“What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? In truth I have no help in me, and any resource is driven from me.” Job 6: 11-13 NRSV
Eyes stare. Mouth droops. Limbs sit in supposed silence. Only sores speak. Erupting into puss pools.
Life evaporating like tiny raindrops on desert wind. Leftovers buried with each child. Leaving Job with no vision of future.
Job needs others to hold future for him. To be strength for him. But Job learns people’s consistency and appropriateness in tragedy and trauma varies. Many are unreliable, questionable, hurtful, and harmful. Job says,
“Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty. My companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed…in time of heat they disappear: when it is hot, they vanish from their place.” Job 6:14, 17
Job’s friends posture in trauma’s heat. Find quick answers to suffering’s sorrow. Offer support in limp gestures. Cover their cluelessness with words worn as thin cloaks.
In his pit, Job sees truth. Recognizes their moralism as yet another lathering of pain. Adding putrid frosting on top of bitter cake. Each taste full of shaming shapes. Requiring sufferer’s scarce amount of patience to be used on help’s imposters claiming compassion.
“Compassion means ministry.” writes theologian Andrew Purves. Ministry “for healing or wholeness.”
Compassion does not say, “your head should not feel heavy.” Because compassion does not expand pain’s cutting edge. With knives of judgement and misconstrued power.Compassion sees face-to-face. Hears truth. Believes. Feels. Provides. Compassion says, “My head feels your heaviness. Here are some soft pillows.”
Healing Practice: Do No-Thing
Today we offer ourselves compassion. Not judgement.
Self-compassion allows us to do nothing. Only asks us to sit. Stare.
Until sitting leads to noticing. Noticing the sounds around us. Naming them one by one.
Noticing more sounds. Coming from within. Breath breathing. Fast, slow, deep, shallow, labored, stilted, heavy.
Breath bringing us inside our bodies. Awakening realizations of sensations. Feelings living in muscles, organs, limbs. Some achy, hard, tingly. Some heavy or warm. Forming shapes. Circle, oval, brick, or plane.
Breath leading us back. To what surrounds us. The drawing on the wall. Ceiling fan above. Lamp across the room. Breathing in silence. Breathing out stillness. Breathing in staring. Breathing out seeing.
Insistent God, persist in loving me. Persist in caring for me. Persist in healing me. Sprinkle silent kindnesses on my ashes. Infuse quiet kindnesses into my soul. Fill me with just enough determination to persevere another minute, another hour, another day. Send people courageous enough to sit with me in my pit as it echoes with nothing but muffled torment. Amen.
[i] Purves, Andrew. (1989) The Search for Compassion: Spirituality and Ministry. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Page 17.