We are hardcore Ormond Beach lifers. Sure, we venture out and try new places now and again. But we always come back.
I’ve spent more summers than I can count at this place. From diapers up.
As an adult, the memories have continued to pile sky high as we’ve come full circle, and I am now witnessing my own children fall in love with our place here, establishing special memories of their own.
Today a few photos from our 2015 trip popped up on my Timehop and brought to mind a fond and semi-forgotten memory. My husband and I discussed it at length today, and turns out, this particular memory means just as much to him as it does to me.
This is a photo of my oldest, Harley. At almost two years old he was unable to eat so many things that most children his age could due to his severe food allergies. And bless his soul, his Mama was clueless. So very new to the food allergy game I was terrified to feed him anything I wasn’t COMPLETELY certain was safe for him.
Here he is.
Running up and down the beach carefree on a sugar high from homemade peach ice cream my Aunt Judy made with him in mind.
The memory of this day is so crystal clear to me that tears sting my eyes as I type. I can jump right back into this moment and feel the depth of gratitude for my sweet aunt that I felt that night as all the cousins sat outside with their cups of ice cream, and my little allergy boy got to feel included.
It was empathy that allowed this moment to happen. Have you ever thought about that word?
Empathy, not to be confused with sympathy, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It takes real emotional capacity to be able to feel what others feel. While this comes more naturally for some than others, we can all practice participating in the emotions of others as a way of loving them.
The Bible frequently refers to many acts of empathy. Loving often means becoming deeply personal with others. Paul encouraged Christians to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). I am drawn to the action words of this verse. It says we are to literally cry with them: To have the same emotion as them. We are called to show grace and love to hurting people, even when we can only guess how they feel.
Thus we learn that empathy is a catalyst for action. The apostle John explains this relationship between empathy and action in this way: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in Him?” (1 John 3:17). So we see that God’s love leads us to compassion and empathy for each other time and time again.
That beautiful night at the beach, my Aunt couldn’t have realized her empathy for my son manifested a deeper love for her than Jess and I had ever felt before. Yes, I loved her before; grew up at her home right under her nose.
But you see, when someone shows empathy…….that love in action……..that understanding…….that servitude…….it means something.
I felt the weight of it in that moment. And as I flipped through all the photos this morning, the Lord used the affection of this memory to spring this thought to fruition.
Why do we wait?
I’m serious. Stick with me for a minute.
Why do we wait to do for others?
We wait to assert kindness.
We wait to demonstrate empathy.
Then, when empathy is shown to us, we wait to express our gratitude.
We are always waiting it seems.
We send flowers at funerals, when those flowers might have lifted a heavy heart when the loved one was living.
We honor loved ones with eulogies after they pass, when our loving words may have healed a weary or forgotten soul.
I know it isn’t practical to send bouquets of flowers day every day or write elaborate eulogies for the living. But, we CAN send a text or give someone a call when they come to mind. We can, like my aunt, take a small portion of time from our self-made busy days to show empathy.
It didn’t take very long, that ice cream. Maybe a couple hours to prepare and make at most. But it forever stamped my heart with a new gratitude and appreciation for my Aunt Judy.
Showing love and empathy matters. It matters in our walk with the Lord. It matters as we aim to be a light in this world. Jesus showed empathy. Compassion. Love. He wasn’t too busy. Too forgetful. Too self serving.
I’ve discovered throughout the course of time, that the little things are the big things. And that seemingly little moment for my husband and me, was actually a large impressionable moment.
I’m sure my Aunt Judy didn’t realize the magnitude of what she did and what it meant to us. Of course I thanked her that evening, with tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat. But I never fully expressed how much that moment in time meant to me. Her act of empathy.
It matters my friends.
So why do we wait?
Although we have well intentions of acting as God’s hands and feet in this world, we often miss opportunities because we lack the empathy to perceive a need. The truth is, just as we are able to show love because God first loved us, we in turn are also capable of showing empathy because God is our greatest empathizer.
It has taken me a long time of walking with the Lord and studying his word for me to discover just a few of the lessons hidden in my own pain and hardships. They are often for our growth: to teach us reliance on God, to draw us back or closer to our Savior, OR to give us empathy for our neighbor.
Our suffering, trials, and struggles are often invisible to others. A little discernment, kindness, and a good ole nudging from the holy spirit is enough to lead and prompt us into empathy.
Don’t wait my friends. Don’t wait to show empathy.
And this is the commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. 1 John 4:21
May this blog always serve as my own personal reminder to slow down, look around, and find ways to love on others by way of empathy. And a special thank you to my sweet aunt Judy, whose act of empathy prompted this blog post.