Culture

February 20 2012
29

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“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin.”  ~ Frederick Buechner

Is that why we suffer from “compassion fatigue”? My own damn skin is hard enough to live inside of {thank-you very much} without crawling inside yours as well. And I’m not even—necessarily—talking about the overseas, bloated-bellies-burning-under-the-heat-of-an-African-desert-sun kind of compassion. Although, the description fits. I’ve heard there is a great famine in the land. I think I read about it somewhere while I was eating ice-cream.

No, I had my own collision with Compassion the other day and it was one of those moments. You know . . . ? The kind when the veil is gossamer-thin at the same time, by Someone’s intimate orchestration, the heart is clay-soft. And you might as well be a pile of broken flesh on the floor for as undone as you are when the two sensations slam together. The most elemental meaning to life—that a mortal can see—is revealed just then and maybe you won’t feel the same way come morning, but if an altar can be built or a memory committed during that moment, it might be enough to hold your turn-the-other-way-feet to the fire-of-what-you-ought-to-do, even if—and especially when—you don’t feel like it.

Christ knows how many things I don’t feel like doing. But this year we chose to be a New Kingdom family and a big decision like that cannot be made without sky-scraping ripples and repercussions. {That sounds like a lot of movement to me—the scraping and the ripples and the repercussions. Oh my. I wonder if this body can handle it?}

The sun was falling low and my heart was racing fast when my eyes took it all in—an orphan website displaying hundreds of little-Jesus faces, each one has the “waiting” look and a big smile—like they were told by some caregiver to stretch it as far as their cheeks could go because it might make the difference of a family for them or not. A life hung by the thread of an upturned mouth. And I would swear to you that the internet is an inanimate object, but sometimes the Spirit jumps from the screen like a nighttime wolverine, teeth bared and all and He does not always need to be gentle, does He? This time, the connection between us was visceral and I could feel that He wasn’t going to let go. After all, I have told Him time and again that I don’t want to be anything less then everything for His kingdom and I mean it with every fragile ounce of my humanity. And He’s just holding me to my own professed yearnings and savage promises. I’m sure if I wanted to renege, I could.

Girl meets Wolverine on a Sunday evening and it later brought me to the kitchen table with my husband, him holding me in his Guardian-arms and me with the tears and a barely there whisper—choked-up on my own twisting aorta, the words fall out: “There are orphans in this world honey. Do you know what orphans are . . .? They’re children without homes and mommies and daddies and I cannot carry this dark burden anymore without doing something. And I know we don’t have to bear the whole world’s parent-less little-people, but could we hold one? Or two?”

The husband {with the heart bigger then the state of texas where he came from} prompted us and together we joined our quivering lips and prayed into the indigo sky—he prayed his prayers of surrender and I prayed mine: “Thy will be done”, I said, but only through the clenching and unclenching of my heart.

Because I’m still scared. You know . . . ? What if I indulge so far into compassion that I don’t have anything left? No time to read or write or dither around the bookstore-with-the-coffee-shop? What if I indulge so far I don’t have the energy to sit in the sleeping-house-silence? Will my introverted soul be sustained?

These earth-skin questions come real quick-like while I’m calling the local adoption agency, asking about their open houses, but I remember the Wolverine and His bared teeth and how He lived so far inside the skin of the world, for Him, compassion was a “fatal capacity”. This image bolsters me and I drink it like a gimlet of ambrosiac elixir while pulling the thief-gripped puppet strings one by one from my flesh because all the free time in my world isn’t going to wrap an orphan in love; my own desire to convalesce in comfort won’t hold a mother-less child.

I will live inside my skin, painful though it is. And I will live inside your skin too and together . . . if we’re all living inside each other’s skin? God. It feels like a scourging, but it looks like Christ.

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside someone else’s skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. ”  ~ Frederick Buechner

Teach us how to love, Abba::Amma. The world is wide open.

 

29 comments

  1. I will live inside my skin, painful though it is. And I will live inside your skin too and together . . . if we’re all living inside each other’s skin? God. It feels like a scourging, but it looks like Christ.

    this is another reason why i love you so…
    and abba::amma?
    yes.

    gripping and heartwrenching, my friend.
    xo.

    Reply
  2. Loved the beauty and honesty of this post: this big, wild idea of compassion. I will be thinking about this all day.

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  3. my heart drips with you here. scooping you up and living with you in the discomfort and hope, all at once.

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  4. Oh, friend, I’m so excited by this new direction in your life and the way you are opening yourself up to compassion. It will be an interesting road for you and your family- and for us as you carry us along for the ride.

    I have welled up with compassion time and again for a certain group of people. This bell has rung louder and more clearly since I moved to Nashville but I have felt stuck, uncertain how to best love these people. God keeps pricking me forward and I keep asking Him the how and the where and the what. No answers have come yet but I am certain that the compassion is there for a reason and when the time comes, I will know it.

    Reply
    • i am so grateful, leigh, that you are on this ride with us . . . and praying for you and that compassion-outlet you seek – i am most confident that you will find it and it will be beautiful.

      love to you, darlin’,
      erika

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  5. I meant to navigate myself onto another blog and thought I had successfully landed there until I traveled a few lines in. I kept thinking to myself “this does not sound like the writer I read each day. What has happened to her? She has become transformed over night. She has finally seen Jesus!” When I got almost to the end I had to stop and scroll up then realizing I wasn’t where I thought I was and the author wasn’t who I thought it was. So, I began again this time with my bearings straight. I must admit that I am not often speechless, but in the moments spent entangled within your words I felt the breathe leave my lungs. Never have I read on a blog something so profound. You truly wrote from the fullness of what you have encountered..compassion. I was within your skin as you were within theirs and together along with many others we were all within its capacity. Without a doubt your heart cry is Jesus. Much much love to you!

    Reply
    • i am so glad you found your way here, jennifer. your words mean so much, friend . . . thank-you for telling me that this post touched you because i felt my soul going out with that “publish” button.

      much love to you,
      erika

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  6. Alicia

    Shouts of thank you from within my soul. I have longed deep from the trenches of this hopeful compassionate heart as we prepare one day to fly across the world. Hold babies close. Joining mommas yearning for freedom. Listening. Lending hands, pouring tears & sweat for them in our skin, praying we stay grounded & not float away. To read this helps regain another ounce of love-strength.

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    • Erika

      so happy, alicia, to be a part of your compassion journey. :) thank-you for being here . . .

      love,
      erika

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  7. My toes are all underneath this one. Yes, indeed.

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  8. I am so excited for you as you step down this road that Jesus is calling you on, Erika!
    It is scary to wonder if opening your heart too big to the orphan will make your heart burst with pain. But it is scary to run away from the call of God. He will widen the borders of your heart as much as He needs to. And, like He said, if we come to Him, He will give us rest. I hope that still includes some quiet mornings in your book shops. :)
    I am praying for you guys.

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    • thank-you so much erin . . . i noticed you had an adoption section over at your site – i’m going to spend some time with it tonight! :)

      love,
      erika

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  9. Holy crap, woman! This is wonderful writing/thinking/acting. I thought you were talking about a Compassion child – which is lovely in and of itself – but then I got to the phone calls to real, live adoption agencies and my mouth literally dropped open. Oh my. Prayers for all of you, dear Erika-artist. Your hearts will stretch to meet this new call and yes, it will feel like a scourging at times…but it will be good. And hard. Oh yes, all of that. Now you’ve put it in ink. Or is that blood strewn all over this screen? Gotta lay that one at the feet of the Wolverine. Go, girl.

    Reply
    • oh yes! we’ll take your prayers and covet them close . . . we go to our first adoption open house on thursday night . . . egads!!!

      thank-you for all you are, diana.

      love,
      erika

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      • Emily

        Can I just say, “mmmhmmm” and nod real big to everything Diana said? Cause yeah.

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        • oh woman! thanks for reading, surely and muchly! many xxxxxxxxxx!!!

          love,
          erika

          Reply
  10. Beautiful post. I have these same internal struggles and it is reassuring to read that someone else feels the same way.

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  11. Erika, do you know how grateful i am that you use words and share them so we get to be part of your journey by sharing in your experiences and insights… oh yes, i am grateful. because the glimpses you share into what’s behind the veil touch me soul-deep. and i know we will get to further experience your journey because you will keep sharing. praying for you each step of the way. xoxo ~Brianne

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    • oh brianne, you touch my heart just so . . . thank-you friend.

      love,
      erika

      Reply
  12. Oh friend. Through tears I hear your story. I’m afraid to respond. I don’t want to say anything that would detour you. I hurt. Wounds lay open. Know that I’m here if you need to vent to anyone about the process. Your story is being written, not all stories are the same. I wish much for yours!!

    Reply
    • i am sorry for your pain through the adoption journey . . . i give you my prayers now, friend. and i’d love to hear more of your story.

      our hands feel open in surrender to this process and maybe nothing will be as we imagine, but i know the embarking alone is essential, eh?

      love you,
      erika

      Reply
  13. frogla

    such beautiful and honest words…hits me deep in a place where i’m wounded and afraid. it’s comforting to know i’m not the only one…i also call out to Abba….

    Reply
    • Thank-you so much . . . glad to go to a deep place with you.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply

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