Sermon for July 15, 2018
At some point in your life, you will be pushed to your limit. It doesn’t mean you won’t ‘bounce back’, but you will find one thing or another that just breaks every defense you have down until you simply feel like giving up. Maybe that feeling only lasts a moment, or maybe it’s an ongoing struggle, but we will all experience it. It can even be something totally self imposed. Perhaps you want to run a marathon and at some point during training, or even the race itself, you just reach a limit you didn’t know existed.
I was reminded recently of a time, when I was younger, when I just felt totally sick and tired of being type 1 diabetic. I don’t even recall exactly what the tipping point was but I just felt defeated and tired and confused. I just wanted to feel normal again. In a moment, I just yelled out that I don’t care anymore. Realistically, I don’t even know what that meant because it wouldn’t, and couldn’t, change the fact that I had diabetes but I just had to not care for a minute. As soon as I let that out, almost as if there was an immediate divine response, I had the thought, “What if I combined not caring, totally letting go, with compassion?” I never forgot that blinding realization.
Sometimes we can play a game with ourselves and throw out a huge, “I don’t care anymore!!!!”. Even though on a subtle level we know we don’t really mean it, and that we really do care, or at least we want to be able to care, it is cathartic to just have that brief moment of giving up. Although we always seem to feel as though we have to go back to caring, because we assume not caring is callous and “bad”, there is a hidden truth in that freedom of giving up for a moment.
Caring is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I think we’ve been duped into believing caring is somehow the only way we can operate. We are often told we have to care, as if we’re not allowed to explore another way of being. But the very fact that we instinctually find some peace in our brief reprieves from the stereotypical caring attitude is a hint that there is something more to be explored.
For a moment, imagine that you don’t care about anything. Suspend your judgement that this would make you cold and disconnected. Just imagine that you could experience your daily life without care. You could still enjoy the things you love, the people who you love, but without worry and anxiety. You could enjoy your job, but if you lost it there would be no worry. I know this is very difficult to really identify with because anxiety, worry, planning, figuring things out etc are all so a part of our psyche. But just stop and try to imagine how this would play out in even one day.
The reason why this is hard is the same reason why those moments when we ‘just don’t care’ can’t really last. There’s something missing. Not caring doesn’t feel as good as you think it would when it lasts more than a moment. It begins to feel lonely, empty, not whole. We are naturally kicked out of this state because we, as human beings, are meant to be connected.
The missing link is….COMPASSION. Compassion is the missing link which completes the bliss contained in that moment of not caring. Caring actually causes us all kinds of struggle. It causes anxiety, frustration, grief, among other things. We feel anxiety when we care about things that are out of our control. We care but we just can’t do anything. It causes grief when we lose someone we love. We are helpless and stuck in caring for someone who is no longer with us. Yet we stobborny hold on to this idea that caring is the only way to live. Compassion, however, connects you with people and things, it opens you up to experience, it enables you to flow with life rather than trying to control it.
When you combine compassion with a sense of not caring, it neutralizes the emptiness and lacking that not caring formerly had. Now, not caring doesn’t imply detachment and a cold, emotionless approach to life. It simply means total, open freedom to live your life. Can you imagine not only being free from anxiety and worry but ALSO being intimately connected with the events and people in your life? We often bounce between these two things. We either pull away from things to get some peace, or accept some increased worry and anxiety in order to be closer to others and more involved in the world. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Christ is our vehicle for this freedom. When we give our imperfections, our worries, all of our human weaknesses to Christ, He takes them and transforms them with compassion. You might fear that giving in, giving up, letting go, not caring, will lead you to lose yourself and the things you value in life. It is a real fear that many people have. Who will take care of the things in my life that need my attention? If I don’t worry about things, everything will fall apart. Doesn’t your life need your worry, your caring? No, it doesn’t. Your soul, your life, needs compassion, connection, freedom.
If you will take that leap of faith and give up your need to care and control, Christ will fill that empty space you fear, and you currently fill with your own will and need for control, with a compassionate connection to your experience that will allow you to discover a life that was right under your nose but always obscured by your own intense perspective. The next time you find yourself at your wits end, like you want to just yell ‘I don’t care anymore!’, stop and just give that feeling away to Christ. Give it away and ask that your desire not to care be showered with compassion. If you persevere, and allow something beyond your control to flourish, Christ’s grace will work in your life.