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A Tale of Two Accidents: Compassionate Love of Self Explored

IMG_7365It happened in March 2016 on my ride into work that I was involved in two accidents. Yes, a mere three days after preaching about the way in which Moses and God got “diverted together,” I found myself getting diverted from my normal path. While one of these accidents
directly impacted me (and my car), the second has impacted me all the more (and my thinking).

It happened really quick. I had just merged into the lane on the Grady curve when bam a guy hit me from behind. As I looked in the rearview mirror I could see him with hands in his face. As we’ve made our way over to the side and he saw me and all my clerical glory ( was wearing my collar), his hands immediately went to his face he was apologetic as he could not stop. After a few more pleasantries, he proceeded to say the following: “I just don’t know what it is. I want to get to my new job this morning before they fire me. I lost my old job yesterday. I just moved down here to do school at Clark Atlanta. But nothing in my life seems to be going right.” And then as if someone had cut on the shower, the emotions showed up in full force.

My bumper was a little scratched, his hood a little more. But in that instance, I realized that the sound in Jeremy’s voice was the antithesis of the voice of the gardener in Jesus is parable from Luke. In fact, I might go so far as to say if the gardener embodied compassion, if the gardener represented patience, then maybe just maybe an offering of just such a thing to Jerry could make all the difference.

Don’t get me wrong: I was on my way to perform a morning Eucharist, so I kind of needed to get to work too; however, the regret and hopelessness in his face made the answer easy.

“Let’s just change details and we’ll go from there,” I said.

Not 15 minutes later approaching my final turn to Holy Innocents, I came upon another accident. This time between three teenagers. I’m not clear who was at fault,  it doesn’t really matter. What mattered was the experience that I had of all three of the kids talking to their parents. There was that mix of “yes we’re OK” and “I’’m going to be fine.” But at some point the conversation shifted from the “we’re ok,” to a “I’m so sorry.”

Now we probably all know that feeling, that sense of apologizing when things that go wrong. The truth is until that very moment, I never realized that one is never taught to feel guilty when things happen to them. It just happens. Something goes wrong, something bad occurs, and as if by some carnal reflect, we feel guilty even if the thing that happened had absolutely nothing to do with us. Weird.

At the end of the day, all of the kids were OK. Yet it struck me upon leaving: was a little bit of compassion for self out of the question? Why is it really that when bad things happen to us, we often feel less compassion for self and more guilt? Why is it that when life doesn’t go quite as we aspired, it can feel like the whole thing is spinning out of control?

Jesus said, “the greatest commandment is this: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And the second is this: to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

As you love yourself.

As you love yourself.

As you love yourself.

Oh that we might all remember that the heart of the second greatest commandment is that we learn to love and show compassion for ourselves. Maybe if we can just start there, maybe if I can just start there, we might be better at offering compassion to others. Oh how good it is to be diverted. Oh how hard it is to be compassionate – especially with ourselves.

As I turned into the church to officially start the day Coldplay’s song Up&Up came on. It proclaimed:

“Fixing up a car to drive in it again
Searching for the water, hoping for the rain
Up and up
Up and up”

May your embrace of compassion for others and self lead you to a place where you discover what it is to be on the Up&Up, even when everything is screaming its on the Down&Out. And be patient…sometimes it takes a while for it all to come together.