Recently I asked my son to go running with me. This running idea is not like my idea of fun nor is it a common request of mine. I wanted to start running but I knew getting back into the rhythm of such was going to be challenging to say the least. So I asked my best buddy to come with me. We laced up and got in the car and as we were driving down the hill I looked at him and said “What’s the game plan?” It was kind of like, “Alright, how are we going to pull this off?” Or more accurately, how are we going to help me pull this off? He looked at me with the cutest smirk and pointed to the back seat. Trying to stay on the road, I took a quick look back and there was a bag thing. I said “What is thaaaaat?” He simply said “It’s a 30 pound speed sack that I am going to wear while we run.”
Who does that?
We got out of the car and he had to get all jacked up in this doohickey that he, on his own, planned to wear around the track. As we ran each lap I saw how hard he was working. I saw the extra weight he carried for me. I saw the sweat he sweated to encourage me. I saw the extra effort he extended to run alongside me prodding me on for my best in mind. This was compassion at it’s greatest level.
See compassion cannot only be a feeling. If compassion were only a feeling, it would be useless. Anyone can feel. What good does just feeling for another do?
“Oh I feel so bad that you feel bad.”
“It’s really sad that they have that problem. I feel for them.”
“What a hard life, I feel sorry for them.”
I bet you, like me, find yourselves “feeling” for people. You empathize with their grief or their childhood or their lot in life, but that’s often where we stop. We feel sad. We get mad. We ponder their plight and it looks like something we would avoid with a ten foot pole. But that is all. We have a compassion that sits- A compassion that claps and cheers and hopes things get better for another- A compassion that doesn’t lift a finger to bring about any change- A compassion that watches- A compassion that hears the news and feels bad and… that’s all- A compassion that knows but does nothing.
The definition of compassion according to Webster is: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
A feeling of wanting.
What good is wanting to help someone if we never actually do? What good is wanting to reach out if we we only reach in? What good is a good intention? What good is a feeling with no movement along with it? Compassion is absolutely useless if it is not FELT and SEEN in action.
“Thats really hard.”
My son could have said that to me. “That’s really hard mom. Running after years of not running! That is going to be a real tough go. Good luck! You got yourself into this, now get yourself out of it. See you when you get back!” Yet once again, I am schooled by my kids.
But he didn’t. In fact he took on my pain, my extra weight, my grueling run, my hardship, every lap and wore it himself. I cannot tell you what that did for me. It was like I was running next to Jesus Himself. It is said of Jesus in Isaiah 53 that He took up our pain and bore our suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. He wore our wounds so that we might find healing. This Jesus I know, He wears the heaviest of all running bags so that we might run unencumbered and free, fast and youthful. There is something about Someone coming alongside your pain and heavy laden race and running it alongside you, carrying the weight, knowing exactly how you feel.
Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
I find this so fascinating and radical. The law of Christ is not going to church and getting a perfect attendance record. The law of Christ is not Bible trivia winning. The law of Christ is not joining every bible study and bragging about your long prayer times and all the ways you volunteer and take part in social justice causes. The law of Christ is not throwing away your short hoochie skirts, your hip hop cd’s and your F bombs . The law of Christ is carrying each other’s burdens. And I hate to say it, but if we aren’t carrying people’s burdens, we aren’t fulfilling the law of Christ. Which means, if we are merely feeling bad for people, but doing absolutely nothing about it, we are not quite as spiritually cool as we think we are. Carrying other people’s burdens is as trying and difficult AND radical as a 12 year old carrying a 30 pound running bag to not just empathize with his mother, but to carry her pain and run sprints doing it!
You either enter people’s hardships and carry them or you don’t. You either hear the news and put it on the prayer list or you actually engage the news and try to bring some good into it. You either know whats going on and ignore it because you are uncomfortable or you engage it, wear it and run alongside it because it’s what Christ would do. Or you don’t. You can hear about starving children if Africa and feel badly but what good does feeling badly do for a hungry child? You can hear about their pending divorce and worry but what good is your worry doing when they sit lonely in loss? You can make a sad pouty face when you run into them because you know they are hurting but what healing does a sad pouty face have? Compassion. It’s a choice. Everyday, all day, it’s a choice.
Carry each other’s burdens.
“But their too heavy.”
“But I am already carrying my own.”
“But I don’t want to.”
In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
It’s one thing to run the race in life for yourself but it’s astounding to run it for another. True compassion runs alongside other people. Aidan ran for me. Do you know what that did for me? Every time Aidan sprinted ahead of me, and sprinted ahead of me he did, I’ll tell you what it did for me… It blessed me. It told me to keep going. It cheered me on. It applauded me. It told me I could keep going. It told me I wasn’t alone. It inspired me to one day be free of the heavy weight. It made me want to run harder and faster and longer. It made me want to be like him one day, showing up on a track carrying extra weight to help someone else lose it. It made me want to be a compassionate runner on the journey too.
Maybe carrying each other’s burdens is the law of Christ because Christ knew how beautiful the world would be if we all ran alongside each other in the race. Maybe Christ knew that compassion in action, carrying what is heavy for another, is how God best shows up and uses people to bring about healing. Maybe Christ knew it’s exactly what we all need.