Archives For empathy

A few weeks ago I spent the night in a hospital. It wasn’t an unexpected trip. I was scheduled to have an extended EEG on my brain, a test my neurologist felt was necessary to finally rule out all the serious possibilities for some strange symptoms I’ve been having the last couple of years.

I thought it was just a day trip. Turned out, they wanted me to sleep over.

For 23 hours my head looked like this (you have to admit, the colored wires are festive and do give the illusion of a stronger hairline).

I had to sit painfully still on the bed.  I had to wear ridiculous yellow hospital slippers.  And worst of all, I had to ring Nurse Ratched for a personal potty escort every time my coffee intake reached capacity (hey, it was that or the bedpan).

Good news.

Turns out I officially suffer from ocular migraines, an easily treatable condition typically found in post-menopausal women. So other than my bruised male ego, there was really nothing to fix. They sent me home with a mild prescription (for the impending hotflashes?).

Over those few short hours of inconvenience and humiliation, I gained something I could never have acquired any other way.

Empathy.

The ability to intellectually and emotionally identify with someone else. To know what it’s like to lay in a hospital bed.  To be hooked up to countless machines and beeping monitors.  To wonder if dinner will be edible.  To question if anyone is coming to visit. To worry if everything is going to be OK.

It was a valuable emotional tool to add to my repertoire. But it was only temporary.

At six the next morning I walked myself out.  No seizures.  No tumors.  No surgery required. Just a short, vicarious experience of what it could feel like to own a pair of those shoes.

And that’s what makes Christmas so unbelievably amazing (betcha didn’t see that turn coming, did you?).

Empathy is beautiful, but the God of the universe didn’t stop there. He didn’t just sit in heaven and feel sorry for us.  Our pain. Our brokenness.  He didn’t just momentarily capture our experience like a snapshot to hang on the refrigerator with the other Christmas cards.  He didn’t just empathize.

He incarnated

…a fancy, theological word that simply means “to become in flesh.” Our Creator didn’t just intellectually or emotionally identify with us.  He became one of us.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  – John 1:14 MSG

He didn’t Skype Himself in.

He didn’t post on our Facebook wall.

He didn’t drop by for a quick photo shoot on His way to deal with more important cosmic business.

He became.

Immanuel.

God with us.

He moved into the neighborhood.

That, my friends, is the truth I’m hanging tightly to this Christmas.