all month to share. One that comes to my mind to share is of a blonde haired woman that lives a life of prostitution and crack addiction. I had only known “Misty” for about a week when I found her crouched out in the back parking lot trying to smoke crack out of some kind of make-shift pipe. She was frayed from end to end, disheveled and rocking back and forth. I remember walking up to her and standing there for minutes with her never even looking up to see what I was doing. My heart was feeling physically heavy as I lowered myself to my knees in front of her. All the while she never once looked at me; she continued to try to put crack in this so called pipe while she continued to rock back in forth. I can still feel the pain deep inside of me this day as I recount this story. I sat there for a minute or two and just watched her not knowing what I should do. With a deep breath I stretched my arms toward her and I cupped her weary face into my shaking hands. As I cradled her face her eyes met mine and at that moment I had become totally undone, never to be the same again.
Have you ever had an encounter with such suffering that it totally rocked your world? I did that day. That day I felt so much suffering and pain that I began to understand the meaning of compassion. Right there that day it hit me; compassion feels bad. It hurts, it’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s . . . awful. Compassion is walking away from an encounter that you know has changed your life forever and you realize that life as you knew it would never be the same.
Friends, we live in a world full of pain; do you feel it? Or have we become so desensitized by all the news stories and so self-centered that we will walk right past a person begging on the streets. Or as we pass the poor we drop our eyes so that we don’t have to look at them.
By now, most have put in at least a 40 hour week already work. So now we can have this weekend to enjoy and kick it up as we please. I understand this; I lived it for most of my life. I worked long hard hours at a job that was okay just so I could pay a mortgage on a house that I no longer live in and travel to a tropical state for a two week vacation once every year. I was living the dream; right? No, I had bought into a lie.
After four years of street ministry I have got to admit it’s dirty, it’s hard and it’s painful. But my friends, I could not go back to the comfortable life that I once knew. I have been called to follow Jesus, the one who gave up the comfort of heaven and had compassion on me. As I was holding Misty in my arms Jesus was holding me in His. Jesus was whispering into my ear, He was saying, “Kimberleigh lay down your net and follow me.” Suffer with her, have compassion “with” her, feel it. He showed me in that very moment that I would shed many tears for the little children that I would see running around in the alleys barefoot, dirty and hungry. He showed me that I would feel the deep heart wrenching pain of holding a drug addicted prostitute in my arms. He showed me that the road that I had stepped onto was narrow and the path that I was about to take is dirty, full of busted beer bottles, heroine needles, crack pipes and cigarette butts. Sitting in a little church, pastoring teens I would never have imagined that I would be here today serving the poor and broken in my community I would have avoided it at all costs.
Before you approach your weekend and all the activities you have planned I ask you to spend some time alone with God. Listen for His whisper. It’s there. Your path and purpose have all been laid out before you were even created. Turn the world down for just a little while and turn off its lies of if we work hard enough, make enough money, and buy all the latest and greatest gadgets that we will be happy. What is He calling you to do, where is He calling you to go? We live in a world full of pain and suffering but few have actually engaged it. Most of us, walk past the beggar and the drunkard and lower our eyes.
Four years ago, I had an encounter with my Savior that caused me to become radically undone and since that time I have held many women while they cry. I have seen pain and hopelessness in their eyes. For me, I know that my life will never be the same. There is no way to put those pieces all back together, the dirt has been under my nails for so many years that OPI can’t cover it.
Just for this weekend, before you go out to eat buy someone else a meal first. Before you buy that new outfit you’ve been waiting for buy one for someone else. And when you walk down the street smile at the person you are passing. I encourage you to become UNDONE!!