A Most Brutal Teacher

Compassion isn’t something that can be taught; empathy is acquired through suffering in the trenches.” Jamie M. Grubb

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As I get ready to head to Chicago next week I have been thinking a lot about what C.S. Lewis quoted about experience,

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” 

I feel so grateful to God, and so honored to be included in the recent training, upcoming taping, and constant serving others that I do. I often feel inadequate because I don’t have multiple degrees,  PhD’s, or several of them, and the majority (if not all) of my peers have levels of formal education above and beyond what I have. At 55 and by the time I finish graduate school I will be 58ish… (if I every focus on staying engaged…) I  would be 106 to graduate with the same amount of letters after my name as my peers!

And yet – here I am. Recently sitting among some of my peers and surrounded by brilliance, I was again feeling inept (and commented on it) when one of my peers pointed out, “You have experience that none of us have. You lived through what we only know second hand or by education. You are the one teaching us.” Wow. I was humbled. Awed. And these are real professionals – real friends – real peers – the ones who understand trauma and wouldn’t throw me under the bus if I was in crisis, but would come alongside and help me and each other through the crisis to the other side.

As C.S. Lewis stated, experience is a brutal teacher and it is also a hard taskmaster. The learning process is often slow, tedious, and very painful. Grief is messy, disorganized, and something we would just rather skip on to the other side. I more often than not wish that I didn’t have to suffer through a healing process from ptsd and spiritual abuse, and that my children had been spared… yet experience…you learn by golly, you learn…

If we look at the life of Jesus Christ, in his three short years of ministry, he experienced what the majority of Christians – at least American Christians will ever experience. In the extent of his lifetime, he experienced it all. As a child, he experienced all the suffering of his nation as well as the rejection by those who accused him of being the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier.  Deprivation, hunger, betrayal, loneliness, isolation, rejection from his family, rejection from his friends, fleeing for his life, persecution, grief, fear, homelessness, separation from friends and family, tormented, bruised, beaten, bloodied, crucified.

He is the best teacher because he possesses all wisdom, the knowledge, and the experience.

I am reminded that is wasn’t Dr. Jesus who speaks to us by His word. I am reminded that it takes more than a bunch of letters after a name, or psychology, or religion to make someone a compassionate friend and caregiver. It takes empathy – it takes love – and that is something that can’t be learned from books; it is a gift that comes wrapped in suffering.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,                                                                                                                              We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.                           We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in [us].”                                                                                           2 Cor. 4:8-10