Monday, June 10, 2013

Fighting the inward turn

For most of us the most, when we are injured or attacked our natural response is the armadillo. We turn in on ourselves and the longer the pain or attack continues the more we focus in on it, the more tightly we circle in.

Today we begin our reading of the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinitians. And in the introduction he explains that the best response is one that is counter-intuitive.

the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

Many of us know this but we only do it after the fact. After my suffering has past, when I am feeling better, then I turn, and comfort someone else in there affliction.
That's good but everybody does that.

How about while still in in the midst of our own affliction and God is pouring out his encouragement on us, opening ourselves, and rather than being a reservoir that bottles up the grace of God, be a conduit, that channels that encouragement to someone else whose suffering may be even greater than our own. Of course, that would first require us to open our eyes to the suffering of others, and see that while our pain may be great, there is always some in a worse situation.

I can't resist pointing out that the Greek translated here as encourage or encouragement provides an interesting image the word parakaleo is a compound.
Para-beside, like paralegal, paramedic, or parallel and
Kaleo- to call, or summon.
It brings to mind the simple gesture of seeing someone in pain, calling them over,standing beside them, and putting your arm around them. It doesn't imply knowing the answers or solving their problems. We don't have to have all the answers just stand beside them, be with them.