It’s a broken world where we desperately need hope, but God is compassion, and so we get to live again.
The other day I found some mouse droppings in my kitchen.
Concerned about the hygiene of the kitchen, I set a trap. Peanut butter would be the temptation that little mouse could not refuse.
Off to bed I went and in the middle of the night I heard the mouse trap go off. Snap!
Good, I thought, when I wake up in the morning, I will dispose of the little rodent.
I went back to sleep only to be woken a few hours later with a banging and clattering sound going on under my bed. Annoyed, I got up and looked under my bed and here was the trap and the little mouse with its foot caught in it.
What do I do? Do I kill the mouse and if so, how? Do I let it go it and let it live another day? Will it come back?
Then I realised it had actually dragged itself and the trap 12 metres from the kitchen to my bedroom. Amazing, and that it came to the only one that could help it. Another mammal like itself.
It needed help from someone bigger and chose me.
Compassion and pity prodded my heart.
I opened the outside door and let it go. It will probably be ok, but perhaps it will have a limb.
Lured by something overwhelming good, it got caught, but not enough to kill. It needed something beyond its own ability to help. It needed compassion and mercy.
Think of a time when you have been that vulnerable to the choices of others. You’ve been caught, the addiction has trapped you again, the judgment gavel is being raised.
You’re looking at your failure and condemning yourself as a failure. The death shroud of shame is suffocating you.
What you most need is what you least expect to happen.
Compassion and mercy
Justice, mercy, grace.
Justice – getting what we deserve
There is justice, there is right and wrong. There is also struggle, fragility, human weakness, forces beyond our understanding and control. There is a plain ‘getting it wrong’ when we thought we were ‘getting it right’. There is a hidden self to us that no one sees, even ourselves.
Mercy – not getting what we deserve.
We have dodged that bullet. We haven’t been killed by the mousetrap, but we have it wrapped around our feet. We are thankful, but wonder what will come next.
Grace – getting what we don’t deserve.
We are given the opportunity to live again. We might have a limb, but we sense a new release.
Compassion is the oil that lubricates the movement between justice, mercy, and grace.
You can’t move from justice to mercy to grace without compassion lubricating the wheels.
God is compassion
I listen to people and their stories. In every broken story, there are a series of broken world choices made. Some choices are dosed with wisdom, and others are dosed with poison.
It’s a soup we are walking through. A messy soup where no one gets it right. I repeat – No One Gets It Right.
Enough stress and all sorts of weird stuff happens in our brain. That then leaks over into our relationships. More sloppy soup.
These are the stories of people like you and I.
I need compassion.
You need compassion.
No one gets it right.
As I went back to bed after showing compassion to a little mouse, the thought struck me. God is compassion.
Want to know compassion, then look at God.
We see this heart movement in Jesus.
When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke.
So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. Matthew 9:36
To every confused and aimless sheep (or mouse) that broken world experiences has ensnared, God is compassion.
To those who have lost someone to suicide, know that God is compassion.
For the multiple times every day when you lose focus on God, know that God is compassion.
It’s not an optional extra. Compassion is the fullness of God’s personality.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9
Please show compassion to yourself and others. Be gentle on yourself. Know God’s compassion for you in this broken world mess.
Quotes to consider
- When we become quiet enough to let go of people, we learn compassion for them. We can be with people in their hurt and need. We can speak a word out of our inner silence that will set them free. Richard Foster Simplicity
- In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Brené Brown. The Gifts of Imperfection:
- Compassion and patience are the absolutely unique characteristics of true spiritual authority. Richard Rohr
- A spiritual leader who lacks basic human compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she does not represent the Divine or Big Truth. Such leaders have to rely upon role, laws, and enforcement powers to effect any change in others. Such change does not go deep, nor does it last. Richard Rohr
- You learn to be calmer or more compassionate the same way you learn anything else: through repeated practice. Rick Hanson
- Compassion for yourself is where you start when things are tough, not where you stop. Rick Hanson
- When grace enters a room we should begin to dance but, sadly, more often than not we let some little thing, some minor mosquito bite, blind us to grace’s presence. Ronald Rolheiser
- Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
- Justice–is getting what is deserved
Mercy–is not getting what is deserved
Grace–is getting what is not deserved
Questions to answer
- Where have you experienced the gift of compassion?
- What moves your heart to places of compassion?
- What’s it like to be gentle on yourself and others?
- There’s a movement between positions of justice, mercy and grace. Compassion lubricates the movement. Think of someone who you feel needs a good dose of justice (getting what they deserve) and prayerfully ask for compassion to fill your heart and move you to a place of mercy (not getting what they deserve) and then grace (getting what they don’t deserve).