These three little words have been floating around in my head for the last several weeks: moved with compassion. They come from stories about Jesus, how he would look upon someone and be "moved with compassion". What followed was always some sort of loving action. Jesus didn't merely feel sympathy; He did something to help. He healed the sick and touched the untouchable. He taught the multitudes, spoke to them life giving words that opened hearts and minds. He lifted the burden of guilt, the heaviness of the law, by extending forgiveness and grace. He fed hungry people and opened blind eyes. He took children on His knees and blessed them.
The dictionary defines compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. As I've pondered these words I've realized how often I've failed to have true compassion on my children. How often I've brushed off minor injuries or the seemingly little things that concern them greatly. How I've ignored a child who I deem to be "overreacting" to a situation. I've subconsciously expected them to have a maturity they simply don't have, to realize that a torn page or a lost pencil isn't really a big deal. But it's a big deal to them, causing them distress. And a compassionate response would make their concern mine and do whatever is in my power to alleviate it. So often I've offered words, hollow words, a flippant "oh, I'm sorry" or "that's too bad" with no action, no movement to help them.
As I've journeyed toward a more grace-filled relationship with my children, I've been thinking about how compassion is not just a loving and helpful reaction to their distress, but it also compels me to be a lot more pro-active. I'm sad to say that my discipline has often grossly lacked compassion; I've expected too much of them and then been frustrated and angry when they failed to perform. Now, I do think children should learn to obey, but instead of using my energy to repeat myself, get frustrated, and punish them when they don't, a more compassionate response would be to get up and help them. This is a lot harder to do, especially when I'm breastfeeding a baby, or reading to another child, or anytime I'm doing something else. But what if, after giving a child a direction and seeing them hesitate or even run the other way, I simply get up and cheerfully ask if they needed a little help? Or put my hands on theirs and did it with them? This communicates to them not only that I do expect them to do what they've been told, but also that I'm on their side and will do what it takes to help them. At the point that I've issued a directive and my child is having a hard time obeying, whether they're being obstinate or simply distracted or childish, I can move in with compassionate help instead of punishment. Either way, I'm expending energy, but the movement of helping them builds up our relationship in a way that punishment never does. Both actions communicate that I mean business, but one also communicates grace.
There is a verse, in the 103rd Psalm, that I read nearly every week. It says "As a Father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him." It serves as both gentle inspiration and sobering reminder that I am shaping my children's view of God. I so often fail to show them how full of grace He is. God, in His great compassion for me, equips and strengthens me to do what He asks me to do; shouldn't I do the same for my children? He gently leads and guides and helps and empowers me. He's gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He models exactly what kind of parent I should be; He is moved with compassion toward me, actively offering help every moment. The only acceptable response to this is to look upon my children and be moved with compassion, to follow the example of my kind-hearted and merciful Christ and speak words of life, to offer a healing touch, and to take my them on my knees and let His blessing flow through me to them.