Thursday, July 10, 2008

Compassion or Starvation...

I have a quote on my sidebar about hope:
"Hope is the most powerful force a parent can nurture in their child."

This quote speaks on so many levels and in so many realms: spiritual, emotional, physical. Just a couple of examples: You can nurture the hope that when mommy says something will happen, it will happen. You can nurture the hope that there is someone to rely completely upon for all your needs (mom and dad 100% now, and later, Christ in increasing abundance as they grow older). You can nurture their hope that they can do it (make a goal in soccer if they keep at it, etc.). You can nurture their hope that (even when they don't act it) they do have the capacity for a kind heart. On the other hand, you can also starve out "bad hope." That is, for example, the hope that if I pester long enough, Mom will change her mind. But we can also unknowingly starve that good hope too, leaving our children feeling, well, hopeless. And when a child (or adult, for that matter) feels hopeless, they become powerless as well. That's not a good place to be.

And recently I have been very convicted that I have been sucking the hope out of one of my children in particular. He comes at me with so much whine, so much fuss, and so much drama. I have been waiting for "the terrible twos" to vanish, but they have really just continued (with less vigor, I remind myself). The "twos" have left us a long time ago, replaced by the terrible threes and the terrible fours. I quake at the thought that I will deal with the terrible tens and twelves and twenty-threes and...

But I have been made aware of just how little compassion I show to this child, regardless of his plight. I know that I do this because so often, it just does not seem to matter if I coddle or ignore, the boo boo is horrendous in his mind and loud screaming MUST continue for at least 15 more minutes. And the thirst in his throat demands a whiney fuss that, if asked to re-say the demand in the form of a polite request, will explode into a tantrum-flop on the floor. (Talk about feeling hopeless! I do feel it!!)

So I am short on compassion with this child most days. I often do not make much effort to get down to his level and really see what he sees, looking at the world from his little eyes. I don't spend much mental energy thinking about what my response could be that might diffuse the situation for him. (My thought: why try? It won't matter. He's being a pill. ugh. How dreadful to see my honest thoughts in front of me.)

And so in my recent sleepless nights - a couple of which were caused by this child's uncontrollable midnight screaming - there was one word that penetrated my thick skull in regards to him: compassion. Show him compassion. Regardless of how he responds.

Feed the hope that Mom can and wants to help, Jenne. Nurture in him a hope that life will not always be so miserable as it seems at this moment. Teach him that Mom is one to depend on (Dad, too) because someday that hope and dependence will be transferred to the Lord.

Being rebuked is so painful. I do not enjoy it at all. But on the other hand, I have benefitted from the rebuke. Hope has grown in ME, too. No life-changing stories here in our mother-son relationship, but I do see subtle differences in how he responds to my words, voice, tone, smile. And that gives me great hope.

(Thanks, Diane, for using this phrase in your talk this year at M2M.)

And it does not take much of a mental leap to realize that I act toward the Lord the very same way my child does to me. And how thankful I am that the Lord continually shows me compassion, regardless of how I respond to that compassion. I am ten times less deserving of compassion than my child is, yet it is given and given and given. What a great God we serve.


Ginger said...

Oh Jenne, Thank you for your vulnerability, and honesty. I hear you, I have a child that does need my compassion and I rarely feel like giving it. ("Suck it up kiddo." is my usualy thought.) Being hopeless is about as low as you can go, and we have so much power to give or take it away. Thank you for the reminder.

Eric & Leah said...

Oh oh oh, this is SO the descriptor of Maggie and I. Thanks for the reminder that compassion is also a much needed response from mom, as well as the reminder that I'm not alone!