About 10 years ago I had a college roommate whose sister, who also attended college with us, very suddenly contracted an illness that left her fighting for her life. For weeks she lay in the ICU in a very fine balance between life and death.
My roommate was devastated (obviously) and spent every possible moment at her side along with the rest of her family.
I remember one day I went to do laundry in our apartment and found that her clothes were still in the dryer. Again. As the Lord would have it, my roommate walked in the door not long after. In my frustration I “confronted” her.
Abby (not her real name), this is so frustrating, I keep finding your clothes in the dryer! Please get them out when you’re done with it! There are four of us who live here and we all use it so please be considerate.
She burst into tears and in anger and grief verbally let loose the pressure of the last few weeks and then she left in a fury, calling me a bleep on her way out the door.
After she left I stood there, shocked.
You would think I was shocked at my own actions. How could I not have considered what she’d been going through and given her shiploads of compassion and grace?
No. I was shocked that she’d called me a bleep. Who did she think she was? How dare she? I don’t care how upset she is, she has no right to act like that and call me names like that. I was self-righteously angry.
And you know an interesting thing? I probably haven’t thought of that in years but about a week ago I was driving home from town and out of nowhere it came to mind. Crystal clear, like it had happened the day before. And do you know what I felt? Deep conviction, regret, and shame. It was obvious to me the Lord had brought it to mind for some reason. Why so long after the fact, I’m not sure.
Because you know what I should’ve done? I should’ve folded her clothes for her. I should’ve prayed for her and her sister and family while I did. I should’ve lovingly put them on her bed with a note of encouragement. I should’ve told her I was so sorry and asked if there was anything I could do.
And there on the road, 10 years after the fact, I asked the Lord to forgive me. To forgive me for being so self-righteous and lacking any compassion or kindness.
And as irony (or the Lord) would have it, yesterday I had a similar experience. Except this time I was her and someone else was me.
And I thought again of the story of Jesus I mentioned in my last post.
We find this story in John 11. Jesus was told that Lazarus had fallen ill and he specifically stayed away for two more days. He said that it was not to end in death and God was going to be glorified in it. So when he finally did return Lazarus had already been dead for four days.
And Mary, having met him on the road, said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). (Can’t you hear the anguish in her heart?) And it says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (vs. 33). And when they told him to see where he was buried, he wept (vs. 35).
He knew that he was going to raise him from the dead and yet he was still deeply moved to the point of weeping.
He didn’t say, I know what I’m doing, okay! You couldn’t be more wrong, Mary! Ask the disciples, I already knew that he was dead so that God could be glorified through the raising of the dead. Have a little faith and belief, why don’t you?
No. Not in the tiniest sense. He was moved for them. He wept with them and for them.
What was that? Something that we too often lack as Christians – compassion.
He had compassion on them. On their pain. He didn’t take their grief and even accusations personally. He hurt for them and he demonstrated it through outward action.
Oh Lord, may we be that type of person! May we withhold personal offense and instead offer gracious compassion and mercy for others. Jesus, make us more like you.