The well-known phrase, “Love makes the world go round,” sometimes sounds trite in the face of so many obvious world challenges, such as war, famine, poverty, natural disasters and disease. But a friend recently shared a simple example of how completely effective compassion and love can be in a practical, healing way.
My friend Sarah was visiting her father in hospital, and as she entered his room, he was sitting on the bed, looking out the window with tears streaming down his face. She felt a wave of compassion for him, and putting her arms around him asked, “What’s up dad?”
“I wish I were dead. I don’t want to go on living like this,” he quietly slurred.
Her father was recovering from an emergency heart operation, and his speech was affected. “That day,” she said, “his speech was more slurred than ever.” She listened as he slowly told her that a doctor had come and given him a very dismal and grey prognosis for the kind of future life he could expect. Sarah listened, and then said, “Well let’s begin right now with a prayer of gratitude. I am grateful that you are here with me today, Dad!”
This statement startled Sarah herself, even more so than it did her father, for their relationship had always been difficult. Her dad had a temper, and life had not always been easy with him. Yet here she found herself genuinely feeling grateful that he was here – alive and with her in this moment. She continued, “We can be grateful that we have this moment in life to learn about love – what it really is. It doesn’t matter whether we have five minutes or five years, what matters is to value the opportunity to learn.” As she heard herself say this she realized that the message was for her too – together they had another chance to learn more deeply what Jesus meant when he said simply, “Love one another.”
Jesus didn’t mean the type of love described in mushy movies or romance novels. He meant a spiritual love that, by transcending all histories of anger, abuse or neglect, heals all our ills. What surprised Sarah perhaps more than anything, was that in that moment of compassion for her father she knew he was forgiven and loved, and she felt healed of her hurts. Forgiveness wasn’t something she had planned to do. She had gone to the hospital that day as a duty, but the outcome of her prayer of gratitude was startling.
Shortly after, the nurse came in. Sarah asked him about the doctor’s prognosis. The nurse gave a completely different projection – one of hope for the future. Her dad listened quietly, and when he spoke again, his voice was clear, with no speech impairment.
It’s a few weeks later now, and he continues improving physically, with far less medication than originally prescribed. But best of all, she said that their relationship is healed and they are learning to love.