My kids might disagree. Like all kids, they attract dirt like a magnet. They love getting dirty. Even our daughter, Elise. She can be a total princess. But she can also dig in the dirt, chase after toads, and get into mega-messes like all the boys. Ask any of the kids, and they'll tell you: It ain't hard to get dirty! And it's a whole lotta fun!
But then that's not the kind of "dirty" I'm talking about -- the dirt, slime, grease, muck kinds of dirty. I'm talking about getting down into the messiness of other people's lives. That's not easy. In fact, most of us avoid it at every cost. It's really not easy to talk to someone who just lost his job and who's nearly in tears wondering how he's going to provide for his family. It's really not easy to sit and listen and encourage the young mom whose baby is dying. It's really not easy letting a coworker cry on your shoulder because she just learned her husband was cheating on her ... or to care for the couple who are grieving because their grandson was just put in jail.
Our first tendency is either to AVOID ... or to FIX. I once talked to a mom whose 20-year-old daughter, serving as a missionary in Africa, was killed in a car accident half a world away. A couple months after the accident, I asked her to tell me how she was feeling. She told me: one of the hardest things to deal with was friends -- even church friends -- who avoided talking to her. She said: "They don't know what to say to me, I think. They're afraid of saying the wrong thing. So they don't say anything. What they don't realize is that it hurts more to say nothing than to say something wrong or stupid." This was a mom who just needed someone else to STEP INTO HER WORLD ... and HURT WITH HER.
I've also seen people walk up to give someone a hug. And their first impulse is to pat this person who's grieving on the back and say: "It's okay. Don't cry." We avoid or we fix. But sometimes, more than anything, we JUST NEED TO GET DIRTY. Get into the mess of it all. Cry with them. Hurt with them. Suffer ... with them.
This is where I am struck by the spirit of Jesus, true Son of God ... who left the comfort of heaven ... to dwell in the darkness and cold and among those who were suffering and fearful and alone and outcast. INCARNATION. That's what we call it -- the Son of God taking on human flesh. "Incarnation." "In the flesh." And IN THE FLESH Jesus Christ had COMPASSION on the brokenhearted.
That's one of my all-time favorite words: COMPASSION. That English word is a combination of two ideas from the Latin: com (= with) ... and passion (= to suffer). Literally, to SUFFER WITH someone. In the Greek (the language of the New Testament) the word is splanchna (with a real gutteral, sorta German-esque 'chk.' Splanchna is technically your guts, bowels, the inner part of your core. The idea being that if you have "compassion" for someone, you are literally HURTING WITH THEM IN YOUR GUT. Your gut hurts along with theirs! Compassion.
Often we avoid hurting with someone ... because ...... well, duh! ... IT HURTS!! You have to feel their pain. And most of us avoid pain. So whether consciously or subconsciously ... TOO OFTEN, WE LEAVE HURTING PEOPLE ON THEIR OWN ... rather than getting dirty. Because getting dirty is hard. It requires letting go of our desire to fix it all. In fact, it requires that we surrender to the reality that we CAN'T fix it all.
Instead, Jesus calls us to imitate Him -- to stoop down into the muckiness, the hurtfulness, the uncertainty of others' lives ... and bringing love, encouragement, understanding, sympathy ... and most importantly, BEING CHRIST FOR THEM -- bringing the gentle, compassionate presence of Jesus with you. We are not Jesus. But we embody Him for others ... when we stoop down ... and get dirty.
So what do you think?? How have you seen this played out in your life? Either on the giving end or the receiving end. How have you seen Christ at work through the compassion of people?