"God's Sublime Attribute: Infinite Compassion"
by Lonnie Lane
My mother went home to be with the Lord last week. She was 92 and the sweetest Jewish lady you’d ever want to meet. I can’t imagine anyone having anything but good things to say about her. She’s known the Lord since 1977, having come to the Lord in her sixties. A Jewish woman of that age with an orthodox Jewish upbringing coming to the Lord was not a usual occurrence at that time. She’s faithfully walked with Him since. She wanted to be at home with us (she lived with me) rather than in a hospital the last days of her life, and with Hospice being on hand when needed, this is where she was. My two daughters and Lizzie, our dog, were with her to the end. The Lord was so present to her. Mom was not a particularly spiritual person. Just a nice Jewish lady who loved Him, not exactly a preacher like her children are. But she was able to tell us through her labored breathing, “I feel the presence of the Lord” and “I see glory. Glory, glory, glory!” These were not things I’d ever heard her say before nor that I’m aware were her experience. Despite it being very hard to breathe or talk, she periodically would whisper or attempt to sing the words to a worship song she’d always enjoyed ~ “Your loving kindness is better than life.” This was no longer just a verse to a song to her, but she was now saying them to the Lord, offering Him her life. They have a different meaning to me now too.
I share this with you about my Mom to let you know of His faithfulness in the last moments of our lives when we’re His. She went through three difficult days (death is still an enemy!) during which we watched her detach from this life, including saying goodbye to us, to a life that no longer had any meaning to her – only the people did, and even to Lizzie whispering to her, “You’ve been a very good puppy dog.” Nothing was left to be said. We had said all the I love you’s, and thank you for being you’s. We had asked for forgiveness of each other years ago for any way we had hurt each other. After all, I was an unsaved teenager at one time – that’s cause to ask for forgiveness in itself. There was only love. It had been a privilege to be her caretaker, to honor my mother this way. I know that not every mother is as delightful and as easy to be with as mine, so she made caring for her easy. She was a role model of goodness and generosity of heart to the end, even in the way she died.
I once had a vision of heaven and how joyful it is when people you knew on the earth who are already in heaven come to greet you when you enter heaven’s gates. A number of Sid’s guests have confirmed that is what happens as they have been to heaven and returned to tell about it. So periodically, just for fun in the past year or so, Mom and I would often future-reminisce trying to imagine who would be there to greet her when she finally did arrive. It put us in touch with how many people there are that we love who have gone on to be with the Lord so that we don’t fear death, but look forward to the glory of eternity. So we can say with Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). The love doesn’t stop because they’re no longer here. We’ll be with them again, forever!
Mom and I would sometimes even speculate on who might be there that we didn’t expect to be. My father’s mother, for instance. Grandmom Ceil would be another Jewish lady who is not likely to have come to the Lord. Except the Lord’s mercy and compassion may have been where we were entirely unaware of it. Here’s the story about my grandmother. Long before we in our family knew the Lord, one day my Mom and she were driving somewhere when Grandmom Ceil said to her in her Russian-Yiddish accent, “You know vy de doors of churches are red? Eet’s because of de blood of Jesus.” Mom recalled this years later, after we’d become believers. Though it didn’t mean anything to her when Grandmom said it originally, we did wonder how she knew that. Strange thing for a Jewish bubbah from Russia to know, let alone mention.
In the past year, as I thought about the people in heaven with Mom, I thought I heard the Lord tell me my Grandmom Ceil is in heaven. I asked Him how that could possibly be. There was never reason to believe she came to the Lord and no one that we know of ever told her about Yeshua. She lived an entirely Jewish life with everyone around her being Jewish. Surely we would have heard if any of them had come to the Lord. She died before we became believers so we never told her. As we thought about who was in heaven, the Lord brought back to me that statement she made so many years ago about the doors being red because of the blood of Jesus. (We hadn’t recalled it for the past 25 years or so, but He brought it to my mind.) Now what, I wondered, could His blood have meant to her? How would she know what the blood of Jesus would mean, I asked the Lord. I immediately recalled that she used to listen to the radio constantly and my sense was that He was telling me that she used to listen to preachers. She had come to learn what the blood of Yeshua meant, and that could have meant salvation to her. She very likely could have prayed the prayer of salvation with the radio preachers. Perhaps the door statement was her way of telling my Mom something about Him she didn’t know how to share otherwise. At any rate, I now have this confirmation inside of me that my Grandmom Ceil may just be in heaven and was one of those persons who came to welcome my Mom when she got there. What a wonderful reunion that would be. How my father must have been so joyfully blessed to find his mother there when he arrived some years ago. I so wish I could have gone with Mom to experience her entrance into heaven, but of course, we all have to wait our turn.
This experience has caused me to see some things in life rather differently. It’s caused me to ask what’s really important? Experiences like this do cause one to slip into pondering philosophically about the meaning of life. I’m sure those of you reading this would agree that Yeshua is the meaning of life. He is our life! He is the source and the sustainer of life. In Him, life becomes Life, capitalized. However, even we do still occupy ourselves with so much that’s petty and hold on to things that are relatively meaningless which therefore diminish our ability to appreciate not only the gift of His Life but the people He’s put in our lives. I suppose something like losing someone you dearly love does sensitize you to the value of those you share life with. I’ve found it’s made me, even in this short time, more aware of the joys and pain of others. Moments become twinkling insights into God’s goodness that I might have missed before. People take on the glow of being a gift from God. I can receive a hug as coming from Him, a smile from His Spirit, coming through those He puts in our lives. After all, many of them will be our compatriots for eternity. What a bonding awareness that is. The only thing that’s left when all else is over with is love. All is distilled down at the end into what your heart has been occupied with. I’m honored to say my Mom’s heart was always for the wellbeing of others. So in the end, facing death, her heart was still filled with love for us, even for the nurse whom she didn’t know a few days before. It’s the only thing you can take with you into heaven.
I read a statement in the Hadassah (Women’s Zionist Organization of America) magazine this morning that resonated within me like the strum of a harp across all the strings. It was talking about how much we strive to be “our highest selves all the time, But the real work…is to accept our day-to-day self as sufficient.” Caring for Mom put all the striving on hold, it set aside the things that would have mattered that don’t ultimately matter anyway. The immediacy of meeting her needs, moment by moment, put all else far into the background. Making her feel loved, and not a burden which was her concern, was as far as my goals reached at this time. I can see how the day-to-day ordinariness when done in love is sufficient. Ambition can get very much in the way of the expression of our “highest selves.” The Hadassah article went on to say this: “Religiously…we are summoned to be our highest selves all the time, to believe in our capacity to share God’s sublime attribute: Infinite compassion.”
Infinite compassion! That’s a lot of compassion. Are we most like God when we are compassionate? Could compassion be the call of God to live from our highest selves? If His compassion is infinite, when would compassion run out, if we look to Him for it? What if compassion was our criteria for a successful life? What if the goal of our day wasn’t just to check off all the things on our To Do list for the day, but our goal for the day was to share God’s compassion to just one person today. I had been made aware recently by the Lord that I can walk through a food market or the mall and pass perhaps a few hundred people and be entirely unaware of them. I hadn’t looked at one face or noticed anyone’s pain or sadness. I had walked past so many who could have used some of His compassion. I’ve been both the recipient and the giver at times of His love this way and it’s tinged with gold, I can tell you. But after Mom, my two daughters and I, who were with her for the last three days of her difficult departure, have been polished somewhat to hopefully reflect His image more than ever before. Compassion does seem to be a part of it.
My daughter Jenny and I had our first opportunity to be compassion givers a few days after Mom died. To soothe our souls, we went into the quaint little town she lives in close to the ocean here in Florida for lunch at a French restaurant. In the town is a synagogue which is over 100 years old, with beautiful stained glass windows. The building architecture is charming. She wanted to show it to me so we found an open door and went in. Three people were speaking together and turned to greet us with questioning looks on their faces as to who and why we were there as the service (It was Shabbat) was over a while ago. Jenny had been there once before for a service and when she reminded them, they recognized her. The older man, who turned out to be the 90 year old rabbi, greeted us warmly with an accent that sounded like Grandmom Ceil’s. Standing with them was a lady, also elderly, who was obviously in emotional pain. She had a handkerchief to her face and was crying, or trying not to.
Jenny asked the woman in a most tender voice why she was crying and she began to tell us, also in an accent, that a member of her family had died in Poland and she was unable to get to the funeral or be with her family. She was grieving terribly, not just for the family member she obviously loved, but also because she couldn’t be with her family so they could share their grief together. (Obviously, there was no Yeshua in her life or her deceased family member to take the sting out.) I asked her if she was the Rebbitzin (rabbi’s wife). Yes she was. We then told her how we had just lost my Mom, so we now were sisters in grief. Jenny and I put our arms around her and cried with her. She had her head on Jenny’s shoulder while I put my arms around her too and just let the comfort of the Holy Spirit ooze into her as we silently prayed for His comfort to come to her. We just held her and let her hurt and cry and grieve while we loved on her. That we too had just lost a loved one took it from what was happening to her to sharing what we were experiencing together.
Jenny continued to minister love and comfort to the Rebbitzin. When I detached myself from the hug, the rabbi asked if I wanted to see the sanctuary. I certainly did. I knew the Rebbitzin was in good hands, Jenny’s hands. The sanctuary was beautiful like an antique vase or magnificent painting. The light coming in through the high stained glass windows was like light from heaven as it shown through each colored piece of glass. But what struck me most was the inscription on the bema (podium). It said, “Be wary of the presence of God.” What a strange thing to be before how many generations of people who have sat before them every Shabbat or holiday for over a century.
At first I thought, “How negative.” As someone came in to talk with the Rabbi about something, I had opportunity to sit and just ‘be there.’ Why would a congregation choose those words? Or did the rabbi sometime in the 1800’s opt for them and since he said it, that’s the way it was. What had he, or they, been through that would cause them to even put such words there at all? Of all the things that could be said, why “Be wary of the presence of God”? Evidently, they were aware that in coming into that sanctuary they were coming into the presence of God. Christians often think only they can come into the presence of God, but I assure you, there are synagogues the world over where the Holy Spirit resides. When you’re aware of what His presence feels like, you recognize it when He’s there (and when He’s not). The people may not be born again, but He is faithfully with many of them who have hearts toward God. There is a reverence in many synagogues that some of our churches would do well to emulate. (Selah.)
My first thought was that wary meant to anticipate something evil or harmful, to be suspicious. Surely they wouldn’t have seen God that way, would they? But then I saw that wary can also mean to be careful, be aware of how one behaves before Him, or even lives before Him. Later I looked up wary and it meant to be watchful, circumspect, vigilant, on one’s toes, alert, on the lookout. This little synagogue must have surely heard messages from a number of rabbis who also took that message to heart and talked to their people about walking before God throughout their lives aware of His presence, His holy presence. Perhaps this verse out of the Tenach (Old Testament) would have been preached in the same spirit as the wording on the bema: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
The Talmud says, “To save one life is to save the world.” If each of us saved one life, the whole world would be saved. What if we had that as a goal each day? I’m not talking about getting someone to “ask Jesus into their lives” kind of saving, though that would surely be good if the person truly understood what they were doing when they said it. I mean saving someone who was in need of hope today, or a kind word, a smile, a hug, or to be heard while they told you what’s going on in their lives today. Sometimes we just need someone to listen, or someone to hold us while we cry, even if we don’t know them, like the Rebbitzin. I wonder how much more Yeshua listened to others than we do. That the Bible tells us what He said, doesn’t mean He didn’t do a lot of listening to know what to pray for them, or to say to them.
By the time we left the Rabbi and his wife, she was no longer crying. She was in fact smiling as she invited us to come back. He handed us a mimeographed copy of a copy of a copy of the story of the synagogue’s history, obviously very proud to be its rabbi for the past 20+ years. He had just finished writing a book about surviving the holocaust and wanted us to come back for a copy when it’s released in the next few months. How wonderful that at 90 (and three months, he was sure to tell us), he’s now writing a book. Perhaps it’s taken him this long to process it emotionally so that he can tell the story. Or perhaps he wrote it to let others know that no matter how hard things and situations in life can get, there is always hope in God. This sweet dear man exuded love. And hope. He told us of some of his aspirations, like to retire when the book is a great success. I’m not sure the book will hit the New York Times Book Review, but he is a success already. His people love him. He walks through his life evidently “wary of the presence of God.” You can feel it when you talk to him, and how he cares for his wife. That Jenny and I were able to bring a manifestation of God’s infinite compassion to Mrs. Rabbi was the work of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who in comforting her, comforted us.
Perhaps it’s all summed it all up in these words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For… our comfort is abundant through Messiah” (2 Cor.1:3-5). Amen.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.