But you, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (v. 15).
God becomes visible in our everyday lives when we exercise compassion, patience¸ and self-control. Practicing those divine characteristics helps sustain the human community God intends for us and changes us for the better. But trying to live this way is challenging.
As secretary to the board that manages my New York apartment building, I regularly listen to our residents air their grievances. When it comes to complaining, however, one woman is in a class by herself. Her bitterness knows no end.
When the city required extensive upgrades to our building’s elevator, forcing it to be shut down indefinitely, we knew it would be a hardship for any resident to climb six flights of stairs to their apartment. For this woman undergoing chemotherapy, and for her frail husband, the stairs were impossible.
In the middle of working on this matter with our board, I thought about how our pastor once challenged each member of the congregation to help someone they disliked. My complainer and I both share the dreaded diagnosis of cancer. So, one day I decided to listen closely to her problems. She appreciated the information I offered about alternative housing in our building. But it was the sincere offer of compassion that day that prompted her to burst into tears of grief and gratitude. This surprising moment filled me with joy and freed me of some of my own self-destructive anger. It made me wonder if compassion is God’s chosen instrument for keeping communities together.
Which of God’s characteristics noted by the psalmist do you most need to practice?
God, showing compassion makes the world more like you. Help us practice kindness and realize that you are especially near when we do. Amen.