Compassion moved my gut, then my heart, and then I received a notification from my mind.
Not every story creates gut moving compassion.
But as I listened it wrenched open my heart, soul and stomach till I was totally gutted and laid bare by what had happened to my friend. Being vulnerable to others can do this in you.
They open a door to what is really going on in their soul. They feel safe enough to share and then they vomit out tightly held stories of pain.
Compassion, the suffering together with someone, asks you to get in the ditch with the struggle. Messy as it is.
There is always that moment of decision. Will I listen deeply and groan, or be antiseptically clean and Teflon it away.
Jesus tells the story of a man traumatised by robbers. People who took all his possessions, violently assaulted him, and stripped him of humanity and respect. Robbers and thugs, a priest and a priest’s assistant.
The emotional response by others to his plight was either to ignore or to involve. Continue the journey, or connect into the struggle.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. Luke 10:25-37
The Greek word ‘splanchnizomai’ (Phonetic Spelling: splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee) is used here to describe the emotional response of the Samaritan. It comes from the Greek word (splanchna), for entrails, the vital inner organs of a person—the stomach, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys. It means to say that he had a feeling deep in his gut, the deepest of all human emotions. The kind of feeling that is physical as much as intellectual.
There is a groan within us for what has happened and a vulnerability to not being able to quickly make the problem go away. We perhaps try some good advice, a quick prayer, and a food parcel of self-help tips.
Yet what the other person most needs is true conversation.
True conversation always puts the conversants at risk,
because you can not truly converse without the risk of conversion.
Bernard Lee, Michael Cowan
The problem comes when we think that the solution is up to us to find. In our preoccupation with the problem, we miss hearing the deep groans of Spirit (Holy) sitting right next to us wanting to teach us into all things.
Paul writes this
God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.
He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our
wordless sighs, our aching groans. Romans 8:26 The Message
Time Sensitive Gut
Do you have a ‘Time sensitive’ gut?
You see a situation, sense a gut move compassion and then a little notification dings in your mind ‘You don’t have time for this’. Congratulations you’re normal.
My question, though, is, has your brain done a full assessment of the time required for the conversation or is the notification just another ‘gut reaction’? Are you overestimating the commitment? Do you have enough information?
It’s interesting to note that Sam the Samaritan committed his personal 1:1 time to the man in the ditch until he could get him to an Inn. He returned later but he did what he could do at that moment.
I have conversed with probably 100’s of people where I have sensed a gut moving compassion. Maybe only 1 or 2 have had an expectation or a demand that I do more for them than I am capable of. For them, I had to gently express boundaries of love and respect.
Here is a little sentence that helps to settle a time sensitive gut.
I will do what I can do,
others will do what they can do,
and you will do what you can do.
Together we will help you
get yourself out of the ditch.
So don’t be afraid of your gut reactions. Lean into them and learn. You never quite know what you might discover about yourself and others. You may also find Jesus is waiting, in the ditch, to converse alongside you.
Quotes to consider
- Be there for others but never leave yourself behind Dodinsky
- We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone. That is His job! Michael Liimatta
- Human life must be about more than building boundaries, protecting identities, and teaching impulse control. Richard Rohr
- Do for One What You Wish You Could Do for Everyone Andy Stanley
Questions to answer
- When you sense a gut compassion, what do you do with it?
- Alongside a time sensitive gut notification, what other notifications from your brain do you receive that would ask you to avoid involvement?
- What is Spirit (Holy) asking you to do for others that internally you wrestle with? Why?
Image: Gerome Viavant