Your pain enters my heart, swirls around inside of me, and comes back as compassion.
Years ago, while hiking at the Oregon coast, I decided to spend some time at a lookout point while my family ventured further down the trail. Settling on the bench, I was immediately was distracted by a woman standing about ten feet in front of me – staring out at the ocean.
From behind, her body language communicated both I’m hurting, and stay away.
The gentle nudge I felt to reach out was easy to brush off as there appeared to be a high probability of rejection, and who goes looking for that? That gentle nudge became slightly more forceful, and again, I balked, telling myself, it’s obvious she wants to be alone. Then came the less than a gentle nudge to which I felt compelled to comply.
Excuse me, I know this sounds weird, and please forgive me but do you need a hug? I asked. She answered, yes. We hugged, she cried, then we sat down on the bench where she told me her story.
She was at this location to honor her mother, who’s ashes she had scattered just one year earlier. I asked her a few questions about her mother – she cried some more but seemed a little lighter in spirit. I saw my family approaching, so we hugged and said goodbye.
She sat timidly in the pew in front of me, a small sandy-haired woman I’d never seen before. The gentle nudge came – reach out and touch her shoulder, see if she needs to talk.
I thought it would be way too forward of me, but I had learned from the previous experience that I was not going to be released from this until I followed through.
I reached out – she said she did need to talk and we agreed to meet later that day.
We spent a few hours together in a local park. She simply needed someone to be there and listen. She shared with me her thoughts on the encounter...
I will never forget your touch on my shoulder or the special time we spent at the park and you were simply there and held my heart so lovingly.. you were one of many who showed me the path to start walking to lead me away from the hopeless pit of despair and fear and remind me that GOD never leaves us.
We’ve been friends ever since. She’s been through a tough but beautiful healing journey and I love how because of it she is able to explain compassion so eloquently as she wrote to her daughter.
It was a typical Saturday morning at a women’s retreat for our church. We’d shared breakfast and were now opening the morning session with worship. After a song or two, I started praying and asking God what He had for me on this one (because He ALWAYS does).
Almost instantly, I felt a searing pain in my heart – the kind that takes your breath away and makes you reach up and place your hand on your chest.
This took me by surprise as I’d felt this type of pain before and up until now was confidant that I’d never have to feel it again. Hadn’t I already put in the grief work and finally reached the acceptance stage for the loss of my aborted child? The pain subsided for a second then crashed through my heart once again, this time even stronger – causing me to ask, Why am I feeling this pain? That’s not your pain I sensed. Then who’s is it? I asked.
As I lifted my head, I could see a young woman standing across the room. The women around her were joyfully worshiping, some on their knees – others with their hands lifted high. They all seemed to be slightly blurred, yet she stood there in perfect clarity, with a look of anguish on her face and a countenance that screamed, I don’t belong here. It was obvious she was the one responsible for the condition of my heart.
I wove my way across the room, approaching her slowly. Do you need a hug? I asked.
As she melted into my arms sobbing, I knew that once again – the prompting I’d experienced and the pain I bore was for a purpose.
I’d met Sarah the night before at dinner and had learned she had a little boy and was newly pregnant. She’d seemed uncomfortable about being on the retreat, but that wasn’t unusual for first-timers. I didn’t know then was less than six months ago, she had to deliver a son who was no longer alive. His name is Jesse Owen.
We met weekly for months as she went through the grieving process and came to a place of acceptance for her loss – which then freed up her heart to bond with her child within.
I now understand that these three experiences, each requiring a greater degree of sacrifice than the last – gave me the confidence to face the next one.
One that resulted in this moment of victory never to be forgotten! This newborn baby truly was a miracle.
This is where I go in my mind when the persecution happens. I remember this moment – when all the fears, threats, setbacks, disappointments, misunderstandings, and tears counted as nothing in comparison. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
You can hear more about this story in my book, Love Well.
When have you found joy in living out the art of compassion? I'd love to hear your stories of when you answered the nudge of the Holy Spirit and impacted someone else's life.