At our Clergy Day yesterday, we had a staff member from Episcopal Migration Ministries talk to us about the Episcopal Church’s work with refugees. In what has become a heated topic in our current political climate, I was grateful for an explanation about how the process works for someone to come to our country as a refugee. The demands and expectations were staggering, and the work to become self-sufficient seemed overwhelming and humbling. One of the biggest take-aways from the presentation was that if we are going to make progress on this issue, we need to be in relationship with those unlike ourselves.
I left the presentation feeling a bit overwhelmed, wondering how I could invest more energy into one more of the world’s ills. Our parish has been focusing its energy on racial reconciliation. But we still have a long way to go. Imagining taking on another area of reconciliation work felt like a tremendous burden. I have talked about compassion fatigue before (see post here). I realized today that my capacity for compassion is stretched pretty thinly these days. Every time I turn around, the poor seemed to pushed further to the fringes, the oppressed are feeling more pressure instead of less, and we as a country seem to be failing at our commitment to respect the dignity of every human being.
Though we rarely use this language, I think Jesus often suffered from compassion fatigue too. That is why so often we find him retreating with his disciples, longing for a place of quiet and prayer. Knowing that Jesus suffered compassion fatigue is comforting, but it only gets me so far. You see, when I suffer compassion fatigue, I find myself burying my head in the sand, trying to block out the news stories that serve to overwhelm instead of inform. I find myself watching frivolous television, or escaping in a novel. I find myself simply tired. Of course, Jesus did not have online streaming television, but there are ways he could have diverted his mind when retreating from his compassion work. Instead, he goes off to pray. That is our invitation when faced with compassion fatigue – not to escape, but to retreat into the Lord, listening for God’s guidance, and praying for those suffering when there is little else we can do. I invite your prayers for refugees – all those fleeing violence, all those who make it to makeshift homes, all those who boldly decide to make a home in a foreign land, and all those who suffer by those who wish to persecute the persecuted further.