“As a Father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” ~Psalm 103:13-14
Working with my three year old the other day, I was struck by how often I do exactly the same things she was doing. Having declared the day pajama day, she was in the bathroom trying to redress herself in her sleeper from the night before. I asked if I could help as she was struggling. Her refusal was emphatic as she was determined to do it alone, certain she could unwind, reconfigure and get all four limbs into something that had turned inside out and then around again somehow. I cleaned the kitchen and honestly rolled my eyes at what I could hear growing in crescendo in the bathroom. Increasingly frustrated, she worked more feverishly, then sobbing and stopping, then again attacking the sleeper. All the while I offered help that she didn’t want. Finally I walked into the bathroom and sat down on the floor with her. I got her to look in my eyes and take a deep breath. My compassion for her overwhelmed me and totally replaced my aggravation that this child was throwing such a complete fit as I saw her fierce desire for independence at war with her ineptitude, confusion and childlike despair.
I knew that she was me with the Lord.
Her heaving chest and desperate expression – desiring to do it yet unable to figure it out – her writhing on the floor in full out exasperation – unable to get out or get in – That’s me with the Lord.
In that bathroom, I saw my child’s little frame, her childish mind and immature skills and was filled with compassion for her. All I desired in that moment was to help her be successful in her heart’s desire – to be in that sleeper once more. There was joy that filled me to be able to come alongside her, unwind the sleeper, turn the leg right side out, help her balance as she stepped into the leg, and make sure she didn’t zip her belly into the zipper. And then she asked me to button the top. And we laughed and loved.
But all this could only happen once she was ready to accept help. It took me getting on the floor, stroking her angry back, getting her to look me in the eye and listen to my voice. She needed to calm and let go in order to get the help she needed. She was never going to get into that sleeper! It was too wound up and wrong in every which way! I also wasn’t interested in hijacking the process and just throwing her into the sleeper.
God’s great compassion is for me in my times of fierce independence, striking out to accomplish things I even think will be for his kingdom, good things. But I will be frustrated. I won’t be able to see clearly in the confusion, I won’t be able to see around the bend to what will come, I will be unable to make things right, fix what has gotten twisted. I don’t have the right perspective, but my first reaction is often to be angry, frustrated, despairing on the floor. And Jesus Christ sits down on the floor with me and tells me to look in His eyes.
He never forgets my frame, He never gets aggravated with my tantrums, His heart is continually filled with compassion for me. And the amazing thing about our perfect God is that He never loses that perspective. He never has to be reminded of my frailties. Often I have to remind myself of my children’s weaknesses or immaturities. Many days I don’t want to sit on the floor, seek out the heart of my child, or patiently wait for their return. I want them to get their stuff together and either let me help or move on. Luke 15 tells the story of the prodigal son who left home to have independence, taking with him all his inheritance. He squanders everything and, while living in a pig farm, realizes he at least could be fed if he lived as a servant on his father’s land. And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20) Our Heavenly Father meets us right in our dirt, our pig smell, our hunger, our fatigue, our failure. And kisses us. He doesn’t wait for us to get cleaned up or get it together. He isn’t interested in the way we look, what we’ve accomplished or what we can give back. Jesus in Matthew 9:36 saw the crowds and had compassion for them for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.
So as a mother, Lord, don’t let me lose your perspective with my children. Let me see their frailties, sin, fears, regrets, stressors, and worries the way you do and let me run to them with arms open wide. Not because I am anything but your forgiven, dearly loved child. As your child let me never forget your Gospel, that while I was a sinner, you died for me. While I was deep in the muck of sin, you were rich in mercy and loved me and love me still. And teach me to lead my wayward little ones to You.