what gives you strength?

about a week ago, someone asked me where i got my strength from. how did i take care of myself? implying that in some way i am suffering and that i must out my needs first. it was a hard question to answer. and i actually haven’t answered it yet. so, i’m going to process it here. lucky you.

of course there is a balance between loving yourself and loving others. but, ultimately, isn’t life about loving others? putting others before you. or do i have it all wrong? i know that i must “love myself” = look after my own needs, but i take that to mean that i must be true to myself. if there is something that prevents me from being true to me or true to my calling, then i need to think of that, because being true to myself leads to loving others. and loving others is what life is all about. confusing, yes.

perhaps it’s best for me to think of the person of jesus. and with this coming sunday being palm/passion sunday that seems to be on my mind a lot right now…

i read somewhere today about the word compassion. it comes from latin. “com” means “with” and “passion” means “suffering”. suffering with. a little deeper than what i usually think of when i think of compassion. usually i think of compassion as being nice, caring for others, thinking of others. but, it’s deeper than that. it’s suffering with others.

somehow there is a connection between compassion and strength, i think. this world seems to think that we must be strong = powerful, rich, taking care of ourselves, having many possessions. where’s the compassion in that life, though? perhaps true strength actually comes from living with compassion = sharing pain, joys, hopes, fears, & life with others. perhaps real strength is the ability to be weak in the eyes of society. if i put the needs of another person before myself, then i am weak, according to the ways of the world. but, according to the ways of love, i am compassionate = willing to suffer with and sometimes for another. that’s the person i want to be. that’s the strength that i want. life’s not just about me. it’s about others. and when i live compassionately with others, then i become stronger, more whole, more true to who i was created to be. strength doesn’t look like what we expect it to look like.

jesus came into jesrusalem for the passover celebration on a donkey. the crowds lined the streets and cheered him! he was going to make all things right and the jews had high hopes for taking back their city. he was on top of the world… a strong, powerful man in the eyes of the crowds. but, within 4 days, the same people who cheered him on and welcomed him, turned their backs on him and sent him to his death. why? and who was this man who went willingly when we has arrested? where was the strong, dynamic man? this man let people spit on him, beat him, and nail him to a cross. and all the while he spoke and acted with compassion, caring nothing for his “rights” but staying true to himself. to those who watched all the events unfold, he seemed weaker than any other man had ever seemed. but, in his weakest moments, compassion inspired him to remain true to himself. and from this compassion came the strongest moments one could imagine. looking back, we see now that his weakness was actually his strength.from the weakness of good friday came the strength of easter sunday.

it’s normal for us to want to take care of ourselves and to be strong. but, true strength is fed through our compassion. being true to who we are created to be and living compassionately may be difficult at times, but it gives us a strength that is stronger than the worldly strength found in power, money, and dominion. to be a slave, to be compassionate, to be humble, to be a peacemaker… now that is what gives us strength.

so, to the man who asked me where my strength comes from… it comes from my willingness to suffer and the joy of walking through life with others.

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