All week I've had Psalm 103:13-14 echoing in my head:
"As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust."
I've been thinking about it most in the context of parenting--not reasoning from earthly parents' compassion to God's compassion, as the psalm does, but from God's compassion to what I am called to as a mother. God, the Holy and Sovereign King of the Universe, remembers that I am dust. He is patient with me--He is gentle and compassionate--He remembers that I am a fallen human and am going to screw up again and again.
How much more, then, should I, who am also dust, am much more like my three-year-old than different, have compassion on my son, and remember that he is only three?
Elijah isn't one to throw an angry temper-tantrum when he doesn't get his way. He's more likely to crumple into hysterical tears, as though his entire world has just fallen apart. And I find myself getting very frustrated when I can't even get him to calm down enough to hear me say that I understand that he's upset, or try to explain to him what's going on. Sadly, it's all too easy for me to shame or belittle him: "Stop it. STOP. You are being ridiculous. That's enough."
First of all...that doesn't even work. Not helpful. Second of all...just because it seems stupid to me doesn't mean it's not a BIG DEAL in his three-year-old world. For all our talk around here about Elijah being a big boy compared to his baby brother...he is still essentially a baby himself. Elijah has lived only three and a half years. Half that time he was unable to speak; a third of that, he couldn't even walk. His little brain has SO much developing to do; he is learning how the world works and how actions have consequences and how to navigate relationships...he must feel so overwhelmed sometimes!
I was also reminded by a friend this week that the Incarnation is at the heart of the gospel. God stooped low to become one of us. He got down on our level, immature and sinful though we are. He condescended to experience our problems, to endure the indignities of being human, to share our struggles and temptations. He didn't just make decrees from on high; He took on our fragile flesh and walked in our shoes.
As a mother, it's my privilege and responsibility to incarnate that glorious truth to my children. When I am tempted to frustration and harshness, I want to be quick to hear a funny but true phrase Steve often says when Elijah is melting down: "I know, it's hard being three." To be honest, I'm still not sure how, on a practical level, to respond when Elijah is hysterical. But I do know that I want to remember and celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus so that I can patiently get down on Elijah's level and share his struggles, see the world through his eyes, gently guide him as he navigates a confusing and harsh world.