Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” – Henri Nouwen
Over the past week, we have looked back over a hard year. Like an Examen, we have not just reflected upon the culture shaping moments we have all faced, but allowed some breathing room to articulate the inner events that have shaped our souls. Self-examination may appear self-indulgent, but if done well, it doesn’t have to be.
It’s easy for us to examine others, judging the motives and actions of who’s who on the screen world and in the real world. In our comparison and our judgement, we pull away from others towards ourselves, feeling rather smug. However, through the practice of self-examination, the opposite takes place. As we learn to name our experiences, we, as Henri Nouwen says, “remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him whose heart is greater, whose eyes see more, and whose hands can heal.” In honest reflection, we make room for Christ to tend to our wounds and His Spirit to transform us. This leads us away from ourselves in love towards others. When the Spirit of the others-centred Christ takes up residence in our lives, we become those whose lives are centred on others.
As Jesus demonstrated and taught on the tangible presence of the Kingdom, healing every disease and sickness, crowds consistently swarmed around Him. In Matthew 9, we read of Christ’s response: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Compassion is made up of two words: ‘together’ and ‘suffer’ – it speaks of co-suffering.
According to Ann Voskamp, “When Christ’s people feel compassion like Christ did, they feel the pain in the deepest places, they reach down and reach out and their lives become cruciform, shaped into the cross of Christ. Compassion is the radical cross-shaping of a life. Everything broken open: Brokenhearted openness. Brokenhearted vulnerability. Brokenhearted intimacy. Cruciform.”
As I have said before, suffering can either harden us or humble us. If our hurt softens our hearts and we allow humility to run its course, it will lead us to wrap a towel around our waist and fill a basin of water to wash the feet of those in pain. Just like Christ, our wounds may never go away, but they can be a gift that invites us beyond self-absorption and towards co-suffering.
Compassionate people, formed by their backstory, have a depth of perception that allows them to recognise what’s really going on with people. Unsatisfied with the answers of “I’m grand, thanks,” they wrap an arm around those in pain, like an elder brother or sister and they stick around, unafraid of bursts of emotion or hairpin turns. Never exhibitionists, the compassionate have a keen eye for pointing out mustard seeds in the dirt that speak of seasons to come, the likes of which they are living through now.
We so often believe that the broken and fragmented parts of our stories rule us out from serving others. Instead, our woundedness can be a gift that keeps us on humility’s highway in the direction of others. We can embody the way of Christ, who in sympathising with our weakness, moved towards us. By His wounds we are healed.
It would be easy for us to forget the past twelve months, obsess over ourselves, and miss the invitation to live the Christ life in the Christ way. May we instead live a compassionate and cruciform life: open, vulnerable, intimate. May we discover that life’s true joy is found in following in the footsteps of our Wounded Healer.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Methodist Covenant Prayer
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.