Monday, September 20, 2010

Empathy...

I recently just finished my summer quarter at Fuller Seminary. One of the fantastic classes I was privileged to take was called Advocacy for Social Justice - gripping, saddening, moving, challenging and empowering. Since finishing all of my work for this class, I have been  quite contemplative as I am still working through my thoughts on certain current injustices that are prevalent in our world. This also includes questioning which ones I am called to advocate for. 


A quality I have possessed all my life is my empathy. Often times as a child I was told that I was "too" sensitive. Although I would agree that developing emotional maturity was important for me, I am just now beginning to understand my own sensitivity toward suffering. I cry easily and often literally feel the pain that others feel. As a child this debilitated me. My parents used to take my sister and I to volunteer at a homeless shelter a couple times a month when I was in grade school. I am thankful for the vivid and fond memories I have of this, but although I loved going, my heart broke more and more each time we went. Finally it became too much for me to bear as I would cry the entire time and we had to stop going because I did not know how to regain "composure" (whatever that is supposed to be according to American cultural standards).

As I grew up I learned how to better curb my emotion, but lately, at 24 years of age, I have again been feeling empathetically fragile. I cry more easily than ever before - not on my own behalf, but usually on behalf of others in whose lives I see tragedy. They are usually the lives of human beings experiencing insurmountable kinds of oppression and injustice For example, the millions of beautiful women and children who are sexually enslaved around the world (including right here in Orange County, CA), the victims of the Burmese war, and the captive child soldiers in Western Africa. These are just a few of the current injustices I've had the pleasure and burden of studying lately. Knowing that any sort of action begins with awareness and knowledge, I forge on, but as I do so my heart grows more and more heavy.

How did Jesus, while living on earth, deal with the burden of injustice? Did he ever feel it was too much to handle? How are we called to act using his life as our ultimate example?

I don't know entirely the answers to my own questions, but here is what I do know...Jesus did not accept the circumstances of society, he changed them. Healing a leper (which he did on multiple occasions in Scripture) was not merely an act of restorative physical healing. It was also a social healing - one that restored to a former leper human dignity and re-entrance into society! I find that pretty incredible. I know that after Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he wept over the city because of the lack of peace (Luke 19:40-42). I also think this is pretty incredible to read that God's own burden and longing for peace overflowed in an abundance of tears. I also know that he did not cry in vain. He did not cry and then forget his cause for peace because it was too heavy a burden. He took up his cross and was obedient...maybe this is my cross...how am I to be obedient in carrying it, Jesus?


Praying that the burden of my empathy would not debilitate me.

2 comments:

Virgil said...

Hi, Lindsey!
Your blog is so great. We wish you all the best in your travels in Nepal, and look forward to following your blog.
Love,
Virgil and Doris

Ann said...

Hi hon,
I am so proud of your heart for the nations. I thought you may have made a posting as you await your final flight to Nepal but will look again tomorrow. I am praying for good rest this last leg of your journey so you arrive rested & refreshed! Loads of love & prayers, Mom