Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week V - The Cup of Compassion

As I begin Week V: The Cup of Compassion.


My prayer would be that I would see the world as God sees this world.  Who better than beginning this morning and this chapter than Michael W. Smith?  Michael has a gift for leading praise and worship.  God uses this man mightily in stirring the hearts of Christ's Church.

The cup at the beginning of this chapter is a cup being emptied out.  Looking for an image, different than the one I have used during Week II, The Open Cup, I was struck by this work of a woman emptying, what appears to be an earthen jar of some kind, into a large body of water.

I, all of us, are part of this earth.  We, like an earthen pot, are formed from clay. As I begin with Compassion, I want to begin with the thought I am simply returning what is not mine, but the Creator's within me. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

"I hold my heart as a gourd filled with love, ready to pour upon humanity." ~ Jessica Powers

Joyce tells of a time she befriended a woman sitting with her terminally ill husband, Agnes.  Agnes shared with Joyce how another woman, Marian, who had recently lost her own husband in the same facility, had reached out to help her.
"...I saw how one woman, in the midst of her own loss, reached out in compassion to another who was in pain. Marian couldn't 'do' much for Agnes by changing her situation but she helped greatly with her caring presence." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 109)
Mary Jo Meadows defines compassion as "the quivering of the heart in response to another's suffering" and notes that "compassionate beings...cannot bear to see suffering and remain unengaged."  Jack Kornfield writes about the truly loving person who breaths in the pain of the world and breaths out compassion.
"That is how deep compassion is, and how closely connected to others." (Rupp, p 110)
Joyce tells us that each life influences and affects the other in the same way.  She continues by writing,
"The more we see our world as a vast interconnectedness of all beings, the more drawn we will be to compassion because we will see how much one life is related to and affected by another. This  spiritual oneness is at the heart of Christianity." (Ibid)
I am the Vine, you are the branches.
As a Christian and as a person living in the 21st Century, this notion interconnectedness is not new thinking. Those of us raised in the church are familiar with the vine and the branches image from John 15:1. Living in today's world, we are daily reminded how each of us affects and is affected by another part of the world.
"We are the body of Christ. The life pulsing through us is the life of God giving us spiritual vitality." (Ibid)
Joyce thinks that no quality more identifies a Christian than that of compassion.  She also knows that compassion can be very demanding. She also identifies there are many ways of showing compassion.

The Good Samaritan
"Sometimes compassion asks us to simply 'be' with someone, to wait patiently, to experience their powerlessness with them. At other times, compassion asks us to 'do' something, to give of our time and resources, to speak out for justice, to 'go the extra mile' for and with them as did the Samaritan in the gospel parable ( Luke 10:25-37). And sometimes, compassion asks us to receive graciously from another who has need of our receptivity and our vulnerability." (Ibid)
Being the INFJ that I am, there is a part of me that is jumping up and exclaiming loudly, "AMEN, Joyce! Preach it!"

There is another part of me that begins to feel overwhelmed, because I have simply lost myself in others and/or situations.  Joyce must know about people like me, because she goes on to say,
"Caring persons need to constantly check their motivation for offering compassion to be sure they are not doing it out of their own egocentric needs. They must also be sure to take good care of themselves. As Mary Jo Meadows points out 'You must get near enough to the suffering to feel it, but not so close as to get lost in it or overwhelmed by it.' This can be a very delicate balance." (Ibid)
The underlined mine.  Oh, do I recognize my need within those lines.

Joyce closes her introduction using the wisdom of one of my favorite teachers, Marcus Borg who notes that compassion is the central quality of God in both the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures. Borg emphasized that God is compassion ate - God feels our pain, our loss, and our suffering.

Praying with our cup...
Joyce asks, "As we pray with our cups this week, we can draw both inspiration and comfort from God who is our example, par excellence, of how to hold the hurting ones of our world in our hearts and offer them the cup of compassion." (Rupp, p 111)

Again, Joyce's poem to begin this chapter, touches my heart, sparks my imagination, and offers me hope.

my cup of compassion holds tears of the world; it overflows with sorrow, struggles, and sadness,
my cup of compassion holds the cries of children, unfed, unloved, unsheltered, uneducated, unwanted,
my cup of compassion holds the screams of war, the tortured, slain, imprisoned, the raped, the disabled,
my cup of compassion holds the bruised and battered, victims of incest and abuse, gang wars, violent crimes,
my cup of compassion holds the voice of silent ones, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, the unborn, the homeless, 
my cup of compassion holds the emptiness of the poor, the searing pain of racism, the impotency of injustice, 
my cup of compassion holds the heartache of loss, the sigh of the dying, the sting of the divorced,
my cup of compassion holds the agony of the earth, species terminated, air polluted, land destroyed, rivers with refuse,
my cup of compassion I hold it to my heart where the Divine dwells, where love is stronger than death and disaster.  ~ Joyce Rupp (Rupp, p 112)

God, Father and Creator of us all and all that we see...I am looking forward to learning more about this Cup of Compassion and how to offer compassion in a way that honors and glorifies you.  Today, help me to see this world and all I meet, through your eyes.  Help me to listen to the eyes of my heart where you reside.  AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

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