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BYU Women's Conference Al Carraway


Compassion is the Essence of Greatness” – Al Carraway 2024 Marriot Center #byuwc #byuwomensconference

 

Peter at the transfiguration of Jesus said, “it is good for us to be here.” That’s how I feel right now, with you. It is good for us. To be here.

 

Ahh, I love being alive so much. What a privilege! Life, it's such a ride. It’s beautiful. And it is tricky. And thrilling. And heavy. And we have seasons of reaping, and we have slow seasons of sowing.  We have solitary seasons at our wells, or wayside on the ground. I have absolutely collapsed on the road under fatigue and pain from trials. Absolutely I have struggled from following God through unwanted, uncharted, and unexpected, that my body has physically ached, it hurts, it’s sore because the burden I was asked to bear was too big, too heavy, too impossible, too unwanted. I have known loss so painful in the intensity of my prayers and pleadings to God I have actually lost my voice.”

 

Absolutely I have spent much time alone at a well. Family, friends, strangers, turning away, disapproving, and disappearing. I have felt judgment and hurt from others. I have been told that God could never love someone like me. That I am the exception. “Anyone but her,” they’d say. I have always been told by someone that I’m doing it wrong, or I do not belong. That I was too much, or not enough, of something.

For anyone, it’s heavy to move forward continually defeated and deflated through unkindness, unfairness, feeling unfit, unwanted, unworthy, unseen. And that weight can become immobilizing, stripping one of their energy, their strength, drive, confidence, and love.

 

Leprosy was the worst sickness. It’s a painfully long process of someone’s entire body deteriorating  and becoming disfigured. Leprosy has been described as a the living dead because they just . . .slowly rot. Their bodies smelled, and their entirety was decomposing. Hands would be without fingers, and feet without toes. It was a chronic, incurable disease, what was there to look forward to? Could hope even be found with something so impossible? They would be completely outcast and abandoned by family, friends, and society. If anyone did come across a leper, they would have to literally, and verbally, declare that they were unclean. Touching a leper would then cause them to be unclean. These poor souls cut off completely from everything and everyone they’ve ever loved over something they could not control. No support system. No hope. And early Israelites believed that this was punishment for sin and now they were paying for their actions. They deserved this; this is what they get. Fear, loneliness, and shame.


Where is their head space? Is there even any sign of morale? Passing time is continuously beating him down but somehow this man “full of leprosy” was able to dig deep to find whatever little bit of anything that was left in him to show up still. To venture away from his banishment, put himself in the public eye, live through the embarrassment and shame of those fleeing at his sight and verbally declaring his disgusting state to others.

But then Jesus.

He falls at the feet of the Savior, hiding his face, and his request was humbly worded with pain and hesitance. Lord if thou wilt,” if you are willing, “thou canst make me clean.” Not, can He heal me . . . but will He?


I will.”


Outstretching His hands, laying them upon his head, 'moving with compassion,' 'be thou clean.' And immediately the leprosy departed from him. Sores were closed, deformities removed, missing limbs restored, smell of rotting flesh disappeared, and skin made smooth. He touched the untouchable, and He cured the incurable. Our impossibilities are not a struggle nor an inconvenience for Jesus. He will not meet His match with our suffering. Bound by nothing, help and compassion to all. And aside from his physical healing, I don’t doubt that Jesus’s compassion is what really healed this broken man. How long had he been stripped of that compassion? Of someone’s time? Attention? How long had this man been deprived of touch? Of love?


I don’t doubt how Jesus treated him is what really made him feel whole in this experience of healing. He comes with healing in His wings and compassion that knows no bounds. And we can be whole. Jesus asks him to 'tell no man,' but he does; how could he not? And 'great multitudes came,' because of that man. We know for centuries the hatred between Samaritans hated and the Jews, and at the time of Jesus, it had developed into a most intense hatred. So much so, that Jews would completely avoid a direct route from Judea to Galilee and purposely travel a much longer route out of the way, just to keep their distance from Samaria. But it wasn’t just that they hated and avoided them, to the orthodox Jews, the Samaritans were considered more unclean than a gentile of any other nationality. If a Jew even ate food prepared by a Samaritan, it was as great of an offense as it was to eat the flesh of swine.

 

Not much more could have been stacked against the unnamed woman at the well. A Samaritan alone makes her hated and unclean, and pushed far from the time and attention, but being a female in a society where women often were both demeaned and disregarded. Her list of offenses continues to increase against her as her actions add a history of sin and adultery.


Trips to the well would usually be done in groups, when it was cooler. Alone in the heat makes it likely she was outcast by even the woman in her community. 

 

Maybe the woman at the well, as sat alone drawing water at noon day, was thinking of the weight of her burdens. Maybe she was wiashing things were different. Or that she was different. Perhaps she was thinking how she wanted to be alone. Or worse, maybe felt she deserved to be alone. But then comes Jesus to her. Pulled in her direction by inspiration and duty; “He must needs go,” are Jesus’ the words used, as he travels the path literally no one took. His living water that He freely offers to all—“if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”—to be filled, be sustained, and be nourished by Him.

Anyone? Even the unnamed? The unworthy? The mistreated?

Jesus, all knowing, still offers to her. He knew her, her secrets, the depths of her soul, and He sits with her still, He teaches her still. He stays with her for two days. Her encounter with Jesus is the longest between the Messiah than any other individual in the gospel of John. Jesus declared Himself to her that He is the Messiah, “I that speak unto thee am he.” There were multiple times Christ chose not to respond with who He is, and yet this Samaritan woman was worth telling this incredible truth to. In so many ways, Jesus is an anomaly; He deviates from what is standard or expected, He chooses to love the least lovable people, and He chooses to use and call the least likely characters. She who had neither title, nor position, nor formal education, nor a stainless past, becomes a witness of the Messiah. A marginalized, sinful, outcast, of a despised race was deserving of Him. Not only does she have an intimate one-on- one encounter with Jesus, but also receives revelation and eternal salvation. She was experiencing the living water welling up inside of her that moved her to renewal. No longer was she paralyzed by her past or by fear or shame or judgment, as she runs into the city telling those who looked down on her to “come, see.” And they did! And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified.” Her actions and testimony bring a city of people to Jesus. And like the leper, 'many more' believed.


Then later, the unnamed woman that was caught in adultery was dragged out to a crowd. I imagine how quiet the crowd got as they watched and listened to Jesus’ response to her and the law. I imagine how she might have felt as the Lord saw her—I imagine scared to death to hear the fate of her life. The life of this woman depended on Jesus. How true that rings for even us.

Jesus silenced His critics while graciously addressing a sinner in need of mercy and understanding and compassion. He delivers a healing balm to her and anyone with a heart weighed down with guilt, shame, trauma, and pain, caused by ourselves— or by others. Convicted by their own conscious, the silence was now filled with the noise of dropped stones hitting the dirt and slow shuffles as one by one the accusers walked away.

 

The only one who was qualified to throw a stone, didn’t.

Maybe the quiet moment Jesus took while drawing in the dirt was creating space for her to feel love without judgement. Because at the worst moment of her life, Jesus is still with her. Contrast to how the Pharisees and scribes handled her, Jesus treated her with dignity, care, and mercy as He spoke and listened to her, and calls hers 'woman,' the same respected term He used for His own mom. Her fear immediately being swallowed in Christ’s compassion. Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.


She is not condemned. He does not ask for explanation, nor does He begin a sermon on self-improvement. Even a crime worthy of death, and He raised not his voice, nor hesitated with compassion. Not because He doesn’t care about wrongdoings, but because of His immense love that is so eager to forgive— so He presents her, and you, with opportunities at new chances, at new life.

Why would that be so readily available, though? Because that’s precisely why He purposely died. He lived and He died just for us to have the ability and privilege for us to change, for things to change, and to give us something so much more. Because of exactly who she was and what she did, we know that we can be anything and still be worth it to Him. She is not named in the scriptures, we do not know her, and unfortunately, the only thing we do know has branded her by this one little blip in her life. But He knows her. And He knows this is not it. All is not lost. How quickly He forgives and how quickly He continues to give.So much more is to come.


I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) He does not give up on us. He does, and will continue, to call us to great things with profound deep impact. Life more abundant.

If He found that much importance to allow Himself to be murdered, then absolutely He stands ready with open arms to every single one of us, regardless of what we have or have not done, offering of Himself. And offering beautiful magnifications that leads, and elevates, us to become as He is.



You know what I find interesting about the parable of the good Samaritan? Jesus choosing a Samaritan as the example when teaching the Pharisees. We know that to the Jews, Samaritans were anything but good. Being seen as half-breed mongrels because they intermarried when the 10 tribes of Israel were taken into captivity—marrying outside of covenant and breaking the Law of Moses. And Jesus uses them as the hero to the parable. What a plot twist, what a sting!  

Asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” was a question posed to see where Jesus fell within not just the Law of Moses, but also the hundreds of laws created by the Pharisees. One of them being, that Jews were not bound to deliver non-Jews, or anyone of an unknown ethnicity, from death, for such a person was not a neighbor. A Jew’s neighbor were only Jews—restricted to only their community, within their same way of thinking, within their same beliefs, actions, and standards. Putting the words neighbor and Samaritan in the same sentence seems, to Jesus’ audience, like a contradiction in terms, such a concept would have turned their world upside down.

The victim was robbed, beaten, abused, stripped naked, and left half dead.


And as important as what this good Samaritan did was, I love learning from what he did not do. It’s so easy to love those that love us, but he did not limit his service and compassion even though the wounded was a stranger and an enemy. He was not stopped by prejudices and fears and differences. He was not concerned of others’ perceptions nor blurring the lines of class, titles, and cultural expectations. He was not persuaded with loopholes, nor was he influenced with justifications. He did not follow man-made traditions and barriers that separate. He was no respecter of persons, nor did he believe his community was above others.

Perhaps because nowhere does it say: comfort those in need only if they deserve it, bear only when convenient, serve to only those who make good choices, love only those who think, act and belong to the same community as you. This Samaritan’s love knew no bounds and lived outside of inaccurate and fictitious boxes. This certain Samaritan also did not let history, or community define him in negative ways, or hold him back.

'He had compassion on him,' and it was his compassionate heart that made him different and made the difference. I like to think that this hated and despised half-breed was so full of compassion because he knew a thing or two about being judged, mistreated, left behind, and hurt. I don’t doubt this healed and saved victim went off to 'do likewise' because of the impact it had on himself. Is his view of Samaritans, and those different than him, a little altered now? Absolutely. Will he be looking at others differently, perhaps a little more the way Jesus really sees? Absolutely. Will it be more likely that he also, will 'go and do likewise?' Absolutely. A beautiful fruit of the pure love of Jesus is a ripple effect of softening hearts, changed perspectives, peeled back layers of tradition, and man-made barriers that may have taken hold. Breaking patterns, breaking prejudices, learning, and teaching and changing from example. Then the term brothers and sisters will blossom far beyond the walls of church membership. Because truly, we all are in this together.


Are we in such a hurry on the covenant path that we are passing those on the other side without stopping? Have we been constrained and immobilized to the adversaries’ inaccurate lies for so long that we have lost sight of our free will to act and react with compassion and kindness as Jesus did?


I’ve been inaccurately labeled and nicknamed a few things. I don’t like at all that Thomas has the title of Doubting Thomas, because he has a reputable legacy of faith and bravery as an apostle. It was him that said with conviction, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:15) And yet, the one time he had a doubt is what all of us hold on to, define his whole character by, and teach of who not to be. That closes the gate to teaching truth and understanding and desire to the most liberating and the most optimistic reality and focus of Jesus Christ and His the Atonement.  Like we do in our Sunday School lessons of Peter walking on the water, and like we sometimes do to others, I’m upset that we’ve been taught by the adversary to quickly react to other people’s efforts on the water, on their way to Jesus—commenting what others could have done differently, and if only they had more of this and been more of that. I love Peter so much because He was the only one who got out of the boat. He was the only one who stepped. The only one who did something seemingly impossible.The adversary has taught us, His response ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31) was scolding. But that is not accurate to our Savior. That is not how He sees you or our efforts. Wherefore didst thou doubtwas not in response to him sinking, but in direct response to Peter’s pleadings to be saved!

Lord, save me.  —Wherefore didst thou doubt? As if saying, of course I will save you, rescue you. How could you doubt that? I am right here. I am out here with you with extended hands.


Who are we to critique when we are still on the boat, or when are also surrounded by those same waves, waging the same storm?Who are we to get in the way of anyone and their Jesus?!

I don’t like it at all that this adulterous woman is known and labeled for this one terrible moment. She just had so much life that she lived after this story, this was not the end of her. She kept on living! I like to think that she enjoyed new seasons and unfolding blessings and prosperity. I wish we could hear about this amazing life she led after. I don’t doubt that for a second that it was blossoming, and it was vibrant, and it was beautiful, and it was noteworthy. I believe that because, like me and doubting Thomas, and even the seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, when the Savior becomes a reality to you, your life and your entire being is just undoubtably changed. “The woman glorified God from the hour, and believed on his name.” (JST John 8:11)


Loving as Jesus loves is a love with no bounds, no restrictions, no outside influences, no judgements.


Loving as Jesus loves is a love that sits with sinners, calls the publicans, reaches for those sinking, stops for those hurting, and for those alone in the heat. The heroes, the called, the forgiven, the changed, the humble, those that brought so many more to Him—were always the plot twist in every one of his lessons and actions.


The unworthy and unnamed are deserving of Him who is unfailing. Bound by nothing, help and compassion to all. There is not one misfit, not one outcast, not one sinner, who Jesus is not saying to them,  follow me, and offering them something more. Life more abundant.

 

Jesus sees the real you. And He chooses to stay. To love, to cleanse, to advocate, to save. He will never wish He was spending time with someone other than you. You are not a waste of time. Like the prodigal son, held in reserve, the best rings and robes are waiting. Rejoicing so much so, he calleth together--inviting all friends and neighbors, saying to them, “rejoice with me!” How proud He is to be yours.

Why? How? Everyone is deserving because we are His. And that can never change.

So let us go, and do likewise.


I have been stretched so thin, I have felt depleted, empty, and just sunken in. And in the most unexpected ways, He comes and breaths life and revival into my sunken spots. The whiplash to- and from- consistent hard times visually appears like a chest that is breathing heavily.


I deplete from the weight of the unwanted, He breaths back into me hope. I sink from confusion, He inflates peace. I collapse from struggle, from unexpected, from hurt, and He comes with the rise of renewal, revival & light.  With my shrinking, comes His swelling. With my empty, comes His magnifications. Like the expand and contract of a heart that is beating, as assuredly as the fall, always comes the rise. Revival and renewal. Filling and fulfilling. Mending and magnifying.

Like you, I have had so much pain and hurt that has felt immobilizing at times.  But wow, my life, it is vibrant, and it is blossoming. And it is because of outstretched hands. His. And yours. People are beautiful. You and your efforts are beautiful. They matter. They make a difference. With compassion and kindness comes change. And with change comes movement. And because of Jesus that movement is onward and upward. The power and healing and mobility of kindness and compassion frees and lifts, elevates us above the storm clouds, giving us seasons to soar!

And oh my, what a feeling! What a view. To be lifted up and lifted out and be brought to greater heights that causes our soul to take flight and dance within us! There is a love that satisfies. His love will heal you. His love does heal you. 'If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.'(John 8:36) Ahhh, to be alive! To live as He did. Electrifying. “Lord, to whom shall we go?  It is good for us to be here.

Drop the stones. You won’t ever need them.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, my best friend, Amen.

 


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bob
May 11

What a beautiful look at the work of Christ and how he sees us. Thank you for this perspective.

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