Sometimes in college, all the causes, all the pain and oppression in the world that I heard about from different organizations and programs, and all the emptiness that I saw in my few weeks overseas, it all felt like too much. And when I thought of all that I didn’t know, all the injustices I didn’t understand or hadn’t seen, that all felt like too much, too.
Last week I watched PBS’s broadcast of Half the Sky. The film was so hard to process mentally, because it did an excellent job of presenting the whole story; it showed both the immense abuses against women all over the world as well as the immense hope for women all over the world. So much evil, but also so much resilience. Amazing resilience, from women like Edna Aden and Somaly Mam.
Things have been piling up in my head lately, and I’m sensing a theme, sensing the Lord nudge me towards something. The Nehemiah study I’m following along with at church is pulling and pushing my heart all over the place. (Nehemiah, of all things! Who knew! I sure didn’t.) I love hearing from my sister about how she’s serving her neighbors, and from my parents about a new ministry that they’re really serving well in. This weekend we got a letter from our sponsored Compassion kiddo, and I poured over her words, feeling so, so guilty for not writing in several months. Today is International Day of the Girl. Yesterday I caught up on the Hendricks’ Shopping with a Purpose series. This morning I read Elora’s moving post about rescue.
And… this afternoon I’m writing a rambling post trying to examine it all and share what I think I’ve learned, while trying to not sound like a total weirdo or braggart, but instead just someone who’s trying to figure stuff out and then change. Slowly, but surely change.
All of those things have me thinking about hope and compassion. I’m thinking about how compassion may make us look weak on the surface, swayed by heart-breaking stories and moved to tears by injustice.
But I think I’ve learned that this awareness of both hurt and hope, fueled by the audacity to think that with God THERE IS HOPE, is a strength, not a weakness.
Compassion softens us, and opens us up for God to use us. With the grace and freedom that life in Jesus gives us, with the power of the Gospel, we’re equipped. And suddenly the knowledge of evil combined with the sureness of hope does not weaken us, it does not give us compassion fatigue. No, it softens us, softens us to listen and feel and really see people. See individual people instead of The Poor.
It seems like seasons of heart-brokenness for the world come in waves for me. Maybe it’s the way I seem to let my heart grow hard and then eventually let softening in again. Maybe it’s reaction against the feeling of being stuck in Central Texas, the fear of turning into an overly sheltered, narrow-minded young adult. Maybe it’s God softening me slowly, letting me learn slowly, letting me screw up. My tendency to get wound up so tight about ALL THE THINGS probably has a lot to do with it. I don’t know.
But I do know that softening is not weakness.
Being a “bleeding heart,” truly listening to others’ stories, caring about the other side of the world and this side, too – this is not weakness. This is heart-strength and openness that becomes action. And it must turn into action, even if that action is seemingly small baby-steps like giving, writing, supporting.