A Lens of Compassion

It is January, bleak midwinter of many spirits, if not in all of our climates. Without the colorful decorations of the Christmas season, things look sparser and plainer, and the swell of Christmas choruses has died down until the end of the year. I have been saying farewell to people off on new adventures, and in the ethos of January, I have been known to give myself over to memories of things not accomplished in the last year and of rueful regrets.

But, in Grace this passage from Kathleen Fischer, Autumn Gospel, came to my awareness:

If memory is to be a graced experience, we may need new lenses. They are present in the way Jesus responds to women [and men] in the gospels. He reveals to us the eye of God, and asks us to view our life in a similar way. This, he says, is how we are to remember-we are to let our lives pass through the compassionate heart of God.  (p. 124)

New Lenses! After reading and pondering that statement, every day this week I have encountered an invitation to see what I thought was obviously sad through new lenses. And the lens I am given as a follower of Jesus is compassion. I confess that I had become somewhat jaded to the word “compassion” in the wake of all the charters of compassion being rallied for and signed, as much as I applauded their mission. I was thankful for each public person who called us all to compassionate hearts when yet another tragedy struck. I was delighted to contribute acts of compassion for those who are vulnerable and in pain. But, I had not considered claiming the lens of God’s compassionate heart for my own life review until I heard these words.

Imagine looking at the current circumstances of my life daily through the compassionate heart of Christ for me: my unfinished daily agendas, my frustrating attempts at communication, the delays and detours on my way to doing Useful and Important things! Even my feeble, sometimes failed, attempts to do and be better, to walk my talk with more integrity, I find I can look at with the lens of compassion, while praying with hope to do better tomorrow. It is called Grace! and I am stunned by its Presence ever time I encounter it, once again with a new manifestation.

When I look forward to my future, that compassionate  and grace-filled lens of God’s heart is available to let me take a long, loving look at the real I can know, and trust the unknown. However, right now the most important direction in which  I can  claim that compassionate lens is in my looking back over memories–over past hurts and slights, over loves that came to an end, over my gifts to the Church that are no longer useful because newer pedagogies, technologies and strategies have superseded them. With the lens of God’s compassion I can come to see and to believe that in the providence of God, nothing that I have offered from my heart has been wasted, that I did what I could, and that God has been glorified. I also can allow the pain and the sorrow that accompany the hurtful memories to be assuaged, to let the compassionate and healing waters flow in and around my own heart.

This perspective and this healing gift, that does not condemn, nor judge, nor criticize, opens up my own heart space to allow me to see others with compassion. Yes, she she is telling the same old sad story. Yes, he is marching to same old destructive drummer. Yes, they persist in their unimaginative ruts of the “way it used to be.” But the compassionate lens of the Holy One, who looking at the rich young ruler loved him still and did not condemn the woman taken in adultery , looks at me with compassion, so that I can look at myself and everybody else with love and forgiveness, even delight.

It takes power from the Spirit and practice from me. And, oh, the freedom as I do so!

 

 

 

 

 

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who pens beautiful reflections on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.

  • Donald L. Smith

    Something for me to ponder, indeed. But I want to challenge you to re-examine “my gifts to the Church that are no longer useful because newer pedagogies, technologies and strategies have superseded them.” It’s hard for me to imagine that the gifts I see could ever be superseded. Woe unto us if they are!

  • Erin

    Elizabeth…this is timely as I sat last night whining about what “isn’t” in my ministry work rather than what “is”…and when I whine and complain, it brings out all the whining and complaining around me. Yikes.

    >>over my gifts to the Church that are no longer useful because newer pedagogies, technologies and strategies have superseded them. <<

    Knowing your gifts and how valuable they are, I am sad to hear this even as I accept it will happen. For everything there is a season…and yet…to me, some things, like your gifts, are timeless. Your call to be present to the Presence is my constant siren's song and why I get so much out of reading your blog.

    Last night as the thermometer in Riverside dropped to 29 at my house, and the cold slowly creeped into my many-glassed house with no curtains…I felt great compassion for those folks who call the streets of Riverside home. Many of them are elderly and without adequate clothing or blankets. Many of them "live" with dogs. As I plugged my heating pad into the electrical socket, I was mindful of all I have. Not what I don't have.

    Step back, the Spirit calls me. Step back and see more than yourself and see that life is good. So very, very good.

    I have called you and you are mine. Isaiah 43

    Erin


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