John 15:13 is an amazing verse which speaks directly to sacrificial love. The same love that brought Jesus to the cross because He loves us so much, He couldn’t bear to leave us in our hopeless state of sin and its dreadful consequences. So how can we live out the words of this Scripture in our own lives? As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember those who laid down their lives, so we could be free. Their example is one way for someone to lay down one’s life, and we are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Pastor Chad of Living Word Global Church shared a wonderful way to celebrate Memorial Day. Rather than buy into the consumerism that sadly revolves around this day, do an act of service to honor God. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – something as simple as a phone call to someone who may be feeling lonely. As Pastor Chad put it this morning, we are all going to die someday. God didn’t make our bodies to be perfectly preserved, so that we survive unblemished into our eighties. We are called to stretch and go out of our comfort zones to help others and point them to Jesus. As we celebrate Memorial Day, it would be good to reflect on those who have sacrificed for us and on what we can do to sacrificially help others.
While we are not all called to make that ultimate sacrifice, we can lay down our lives for others in many ways – by serving them. Our lives should be how others see God – by seeking the well-being of others and loving them in His Name. When Josh was in first grade, he talked about this topic. May the pure faith of a child bless your understanding of living a life spent in loving others.
I have been wanting to talk about the difference between empathy and sympathy for a while now. I have been reflecting on my response to my mom in my younger years when she expressed the various aches and pains that she was experiencing. I recall feeling bad for her, but I don’t recall comprehending the depth of the pain that she was going through. As I’m getting older and experiencing my own aches and pains that is a natural part of the aging process, I have been reflecting on the difference between empathy and sympathy, how I responded to her back then, and how I would today.
One of my favorite scripture verses has always been 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This is a perfect picture of empathy. Sympathy is recognizing that somebody is struggling and offering some words of comfort from a place that while sincere, does not actually comprehend the pain the other person is going through, at least to the same extent as someone who has experienced it themselves. This Scripture verse tells us that after we have gone through a trial, we can comfort someone else going through a similar trial with the same comfort God has given us. That is so powerful!
I personally have some regret because I wish I was more empathic to what my mom was going through as she aged: her painful back issues, her frustration at being limited physically in her golden years, and her unspoken feelings of isolation. But upon further reflection, I find that type of empathy is often the result of growing in wisdom and maturity. It is the exception rather than the rule for younger people who have not experienced the same issues or if they have, it was temporary.
I have come to understand that my mom would hold no grudge against my lack of empathy, just as I hold no grudge against my own children. They simply cannot comprehend what they have not felt for themselves. Indeed, as parents, we typically shelter our children from our infirmities because we don’t want to burden them.
Regardless of our season of life, we can all still strive to become more empathic. How do we do this? I recently heard of Brene Brown and the work she is doing in this area. I wanted to share this video because I think it speaks very directly to all of us as to how we can exercise empathy rather than sympathy, even in those situations where we have not experienced what the person is going through for ourselves. I think it’s worth watching – I hope it blesses you, like it has me, with a better understanding of how to be more compassionate to those around us.
And if you feel a little sad or guilty for not having more empathy for someone you love who is no longer with us, I have empathy for you, for I feel those things as well. I would like to share the comfort I have received from God. He loves each one of us unconditionally where we are at. I also believe those who love us (including my mom) knew we were not yet mature enough to understand. They would want us to continue to grow and learn as we move through each season of our life, gaining wisdom and increasing in compassion, without being weighed down with regrets. The best way to honor their legacy is to live the best version of ourselves each day, without letting the past hold us back from being a blessing to those around us, and by cultivating empathy for others.
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about my old days at DeVry Institute of Technology and how much I love working on electronics. I was a faculty assistant while I was going to school. I remember when they were tearing down the upstairs lab to turn it into another classroom. DeVry decided to make the oscilloscopes available for students to purchase at a somewhat affordable price. Being a faculty assistant, I got first shot. The instructor that I worked for helped me choose the best one. It became the mainstay for my home lab along with some equipment I had purchased at the monthly sidewalk sale under the bridge in Dallas, affectionately referred to as “First Saturday.”
A DeVry analog and digital trainer consisting of a function generator, an AC power supply, and a variable and fixed (5 and 12 volt) DC power supply, became part of the lab that I had set up in my bedroom, along with numerous breadboards and a container holding various diodes, transistors, resistors, IC chips, LEDs, and capacitors. I also had a soldering iron and solder sucker I kept handy. I absolutely loved designing circuits on my bread boards and building projects. I spent many wonderful hours at DeVry learning my trade. It served me well, because I went on to work at a job as a test engineer for many years and I always said “I can’t believe they pay me to come into work to have so much fun!”
That was several years ago and my life has taken many turns since then. I married a wonderful man and raised an amazing son while doing many different things including teaching English as a Second Language at the adult education center in my community, getting my master’s degree, and teaching as an adjunct professor at Dallas Christian College, while starting a small business selling portable trail obstacles for horses.
I had a fantastic run indulging in my favorite past time – horses. I have been blessed with several wonderful equine partners over the years. Time, distance, and the busyness of life has caused my ability to participate to fade. I still ride but instead of three or four times a week, it’s been three or four times a year.
More seasons: In the last few years, I have devoted myself to writing. I started a writers group called the Carrollton League of Writers, going on three years now, and have been blessed with so many lovely friendships through it. I am in the midst of revising a 94,000-word science fiction novel that I hope to publish by year’s end. I have also taken up my husband’s passion of bicycling and we try to ride our bikes several times a week.
Most recently, I have embarked on a new career path working in Information Technology as a Quality Assurance lead. As I lay in bed this morning, I felt nostalgia for and a strong desire to reignite my passion for electronics. But then I realized that God has given me many wonderful seasons and that my electronics time was a special season for me to enjoy, but not necessarily something to return to, or at least not to devote a tremendous amount of time to it.
God will always have something for me. What a blessing to know that He will continue to bring new things into my life, not to replace my previous passions, but to bless me with new experiences – new seasons.
My thoughts then went a step further. I think I was reminiscing about DeVry because a dear friend, the instructor I mentioned earlier, went to be with Jesus last month. It’s particularly hard to think about because he was also my husband’s closest friend and his passing was so unexpected. As I thought about him, and became teary-eyed, I realized that as the years go on, this was going to continue to happen, because it is a part of life. While our souls are eternal, our bodies are perishing, and we will be saying goodbye to many friends eventually. In the last six months, we’ve said goodbye to four dear friends and I find my grief coming out in patches, as special reminders of them occur randomly in my life.
But God told me something about that, just as He did about the areas of passion I described earlier that I’m no longer able to do. While I’ll always treasure the memories I have of my friends and look forward to reuniting with them one day in heaven, God is also bringing new people into my life, not to replace them because they will always have a special place in my heart, but because He loves us so much. Just as He’s bringing me new things to do, He’s also bringing me new friends. It reminds me of a childhood song we used to sing in Girl Scouts – Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold.
I thank God for both the new seasons in my life to look forward to, and the previous seasons to remember and cherish. I also thank God for the new friends He has been bringing into my life. It doesn’t make saying goodbye to those I love any easier, but it does bring comfort and hope for the future.