Fatima Johnson is an attorney with her own immigration practice here in Indianapolis. She also works as a volunteer for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. In today's post, she shares some about how her faith and work intersect:
It took me a long time to learn how to love people. My development was hindered by the fact that I thought I was doing it the right way. I mean, I’ve always been a hugger; I smile a lot, call my grandparents regularly; I try (strong emphasis on try) to remember people’s names. For all intents and purposes, I thought myself to be pretty loving and compassionate.
Honestly, it is easy to show sympathy by feeling sorry for others, especially when they’re right in front of you baring their soul. It is easy to understand how and why other people hurt—at least when they’re in your office, crumpled tissues in hand, the empathy flows. But sympathy and empathy alone can leave you in the realm of pitying people. And we have not been called to pity people. Our call is to "(a)dminister true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9).
It was only through God loving me through my most painful experiences, at my most vulnerable and unlovable times, that I discovered what true compassion is. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t want pity. I had plenty of that for myself. Does feeling sorry for someone alleviate their pain? Does it feed or clothe them? Does entrenching yourself in their pain leave you able to act in their best interest? It doesn’t.
Instead of praying for God’s pity, I prayed for a mighty move of God. I needed Him to act! And He was gracious enough to show me His love and how compassionate He can be. And that is where compassion lies: in the action. Compassion is love in action!
As a lawyer with an immigration practice and as a volunteer at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, I am generally pretty busy. I get up every morning and ask God to help me prioritize. I remember how Jesus told another lawyer, “(y)ou shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 39).
So, I learned how to love with compassion. And how to be a servant in my work, by showing compassion to others and by letting God use me to find justice for those who society wants to pity, but not really help. Daily, I see heavily burdened people loose the chains of anxiety, worry, and shame they have been carrying for years. I get to tell people who have sacrificed everything to be in this country—whose only goal is to be able to feed their children and keep them safe—that they get to stay here. And to hear that first breath when they finally hold their green card in hand, to see the panic and fear just melt away and to know that God gets the glory, affirms that I serve a compassionate God who loves His children. Amen.