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. (Psalm 103:13-14)
In many ways, I am fortunate to come from the family I do. We may be crazy, but there is very little cruelty and, in many places, a generous portion of kindness toward each other as well as great compassion for others.
My father, for instance, is a very understanding man. He is the antithesis of those fathers who constantly place exceeding demands on their children (especially sons). Though I was a scholarship student, my father did not put too much pressure on me to excel.
One morning, before I left for college, he took me out for breakfast and encouraged me with these words, “Tony, if you could just get C’s, that would be great!”
God does not expect more from us than we can achieve. God knows everything about us and has compassion for our weaknesses. As persons with bipolar, God knows we have limitations, and knows our boundaries better than we do. God never expects us to go beyond what we are capable of doing. To paraphrase a Rabbinic saying,
“When I get to heaven, God will not ask me why I was not more like Moses. God will ask me why I was not more like Tony Roberts.”
One of the best images of God’s character in all of Scripture is in Luke 15, the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” I like how Timothy Keller reframes the parable and explores the “prodigal” nature of the father’s love – extravagant, seemingly limitless, abundantly compassionate.
The father loves both sons in the story. First, he notices his “lost son” in the distance. He hikes up his robe and runs out to welcome him home. He throws a party to celebrate the family reunion. Then, when he discovers his “steadfast son” missing from the party, he leaves behind the revelers to seek him out in the darkness of the older son’s anger. The father assures this son of his constant love.
Like this father, God’s compassion reaches out to us wherever we are. God reminds us Whose we are. God welcomes us in from the cold, hard world. God breaks open our cold, hard hearts. We are warmed by the fire of God’s compassionate love.