I’ve had some time off these past few weeks and have filled
it with resting, reading, walking and more often than I’d like, catching the
ever shifting news. Tucked in amongst the tirades of presidential candidates,
the gold medals of Olympiads, (some tarnished by bad behavior) appear heart-stopping
images of victims of war and bloodshed in faraway countries. One photo that
captured great attention (albeit brief) was of a young Syrian child sitting alone
and frightened in the back of an ambulance, his face covered with dust and blood,
his eyes and gestures conveying the shock of being pulled from a bombed,
collapsed building. The next night brought stark footage of starving children
in Southern Sudan— looking no larger than withered sticks with huge heads—once
again made victims of a war that creates starvation and/or entraps young
children as child soldiers. These images make me want to look away for I cannot
bear the suffering I witness in those faces. But look, I must.

What is it about suffering that causes us to simultaneously
cringe and be drawn in? What is it about bearing witness to pain so intimate that
it makes us want to flee? Is it compassion fatigue as some call it…a feeling of
being so overwhelmed that one is rendered helpless to do anything?  Or is it our tendency to avoid anything that
has to do with weakness, pain and suffering, lest we be confronted with our own
weaknesses and pain?

It is difficult to assimilate all the horrors that now
assault our world and tumble into our living rooms and onto our computer
screens. It is hard to know what to do. And so I reminded to look to the One
who knows suffering more intimately than anyone can imagine. I look to Christ, the
One who rendered Himself helpless, weak and vulnerable out of love for me. I
look to the One who suffers for me and with me. I look to the One who calls me
to bear another’s burdens in love—who calls me to suffer alongside those who
suffer. I look to the One who calls me to be love and mercy in the world.

Over a thousand years ago, St. Augustine posed the question:
What does love look like?

His answer reflects the Truth which intersects time and
space. 

What does love look
like?

It has hands to help
others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see
misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.

This is what love
looks like
.  

Love and mercy are not abstract ideas to be dissected and
debated. They do not seek the perfect solution to end suffering. No, they are
realities that take on flesh and blood, and often require something of us. No
gesture of love is too small. Perhaps it is a simple kindness to the person
sitting across the dinner table from us, or flashing a smile at the harried
shop clerk. Maybe it’s setting aside some money, a few coins even, to support a
child in need, buy a water filter, help build a hospice house. 

What does love look
like?

This question is foremost on my mind as I prepare for
another trip to Kenya. Flights are booked, lists are being made. Emails travel
across the continents. Curriculum is being developed. My heart expands at the
thought of traveling once again to a country I have grown to love, and reconnecting
with a people who continue to teach me what love looks like. Africa is one of
the places where I encountered suffering on a level impossible to ignore. And
in those moments, spanning ten years now, I witnessed love and it looks like this:

Hands that bring
healing with a gentle grasp, a cool touch to a fevered brow, a hug. Hands that
bring a small bag of maize or sugar. Hands that open a well-worn Bible, giving
voice to Words of comfort and hope.

Feet that hasten
to the poor and needy. Feet that often walk miles and miles in rural areas to
reach someone in a remote village. Feet that step over trash, feces, garbage in
the city slums. Beautiful, calloused feet carrying compassion and joy.

Eyes that do not
look away in the face of misery and suffering. Eyes that know there is no
substitute for face-to-face contact. Eyes that fill with tears at suffering, as
well with rejoicing. Eyes that see Christ in those for whom they bring mercy.

Ears that receive
the complaints, the longings, the sorrows and yes, the joys, the dreams and the
thankfulness. Ears that hear the silence and remain attuned to it. Ears that
become a refuge for stories needing to be shared and heard.

This is what love
looks like.

 

Headlines will continue to shift and change. Scandals will
continue. Images of war, refugees, need and suffering will flit through our
screens. Let us pray for the courage to look, to listen, to heed the call to
love and mercy.  Consider the words of the
poet, Anna Kamienska,

Suffering by itself
without joy is a lack of trust. Joy by itself without suffering is arrogance.

And in that space of suffering and joy is mercy—Ever
ancient. Ever new.

Always Mercy,

Pamela

Want to help?  Send
checks, earmarked for Kenya, to Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 4701 Grove St. Rocklin, CA 95677

Deaconesses: Josephine, Josephine, Pamela and Rosemary. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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via Always Mercy http://ift.tt/2bVS9io