“The word compassion comes from (com-passion = compassion, to suffer, to suffer with, to suffer with other persons); that’s where the word patience comes from (patience = patior, “to suffer”). To be patient is to experience the pain of your life. And when you experience it with somebody else, you can be compassionate.”
From Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation
In the Bible, patience is sometimes translated as long-suffering, defined as the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering or when provoked.
Patience is a quality of God and a fruit of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, we come to know a God who is very patient—slow to anger (and rightful judgment) because of the compassion and love He has for the people of Israel. Jesus embodied these qualities, as He was willing to suffer with and for all the world—to the point of death on a cross.
As I was recently reflecting on these things, I was struck by the relationship between patience and compassion—they work together and are intertwined. Patience isn’t simply refraining from yelling or waiting with contentment—it is others-focused, relational, an act of compassion. It is a coming alongside.
As mamas our patience can be tested often. We don’t want to endure—let alone embrace suffering! Our natural inclination is toward self-preservation, but the way of Christ is to die to self.
Still, isn’t it our children’s impatience that at times pushes us to the brink?
Yet when they are little they don’t know how to process their struggles. They have little ability to exercise patience; they have not the depth, understanding or practice of stretching such muscles of the inner life. It takes time and instruction for fruit to develop and mature. So, tantrums and protests occur. Children don’t know how to take their eyes off themselves and their frustrations, to respond with long-suffering—this can be hard even for us adults! But it is what we mamas are called to do.
As we are guiding our little ones into maturity, the moments that test our patience are really opportunities to exercise compassion. Their whines, cries, and tantrums erupt out of their own impatience and immaturity; it is not necessarily rebellion that underlies such behavior.
Sometimes when one of my children is having a meltdown—I can feel like having a meltdown myself (and to be honest—at times I have)! I can be short-tempered instead of long-suffering. Sometimes the demands can feel so overwhelming. But instead of a self-focused mama my kids need a Christ-like mama. They simply want someone to listen, to hear out their needs and frustrations—whether they’re struggling to share a toy or are feeling afraid of the dark. They want loving comfort and to be understood. They just need a mama who is willing to come alongside them in their struggle.
As we do this, our lives speak a message to our kids—telling and reassuring them of a God who cares about what is on their hearts, who knows their troubles, who suffered and experienced pain on their behalf and who walks beside them and communes with them in their suffering…. a God who is compassionate.
My oldest was whining, scared to go down into the dark basement to retrieve her shoes. She was beginning to cry and protest. I was irritated, impatient, self-focused—trying to wrap up my to-dos before leaving the house. I tell her, “God is always with you so there’s no reason to be afraid— so go get your shoes!”
And He convicted and whispered, “Go with her. Be my hands and feet—be Christ to her. Help her to believe in a God who is good, who is always with her, who comforts and puts fears to rest. Act compassionately. Your life is the message, and your words are empty if you are not willing to model them to her.”
I’m thankful for His spirit that enables me to heed His voice. More than anything, I want my kids to know Him—to believe Him at His word—which I pray would be made visible through my life.
Lord, grow us into compassionate, long-suffering mamas, willing to set aside our own agendas to model Christ to our kids.
Let us be mamas who spend time with the One who is the Source—who came as and who is Compassion in the Flesh, who wants to grow and mature His fruit in our lives, and minister His ways through us. May we believe and depend on you, Lord, in this mothering journey.
“Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God…”
Galatians 3:5-6 The Message
Photo Credit: Holding Hands