Okay, okay, I’ve gotten some feedback that the term “Fits of Unwarranted Compassion” is confusing. Am I talking about my own compassion towards others or God’s compassion toward me? And if I am talking about God’s compassion, doesn’t the word “fit” seem a bit too sporadic and haphazard to describe something as constant and pervasive as God’s compassion? Well, the answer to all of those questions is yes. Yes, these Fits of Unwarranted Compassion describe unexplainable feelings of compassion I’ve felt for other people. Yes, they describe God’s compassion towards me. And, yes, the term “fit” is too careless a word to attribute to God’s compassion.
The fits describe my own view of God’s compassion, at first. In the midst of anger and despair I started experiencing this beauty and this meaning and this purpose and this joy that I couldn’t explain and felt I didn’t deserve. I eventually came to call them (because I love to title my life) Fits of Unwarranted Compassion. For a long time I viewed them as unpredictable bursts, fireflies of meaning in my otherwise dark night of the soul–fits. I didn’t see them as connected. I didn’t even see them as God. The fits more accurately describe my own fitful recognitions of God’s hand at work.
I guess the only way to explain it is to describe one to you. I’m going to tell you about a more recent event in my life, when I’d already identified these fits as God’s love. But I’m hoping it will help explain what I mean by these fits and why I am so profoundly grateful for them.
This summer I had the chance to lead a mission trip to Guatemala with a group of college students from Point Loma Nazarene University. Guatemala has long been a place I have wanted to spend time in–either visiting or living there long term. For a million reasons, this trip was a gift from God. For now, I’ll share just one of these reasons.
For five entire weeks, I didn’t have to produce anything.
I work as a grant writer for a great organization where production and polished writing and attention to detail means not only personal satisfaction but critical funds for our programs.
As much as I love my job and the people I work to support, I needed a break. And God knew that.
He literally handed me this trip on a silver platter, forcing me to take the breather I so desperately needed but never would have taken had I not been offered this trip.
And breathe I did.
For five weeks I turned into an inarticulate, Spanish mumbling, VBS kid song humming fool.
And it was wonderful.
There was nothing to produce. Nothing to polish. My thoughts and ideas could remain unfinished, unexpressed, unanalyzed, and unclassified.
There was no grant to be proofed and no blog to be wrapped up nicely. No catchy punchlines or taglines. No persuasive arguments or marketing campaigns.
No to-do lists. No feelings of being behind or inadequate.
Five weeks of simply soaking it all in.
And it was glorious.
It may sound selfish, but I believe God knew exactly what he was doing. I came back from that trip with new vision and hope and excitement for my job, my relationships, and the ways God is living and moving and breathing in me even when I can’t explain it.
One of my favorite quotes from Henri Nouwen (sheesh, three Henri mentions and this blog is only a week old!) says, “If we lack the strength to carry the burden of our own lives, we cannot accept the burden of our neighbors.”
I believe that is true with all my heart. When I’m overwhelmed with work or questioning my relationships or obsessing about how good I look in a bathing suit, there’s no way I can reach out to others. When I can’t even get a handle on prioritizing a to-do list, how am I supposed to care for others and carry them?
While I believe this truth with all of my heart, I only know it in fits. Luckily, God knows it all the time and he knew five weeks in Guatemala was exactly what I needed, not only for me, but so that I can be the best steward of the life he has given me.
It is experiences like these that I call Fits of Unwarranted Compassion. And all I can say is gracias.