Love your neighbor.
Who is my neighbor?
The one who is suffering.
It isn't written that way and there are so many wonderful details in the story. But the one on top, the most basic is a pretty direct answer to a pretty direct question. Love.
But it is impossible. Completely impossible.
I have been in a battle with anxiety. That is a subject for another post. But a piece of what is on my mind is fragility. Because I was having panic attacks daily, often without an obvious trigger, for a time I was very guarded. I could not listen to good music because literally any intense emotional response was likely to trigger a panic attack. I am a person who, perfectly healthy, cries watching the news. I had to stop watching the news. I had to protect myself. I had to be able to cope with my life. I had to be able to get out of bed. I had to.
Not everyone is battling with anxiety, but everyone has a threshold. Confronting mine is just the detail of my story which put me on this twisty mind path. There is more than enough suffering to meet and exceed anyone's capacity for empathy. It is impossible to love in the way we are commanded.
Love with compassion and hope. Love which tends the needs of the suffering. Love which is a balm. Love which heals and confronts.
I want to know how to respond, with love, to the terrorist attacks. I want to know how to respond to racial injustice. I want to welcome immigrants. I want to love.
Lord, I am listening. I hear you calling me, but I can't. I just can't. I am broken and weak. I am scarred and scared. I want to love, but it hurts and I am afraid. I don't have it in me.
Dear one, I am in you. I am with you. And nothing is impossible for me.
“For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
We are supposed to love. Pain or even impossibility are not an excuse.
Miracles happen. Peter walked on water. Jesus fed thousands with a Dagwood sandwich. The dead rise. Illnesses are inexplicably healed. People are protected. It happens. Miracles happen. It is a pleasant conceit that He is up in the sky waiting for us to ask for whatever we think we want, and with a twinkle and a wave, we get it. God as Fairy Godmother. But that is not how He works, as any honest person can attest.
Miracles are not universal. Not everyone who needs a miracle gets one. People die terribly. People suffer. You cannot tell the history of the Church and skip over the martyrs. And you wouldn't want to.
Miracles show us that God's power is not bound. He does not need us to be able to explain or even comprehend His actions. Miracles teach us that nothing is impossible for God. They are not an excuse to duck our duties to the people around us; miracles are an object lesson in God's power.
Before I can begin to face questions about what to do, I have to care. How do I keep on caring? How can I keep on loving? How can I avoid numbness? How can I let myself notice and feel for people who continue to suffer? How can I help? I can't. But nothing is impossible for God. And He is with me.