Today after lunch was a good example. Lately I have been getting dizzy spells after lunch. So, I had finished eating and without explaining, I just lied down on the couch. My sweet boy proceeded to eat his lunch quietly for the next five minutes. And then he says, "How are you doing, Mommy?"
He knows something isn't right. I tell him I'm feeling a little better and he can be excused. So he comes to the couch and says, "What do you need, Mommy?"
Perceptive? I think so. Well... I tell him he can pray for me. "But, how can I pray, Mommy?"
So, I lead him in a short prayer for myself to feel better and for God to take away the dizzy. He repeats it, I smile and thank him, and he's off to play until I can get up to tuck him in for a nap. He pulls out the Tinker Toys and everything is fine in his world now, because he has helped, he has loved. And he knows God is helping, too.
Other days he recognizes my droopy eyes and says, "Do you need a backrub, Mommy?" or "Do you need some coffee, Mommy? I can get you some coffee." (I say yes to the backrub, no to the coffee!)
Or, he will offer to hold the door for me, carry something, bring something, etc.
If I call for Shane from upstairs, in seconds little feet come tearing up the stairs, busting through the door, and he exclaims, "What do you need, Mommy? I'll take care of you!"
"Well, sweetie, it's something I need Daddy to get this time."
"I can do it, Mommy. What is it? I can take care of you."
Shane appears, tries to help. But we have learned that if we don't find some way for the little man to help me... he becomes terribly upset. "No! I can take care of Mommy!! Let me do it!"
We find something. Bring a blanket... give a backrub... turn a light off... pray.
He has learned well from his daddy, and all the others. He knows what compassion looks like and he feels it, he wants desperately to act on it. This is a gift I did not anticipate teaching my son. This is one way God has used illness for his glory and our good.
I used to put such high value on empathy. It made me feel better just to know someone else had experienced something similar. But compassion, I have learned, is sympathy mixed with action. Sympathy mixed with action is actually more powerful than identifying with someone empathetically. When you sympathize, you may feel sorry for them, but you don't necessarily know how another person feels. You haven't experienced it. When you can't relate and you still act, this is such a powerful love.
Jesus' sympathy always leads to action. This is true compassion.
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." Matthew 14:14
Action: Healing the sick.
"Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.'" Matthew 15:32
Action: Feeding the hungry.
"Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." Matthew 20:34
Action: Giving sight to the blind.
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Mark 6:34
Action: Pastoring the lost.
I have been so floored by the compassionate help coming from people who can't relate to my situation at all. I have seen Jesus' compassion through some very special people! I see the sympathy in their eyes and I see their actions follow. This love is healing me in ways no doctor could.