Hebrew words are so fascinating!
Today I want to write about the Hebrew word for “compassion.” As a pastor’s wife, mother, missionary, and humanitarian aid worker, compassion is a necessary tool to my trade. It is in fact essential.
It would be impossible for me to reach out to others without a good dose. But an important question is, “When has enough compassion been shed upon a needy individual or circumstance?” Sometimes too much compassion might hold a person back from taking responsibility or changing certain things in their life that would facilitate maturity or growth.
The Hebrew word for compassion–rechemet–gives us a clue. It comes from the Hebrew root, rechem, which literally means “womb.”
Instantly this word delivers a beautiful image of motherhood and all the amazing and miraculous things a womb does. It protects the unborn child, nourishes, cradles, and prepares for delivery. The baby must stay in that warm and glorious place just the right amount of time before birth. If it stays too long, unhealthy things happen to the baby and the mother. The situation can turn toxic quite suddenly. If it stays too long, sometimes emergency surgery must be performed to rescue both baby and mother.
I believe this is a pattern for how we as believers, as those who are to spread the love of Jesus abroad, are to handle the power of compassion. Too much compassion can be toxic. There is a certain amount of time you “carry” a hurting or needful soul in the “womb” of your compassion. There you build up, nourish, encourage, and strengthen. But the day comes when that person is released from your “womb of compassion” and begins to mature on his own.
Too much counseling or protection is detrimental to all involved. It is up to the counselor to set the limits and push the “baby bird” out of the nest, ready to fly and start a new life.
My daughter is 21 now, and the compassion her father and I applied to her life as a baby is not appropriate for her age. She does not require cuddling or hovering. She needs space with a caring yet more distant hand of guidance.
This truth is simplistic but profound. It is amazing how the DNA codes of “womb” and “compassion” are intertwined in Hebrew. It is a lesson for all of us who reach out to others in compassion.
It is something certainly to ponder. But right now I am pondering a comforting truth that I know no matter my season in life, God has promised to never leave me or forsake me. And He is always applying the kind of compassion I need.
Sometimes it comes in the form of a swift kick or thump on the noggin! Maybe not always in the moment, but I have learned to be grateful for God’s prescription of compassion toward me. He knows just what I need and when.