By: JUBILEE! Minister Candace Chellew-Hodge
In this morning’s Jesus story (Mark 7: 31-35), our guy shows us a two-step process to embrace openness. First, we have to get away from the crowd. Jesus didn’t heal this deaf man out in front of everyone. Instead, the scriptures say, he did it in private, where no one could see him perform this miracle.
Step one to embracing openness: Do your own work first before going out into the world. We cannot ever suffer with another person unless we have first suffered with ourselves. True compassion is only born in those fevered moments when we can look upon our own shortcomings, faults and failures and put our arm around them and reassure them that everything will be okay. Only when we can have compassion on our own pain and suffering will we be able to show compassion for others.
We can’t do this kind of work out in public. Certainly, therapists, good friends and spiritual communities like this one can help us do that work, but at its heart, learning compassion for ourselves is an inside job and one we must do in private. Why? Because we cannot bring anything out into the world that is not already within us.
If we want to stop bringing anger, hatred, despair and blame into this world, we first must eradicate it from our inner world and replace them with peace, love, hope and compassion. The best training ground for doing that is to begin with yourself and work outward.
Step two to embracing openness: Listen more than you speak. Jesus heals this man in a very deliberate order. First, he healed his deafness, then he healed his speech impediment. This is an important reminder for us to listen deeply to the suffering of others before we go around telling them how what they should do to fix their lives.
How often has someone come to you and said, “What you need to do is …” and whatever they end that sentence with is some piece of completely useless advice because they haven’t taken the time to listen to you and truly understand the problem you’re facing or the pain that you are in.
This is not compassion — this is simply the ego going around trying to be the savior of the world.
Remember, we’re not here to save the world — we’re here to have compassion on the world — to be compassionate to ourselves and to others, and that demands that we be open to all the suffering inside and outside of us. It can be overwhelming. I’m pretty sure that deaf man was probably overwhelmed by all the sounds that came flooding in when Jesus told him, “Be opened.”
He may have wished he had still been deaf after getting a chance to hear all the suffering and banality going on in the world around. This is our temptation, too, when we obey that Holy command to “Be opened.” We may embrace openness for a moment, but then, we hear and experience painful things and we want to draw back, to cover our ears and return to our deafness.
Here’s the good news — and the bad news — once you open up, even a little bit, you can never completely close back down. Once that feeling of having compassion for yourself and for the world takes hold in your heart, you’ll discover you’re on that Holy highway, that higher way, that leads straight to union with God.