Today I feel a strong and persistent call to write about my big brother, Joshua. What limited knowledge I have of him comes primarily from early childhood memories, so much of this will be written in the past-tense. My parents tell me he isn’t doing well. He may rally, but he may not. The thought that he might not be long for this world made me surprisingly emotional. I know that sounds… hardened, but it isn’t; perhaps pragmatic. Josh is blind, doesn’t speak, is self-abusive and deeply autistic. It is very difficult to comfort him, to treat his pain. I believe that when he goes home, it will be incredibly joyful for him. But I will mourn his loss. His contribution to my life has been worth more than I can say, but I’ll try anyway.

Josh helped teach me about compassion. It would be easy to pity him. My parents had compassion for him. In my mind there is a vital difference. Pity has no hands or feet. It is counterproductive, even demeaning; not that I’m immune. I pity people sometimes. It is a helpless feeling. Compassion recognizes humanity. It inspires us to show humanity. Of course my folks saw his limitations, but they saw his personality and capacities, too. They loved and included him and taught us to do the same.

More importantly, Joshua taught me about the value of people. Though he could not speak to me, see me, respond in typical ways; though his behaviors were odd and never socially acceptable, I felt his soul. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but truly – he had gentleness. I always thought he was special. I love him.

Josh also reminds me that death need not be a fearful thing. He may feel miserable and unhappy here; it’s easy to look at him and feel that something better awaits, but sometimes I forget that I am, more or less, in the same position. We all are. While our lives here can be very precious and beautiful to us, fear, confusion, misery and brokenness are also parts of our realities. I can’t imagine much greater contrast than that between those feelings and pure, uninhibited joy and peace.

And so I thank God for my brother. Thank you for reading about someone who is probably a stranger to you. If you feel so moved, prayers for his peace and comfort would be wonderful.

Prophets Project · Uncategorized

Prophets Project – How can we be just and compassionate?

These chapters in Ezekiel are absolutely full of intriguing ideas worthy of reflection, but I’ve been mulling over one idea in particular, lately, and Ezekiel offers me the perfect opportunity to work through it (or at least attempt to do so).

God is just. We read about Israel’s experiences throughout the Bible and some of those experiences (and predictions) are terrifying, painful, ugly. We can also see that people often suffered as a result of their decisions. Justice, right? But then there are passages where the authors focus on God’s compassion. He takes pity on us. He “spares” us despite our unworthiness (Ezekiel 20:16-17).

If I believe that God is just and compassionate, then I have to believe that these two traits are not at odds. Ezekiel 20: 44 caught my attention: “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” Hmmm… there’s something here that changes my understanding of justice, but I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps we should focus less on being just toward each other and more on seeking justice for God? Because, after all, to serve God is the only true way to serve each other. Sorry for the rambling. Just trying to get a handle on this train of thought.

People are told to seek justice (see Isaiah 1:17, for just one example), which sounds simple enough, but I feel befuddled when I read Proverbs 28:5, which states: “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” Ahem… I’m afraid this does not bode well for me, because I’m still confused. How can we know what is just and when to be compassionate and relieve suffering when that suffering seems… well, fair, based on someone’s actions. For example – a parent has an adult child who is broke and living on the streets because of a drug habit. They’ve made every effort to help in the past. The child is in her current predicament because she made bad decisions. Is it good and just to take that child back into the parents’ home and help her get back on her feet? She certainly qualifies as poor and oppressed. Or should she bear the weight of her choices? You can’t make that call without more info, right? I feel like there are always extenuating circumstances… heck, they may go all the way back to Adam and Eve. God has the advantage of being able to see all of those variables and factors. I do not. Do such things matter? How can we know how best to serve God and our fellow man?

I know I’m overthinking this. I know that if our actions are borne out of love and we are seeking God’s will, we’re doing what we can. But doesn’t that feel like an oversimplification sometimes? In a decision-making moment, things can seem overwhelming, confusing, weighty.

I think maybe I just muddied the waters. 🙂

Lacking a neat moral-of-the-story, I’ll leave you with a couple of verses from my reading that I found powerful. This moving plea can be found in Ezekiel 18:31-32:
“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”