Reversing the Empathy

19 January 2014

I was sitting on the backporch this morning before church, after spending way too long wandering around our townhome trying to figure out what to do with myself.  It's like right before a group photo, when you are suddenly very aware of your hands and have no idea what to do with them.  In your lap, too submissive.  On your knees, too posed.  On your neighbor's shoulder, too awkward.  On your neighbor's face ... oh the picture was just snapped.

This morning I just couldn't find an activity to hold my attention.  Finally I grabbed my roommate's book on the countertop, "The God Who Weeps," and headed out the back door into the sun.  I sat down in a chair on the patio, facing the wall of mountains looming far above the back of our home.  Birds were chirping, and the sun was so warm.  What the winter?

I began to read.

Truly, I don't have a good taste in my mouth for church books that just shuffle around doctrine.  It really doesn't connect me to any sort of humanity, as citing somewhere else's thoughts is just an ingenuine duplicity.  If people want to inspire me spiritually, I prefer they stretch their finger into their own soul and pull out their own raw story of testimony.  I suppose I've had too many encounters with people who are full of church facts yet have such small personal characters to back them.

However, within moments, this book had me absorbed.  It shined light on God's incredible amount of compassion, and being all alone, with only the sunlight, birds, and mountains, I felt my mind lifted from the daily world and into a higher frame of thought and emotion.  I bounced between reading and just staring off in awe.  I was so moved with appreciation for the nature around me.  I was so moved with appreciation at Heavenly Father's presence and concern for this world, even when mortal pain is too strong to see it.  I was so moved with appreciation for Him willingly being available to me at any time.

Then I read on to the author's perception of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and I was hit straight in the heart.  The experience of a man, who felt such betrayal and loneliness, who plummeted into such sadness that His weakest and final energy was a plea to Heavenly Father for release.  What other option did He have?  I just nodded my head, as tears unexpectedly flowed down my cheeks.

I've been there.

I've been through an experience that dragged me through all of that.  To such an extent that no mortal source could even come close to satiating me with a release.  So I did the same thing as Christ - used my weakest and final energy to give a heavenly plea.  And were it not for that experience, would I ever have been able to develop such a connection to Christ's Atonement?  Would I ever have been able to grasp His emotions if I hadn't experienced them to my own extent?  No.  I really don't think so.

Do many know the Atonement as anything more than an event or idea?  I mean, we all have the facts so memorized that we use the same words and phrases to describe the Atonement.  But to feel it, where I no longer just say, "Christ understands how I feel because of His Atonement."  But I can also say, "I understand how Christ felt."  Where I can understand the pain behind betrayal and isolation.  Where I am saddened by His experience as much as He was saddened by mine.  Where the power of empathy is reversed....

And having such personal and real common ground with Christ is....  incredible.  The thought of not having this empathetic connection makes my life on earth seem so cheap and empty.  Like the sticky note on my desk that says not having an intimate connection with God is like living life in a 2nd rate motel.

Well if intense hardship has gotten into the Marriott, then I am grateful.  I'm keeping this room key.

To have an endless empathy, He would have to know a terror and abandonment and hopelessness beyond human conceiving, such that no mortal tongue can say, you don't know what I have know, you haven't been where I have been.

At the close of His life, He hung on the cross to die, with no angels to sing Him home, no light shining at the far end of the tunnel.  Who can imagine the oblivion into which He peered, the suffocating gloom, the infinite void?  He who was present on Creation's morn, the Light of the World, now faced a darkness beyond any night.  And then, at the acme of His agony.  He was sundered from the only solace in His pain-racked life, the only constant in His suffering - His Father's presence.  The shock and horror of that final, insupportable abandonment is heard in His cry of despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Happy to be called His.

Upward and onward,

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  1. I seriously loved this. Lot's of "hmmm's" while I was reading this. But I absolutely agree with this. And I've never thought of it like this before... "I understand how Christ felt." Wow - that is powerful. Through great struggles, we come to know the Savior much more intimately.

  2. Oh love this, love this, LOVE this. I have a friend who has been struggling with a lot of trust issues, betrayal, hurt and abandonment... both from the people closest to her and from Heavenly Father. Would you recommend this book for someone in that state? I really love the way this sounds, but I'd hate to gift it and have it not be appropriate or helpful!

  3. OK I've been meaning to read this book because my favorite scriptures in the world (Moses 5-7) include stuff about God weeping. Turns out I somehow got asked to teach a Sunday School lesson on those exact chapters in 2 weeks, which feels like ample time to read The God Who Weeps. I'm on it. Thanks for the reminder!