Thursday, August 12, 2010

an effort to comfort

I hope it isn't wrong for me to blog about this -- I'm kind of afraid of how it could come across… but I really want to share this experience because it felt so big to me.

My brother woke up sick this morning. He seems to have food poisoning -- but it's very severe and he has been suffering all day. At one point he came stumbling out of his room, panting and shaking, and my heart really went out to him. His symptoms are very similar to what I experienced when I was infected with parasites in El Salvador. It was a miserable, exhausting, and at times terrifying ordeal, and all afternoon long I've thought about how my brother must be feeling -- and I've tried to do all I can to help. I felt sorta helpless at times…

He went to bed a couple hours ago, but woke up to puke and couldn't get back to sleep. So I told him I'd sit in his room and read out loud to him to help him fall asleep. It worked (hooray!) And as I snuck out of his room, I felt a sort of overwhelming surge of love and empathy for my brother… it came in such a way and with a strength I don't think I've ever experienced. As I wondered at it, a scripture in Alma 7 popped into my head - one that describe's an important aspect of the Savior's Atonement: that he took "upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people" as well as sins.

It says "And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12)

Christ suffered to understand and love and succor more perfectly…Now I don't pretend to understand the Atonement (the enormity of what it is overwhelms me at times) but tonight I understand a small part  of that in a more real and tangible way. 

It's different to see someone suffering and feel a helpless sympathy versus a helpless empathy -- when you really know and have experienced what they are going through, you just CAN'T let that feeling of helplessness keep you from doing something. I think this afternoon I felt like all I could figure out to do was refill my brother's water and keep saying "Let me know if you need anything." But that feeling of understanding the experience he was having and wanting so badly to do something to ease his suffering (& thinking "what would I want if I were him now") really did guide me to do things I think otherwise would have never occurred to me. 

I believe that I understand a little better how the Savior aches to help us when we suffer, and how well He comprehends how to comfort us -- because of what He suffered and how deeply He loves us. I believe that tonight I felt clearer than I ever have what it is like to feel a true sort of compassion…genuine empathy and strong real love -- somehow they created in as faulty a vessel as myself a powerful and pure representation of that… I hope I can hold onto it…

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