Compassion in Action

Recently, I have felt increasingly drawn to one thing— making sure others know how much they are loved and valued. For most of the winter, I stayed inside, relatively alone and isolated. I went to work, lead worship, and followed through on my commitments, but I didn’t engage a lot with the outside world. When a person spends a great deal of time alone, it can be easy to become pretty frustrated with the company. I was anxious and irritable, and I didn’t appreciate my attitude and behaviors. I was so glad when Spring came and I could begin to become independent again.

It was in engaging with community again that I began to feel a greater compassion for those around me. Compassion is something that has never come easy for me, so it was encouraging to see the attitude shift take place. I began to initiate interaction with others. I found myself praying more often and more frequently. I found that certain circumstances had me in tears pretty quickly. There were so many people around me who needed more than I could give: a friend who had yet to embrace faith, another who was battling depression, another who had just left a toxic relationship, another battling through health challenges and family-related concerns, another struggling with finances… The list seemed endless, and as I began to sink in the sea of overwhelm, all I could do was pray.

I was all in— jumping out in faith to embrace the challenges that came with the struggles listed above. Nothing about this phase has been easy, because as I wrote earlier, compassion has never really been a focus for me. Sure, I care about others, but living independently and working through my own challenges medically and through disability has made me very selfish and one-dimensional. I am not proud of the times when I have thought of someone else through the lens of my disability and thought: “If I can work through my challenges and come out on the other side, why can’t you fix/change/figure out your (insert issue/problem/challenge)?

Hey, I told you I wasn’t proud of my attitude. I am fully aware that I am not perfect, and somehow, God still loves me and pursues me. He has carried me through many of the challenges I have faced throughout my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for His grace and mercy. So why can’t I extend even a small piece of the mercy and grace to those God places in my path?

That’s why this Spring has been so refreshing and eye-opening. I still struggle to offer compassion in many cases, but I’m trying to recognize the value in everyone and give every connection a decent effort. As I have explored compassion in my community, music has been a constant companion, and one song that has been making its presence known is Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love.”

Now, I’m sure many of you are familiar with this song. It’s been on the radio for more than a year now, and has been recognized as a top song on many charts and worship leader resources. And although the song resonated with me from the beginning, I was reluctant to bring it as an anthem to my local congregation. It wasn’t until a church member posted a comment about it on my Facebook page that I began to consider the possibility of introducing it to our faith community.

Since that comment was made on Facebook, I can count on my hand the number of times we have played “Reckless Love” at church. It’s kind of been intimidating, if I’m honest. The song isn’t easy to sing; the range is all over the place. It’s also lyrically heavy. I have always been conscious when utilizing the song to place it at a specific point in our service. I want the congregation to be attentive and focused on what the song articulates, because I don’t think we can be reminded enough of just how much God loves us.

Just last week, I began to plan for worship, but this worship planning wasn’t typical. I had not been scheduled to play, so I was filling in for another accompanist. The song selections came together quickly, but I was stuck with where to place each anthem in the service. It had been requested to lead “Reckless Love,” and although I wanted to agree to that request, I struggled with how to use the song. If done during prelude, would the congregation truly engage with it? We couldn’t use it during the offering because there would be a video shown. That left us with the beginning or end of worship to play the song.

I was so close to dropping it from the service entirely, but something nagged at me. I felt a pressing need to not just include “Reckless Love,” but make it a focus in our worship. I considered it no accident that I spent time later in the week working through Psalm 23, drawn into the imagery of the Good Shepherd, green pastures, and still waters. But something else struck me in this familiar passage. In the final verse: “surely your goodness and mercy will follow me,” I realized something. My Bible translation had not used the word “follow.” I had glossed over the words, not really realizing that the text had read: “surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me.”

Wait! Pursue me? Those weren’t the words I had read as a child! After digging a little deeper, I learned the Hebrew translation for “follow” meant just that— to pursue, to hunt or to chase down. Before I knew it, I was at the piano, singing “Reckless Love” with tears streaming down my face. This is what I had been living into this Spring: not only recognizing that God loved and pursued me, but that He was also actively loving and pursuing all of my friends with their struggles and challenges. I didn’t have to carry their burdens alone, because the Good shepherd would leave the ninety-nine sheep if one was lost, just to bring that one to safety.

So with a pressing need to communicate this monumental truth, I did something out of my comfort zone on Sunday morning. Instead of just singing, I shared from my heart: about Psalm 23, about God’s unfailing love, about His longing to be in relationship with each one of us, about His reckless pursuit. And then we sang. I know each one of us on the team tried not to cry as we led in song, for we felt the lyrics and message so profoundly.

And do you know what’s awesome? If your eyes are open to the Savior’s unfailing love, you will begin to see compassion and loving relationships all around you.

In the twenty-four hours after our Sunday worship, I witnessed so much kindness and compassion, I was scheduled to see the doctor at 11:30 on Monday morning, so I patiently waited for my driver. He was on time and efficiently completed his work, but he wasn’t very talkative. That was fine, because I was pretty anxious about the day’s events, so I was stuck in my head most of the time anyway. I have never enjoyed going to the doctor; in fact, my anxiety over medical appointments could probably fill another blog post, and I don’t think you want to be bothered with the details. I was also worried about getting into the clinic by myself since this was the first time I had gone to this particular doctor alone. My driver dropped me off at the door and told me another provider was scheduled for the return trip and that I should call for a pick-up when my appointment was done.

In the end, I had no cause for worry. A receptionist at the clinic saw my cane, and instead of sending for an escort, she came around the desk and walked me to the correct waiting room. After a routine testing and consultation with the doctor, they were processing my prescriptions when a computer error occurred.

“I don’t mean to rush anyone,” I said. “But while we wait for the computer, would it be all right if I call my transportation provider so they can be on their way here since we’re almost finished?”

“Sure, that’s fine,” my doctor said. “Good idea.”

So while sitting in the doctor’s office, I made the call, only to find out that my return trip had already been booked for 12:30. My appointment had gone so well and efficiently that I would have 45 minutes to wait.

My doctor heard my end of the conversation. “12:30?” she said. “Not for another 45 minutes. That’s crazy. You’ve got to be hungry since its lunch time and all, plus the headache.” She had known about my headache from the beginning of my appointment. “It’s a good thing we have a coffee shop off the lobby. You can wait there and you’ll be able to be close when your driver pulls up. Here, I’ll get one of the nurses to walk you there and get you settled.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I responded. “I’m sure I can find my way out to the lobby and if I need to I can ask someone to walk me to the coffee shop.”

“Oh, it’s no problem,” my doctor said. “Come on, follow me.”

We walked out into the main department, only to find there were no nurses in sight.

“Well, it looks like I’ll be taking you to the coffee shop,” she said. “We’re short a nurse today, and things have been crazy.”

“Really, its okay,” I tried to interject, but she wouldn’t listen.

“It’s no trouble,” she said. “I don’t have anything scheduled for another twenty minutes, and besides, I can’t just leave you. I would feel terrible all day long if I had the ability to help and did nothing. And believe me,” she said a bit more quietly. “If I didn’t have that meeting, I would be grabbing lunch and coffee too.”

Once I was settled at the coffee shop, I got my mocha and Panini to-go and sat outside the main entrance, waiting for my driver. That’s when I realized I didn’t know what vehicle I was looking for; I didn’t even have the name of a person— just the company’s promise that they would send someone. Even though my sandwich and coffee had dulled my headache somewhat, the anxiety set my head to pounding again. I hoped I wouldn’t be waiting all afternoon for someone— anyone— to take me home.

At exactly 12:30 a van pulled into the drop-off zone and a female voice called out the window. “Are you waiting for me?”

“Um… I don’t know,” I admitted.

“What’s your name?”

I gave her my last name and she called back with the name of my hometown destination. I sighed with relief and made my way over to the waiting vehicle. I couldn’t help but think about Psalm 23 then. I had not been forgotten, and although this woman was not the Good Shepherd or God, for that matter, she knew me by name and had come back for me. Upon talking with her on the hour drive to my home, I got to know more about this beautiful soul. She was more than a taxi driver, for she truly loved her job and her clients. She talked about driving a woman to the hospital to have surgery, only to learn that the company didn’t have the right location on file. As a result, the driver was faced with the reality of dropping her client off at the wrong address— to a clinic that wasn’t even open for the day. She called into the office and relayed the situation. “I’m not leaving her here. It’s the wrong address,” she said. “I need permission to bring her home or we need to find the right clinic. I’m not leaving her here.”

She was putting her job on the line, refusing to simply abide by the rules. Her compassionate heart truly resonated with the client, and I felt so grateful that this woman— this taxi driver— had gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure her client would be okay. It was similar in nature to what my doctor had done for me just moments earlier. She was a busy physician. She had no obligation to take a patient to the coffee shop. But she had done so anyway, and that spoke volumes to me.

After four hours at work that afternoon, I closed out my day in the most amazing way. I got to watch as beautiful women embraced someone in their community, offering up financial gifts and tokens of appreciation. The generous gifting was welcomed with humble tears and fumbling words of gratitude. It was grace. It was mercy. It was reckless love. These women reflected Christ as they gave and as they served another in love. It was true compassion in action, and I was so blessed to be able to witness it— to know that if we are willing to engage with those around us, there are endless possibilities.

So thank you to those who are living in Christ’s love and putting that into action. Thank you for reminding me that sometimes God uses others to communicate his love and mercy. Thank You, God, for recklessly loving me and pursuing me, even when I don’t deserve it.