Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts survey? I’ve taken different ones over the years – self-assessments that help you identify your spiritual gifts. I recently retook one and as I sat there studying the results, they were pretty much what I expected. Teaching and encouraging were at the top. Those come easily to me and I readily see them in my daily life. But then at the bottom is the gift of compassion. I wasn’t surprised that it was the lowest, but I wondered if that score might have improved in recent years. It’s not low because I don’t have compassion, but because I’ve always felt uncomfortable around people who were hurting. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I tried to avoid them altogether.
In Not Too Far From Here, I shared how I had started praying for the gift of compassion long ago when I was a young mother. I recognized that weakness in myself and was asking God for His help in overcoming it. Even now, any time I read those lyrics, I’m overcome with emotion. Partly, because of their beauty, but partly because of memories from the past few decades that it brings to mind.
Recently, I had a hard day. My morning started in the usual way, with coffee and Facebook. As I scrolled through my feed there was prayer request after prayer request…”my husband’s best friend committed suicide”… “my sister’s baby died,”… “my husband asked for a divorce…” I paused to pray for each of them.
Later in the morning, I went to do my volunteering. Among the small group of women, there were more heartaches: Nowhere to live, separation from children, feelings of shame and worthlessness. We prayed together while there, but I still carried them on my heart, praying for them throughout the day.
Then that evening I had another meeting with a group of women from church. In the comfort of this small close-knit group, women confided about the problems they were facing so that we could pray together.
Give Me Your Eyes
By the end of the night I felt tired and unexplainably weepy. On my long drive home I was thinking back through the day’s events and fighting back tears. A song came on the radio which opened the floodgates, “give me your eyes for just one moment, give me your eyes so I can see…”
I sarcastically thought, “Thanks a lot, God, that’s just what I needed!”
God keeps reminding me of those words I prayed over twenty years ago and revealing how He has answered repeatedly by putting opportunities in my path. I still feel uncomfortable and unsure of what to say, but I’ve learned that most of the time what they really need is a listening ear and a hug.
I’m an introvert and not much of a “hugger.” Sometimes a hug is easy, when it’s a friend or family member. Other times it’s more difficult. Sometimes it’s a woman who has traveled way too far down the wrong path, burning bridges along her way. Now, having nowhere to go, she feels worthless and unloved. In those instances, I’ve learned to let Jesus use my arms to hug them. Sometimes they just need to feel that human touch. Over time that has become easier and I truly begin to feel love and compassion for them.
I don’t consider myself to be a great listener, either, but I feel like I’ve made improvement in that area, too. When I think back over the past year and a half, at the new and uncomfortable situations I’ve experienced, that skill has gotten a lot of exercise.
In the past where I avoided people crying or obviously in pain, I find myself increasingly gravitating towards them. I’ve sat one-on-one with women who were suicidal and listened as they poured out their heart. I’ve hugged mothers as they cry over children that were taken away. God has brought me a long way, yet as I consider how far there is yet to go, I still feel afraid.
When God first pointed me in the direction of the drug and alcohol rehab facility, I didn’t think I had anything to offer and wondered what He wanted me to do there. Now I can see that He wanted to teach me there. It’s been like an immersion program for learning compassion. He has given me His eyes…and ears and arms.
When I reread the lyrics to “Not Too Far From Here,” I’m struck by how literally He has answered my prayer.
Moving the Mountain
If you take on one prayer request, it may not feel much heavier than a feather, but when you take on a bunch of them, their weight starts to mount up. I was feeling the pressure of that weight, and since so many prayer requests were given in confidence, I was still feeling the burden. While I was alone driving home and had the time to start sorting out the mood I was in, it was then that I became aware of that mountain.
Coincidentally, (Godincidentally?) we had just discussed Matthew 17:20 in our meeting:
”He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (NIV)
It took on a new meaning for me as I realized I needed to move that mountain into God’s hands.
With my head cradled by my pillow, I envisioned God’s outstretched hands. One by one, I began to put each of those prayer requests into them. A few times, I imagined flinging them with relief, and then apologized to Him for being so rude. I was so ready to give those needs to Him.
The gift of compassion had become a burden because I was still holding it in. It wasn’t until I passed them on to the only One who could do anything about them that I started to feel better. The mountain was moved, one feather at a time.
I’m still learning how to use and manage the gift of compassion. Even though I feel timid, I also feel honored to be entrusted with people’s needs, and thankful that God sees fit to teach me through the gift of compassion.
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