quarta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2013

A Reflection on Safety, Futility, and Peace (and the Zombie Apocalypse)

My baby is not safe. No baby is really safe. As a new parent (baby boy is nearing nine months) this is a truth that I vaguely acknowledge when necessary and that I try to push from my conscious mind whenever possible. I'm fairly certain that I am not alone. Most parents invest a lot of time and effort in controlling the aspects of a child's environment that they perceive are controllable. Is baby secured in the car seat? Is the car seat correctly installed? Is the car seat of good quality? Are the plugs covered? Are heavy items out of reach? Is any of the furniture dangerous to baby? Are any carcinogenic toxins making their way into baby's food or water? Can baby access the knives? Etc.

However, while parents attempt to maximize safety, we all know that there are things that we cannot control. We cannot help but know. Each day we are inundated with images of sick babies, hurt babies, lost babies, and babies gone too soon--nightmares that are impossible to ignore (a truth made more poignant by having just passed the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting). We say prayers for these babies and their families. Our hearts break, and we numbly admit that we cannot imagine what they're going through. But, therein lies the lie. While we don't know what they're going through in reality, we do imagine it--ghosts of these scenarios haunt us. And so we parents kiss and snuggle our little ones, thanking God that in his grace these are pains that we have been spared.

But, spared for how long? There is no guarantee. Worry takes a foothold. If my neighbor can suffer this pain today, who is to say that I will be guarded against similar pain tomorrow? We search the Bible and pray for reassurances that our babies will be protected and safe, but there is no quick comfort to be found: King David's infant son dies of illness; Israelite women suffer the deaths of their infant sons at the hands of brutal monarchs twice; the psalmist cries for revenge on his captors via the murder of innocent babes; and, in the case of the one near-starving woman and her son who welcome in and feed Elijah during a famine, we must acknowledge the other starving women and their sons for whom no miracle arrived.

Our world is fallen, there is evil in it, and our children are not safe.

This revelation struck me hard last night. Usually, the ghost imagining are easy to keep at bay, but last night they rallied together for an assault. I was home alone (hubby was at a work party), and baby boy was snugly tucked into his crib, sound asleep. And so I did what I so often relish doing in my alone time, I waded into the entertainment haven that is my laptop, and, as a direct result of three unrelated films/programs that I 'enjoyed', I was a tossing and turning, worried Mama at the end of the evening.

(1) I watched the music video for Matthew West's "One Last Christmas". I was familiar with the song--a story about a dying boy whose family and then his wider community plan an early Christmas celebration so he can experience it one more time. I tear up each time I hear it on the radio (inwardly cursing the writers of sentimental songs), so I should have known better. However, a colleague of mine had mentioned that the video had brought him to tears, and my curiosity to see it outweighed my better judgement. The video prominently features photos and film footage of little Dax Locke whose short life inspired the song. It was beautiful and sweet and sad; I was a wreck. (Note--you should watch the video and/or consider making a contribution to the Dax Locke Foundation which partners with St. Jude's Research Hospital.)

(2) I'm currently watching Season 5 of the crime drama Castle. Last night, I watched episodes 15 - 16; a two-parter in which the protagonist's daughter is kidnapped and held captive. Usually a quirky and light-hearted (for a crime drama) show, these episodes had some very dark bits and posed some powerful questions about who you can/should become when your family members are threatened.

(3) I linked to the short zombie film Cargo via a post on facebook. I know, zombies? But, I was pulled in by the tagline--how could a zombie film break my heart? Well, this one stirred my heart and got me thinking--how can I protect my son? I probably won't ever need to defend him from a literal zombie apocalypse (no, I really don't believe in a zombie apocalypse--for real), but I will need to defend him from some pretty ghastly things. The world is full of dangers, and perhaps, as the short film suggests metaphorically, it could be me, the parent, who is the danger. After all, who isn't afraid of wounding their child irrevocably in some psychological way?

These three things: the true-story video of the dying child, the fictional program with the kidnapped child, and the fictional story of the father trying to save his child from his imminent zombie-self: put me in a vulnerable spot, face-to-face with reality that my baby is not safe.

So I did what I assume most other believers do when alone in the dark with their fears--I prayed. I prayed out of the solemness and the silliness of my fears. Maybe pleaded would be a better word. I begged God to favor my child above all the other suffering children in the world. I asked him to favor me and my husband above all other parents. Yes, Lord, put your hand on and protect the babies in Syria and in the refugee camps from real and present dangers, but first protect my baby from possible future dangers. Pathetic, yes. But to start my prayers from some other place would have been dishonest.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible has no quick and easy promises for parents. Jesus Christ expresses a love and a welcome for children that is reassuring (Mark 10: 13 - 16), but there is no escape clause from the suffering of this world. But, as I prayed from the heart of my sinful fears, I felt the presence of God reminding me of God's character and of God's never-failing promises--promises that apply to me and to my baby boy. My child was created by a loving, present God; no matter how much I love my child, God in God's sovereignty and perfection loves him more. God's grace extends to include and cover my child. My child will never be alone, and, though my child may experience transitory suffering here on earth, God will offer him peace that can not be countered and eternal joy.

I know that to experience this peace as a parent that I need to release my desire to control my baby's future safety. Peace can't really come from baby-proofing the house and only giving the baby organic vegetables. After all, if a zombie apocalypse, a serious illness, or a violent act/accident does come into our story, those acts of check-list safety will all seem pretty futile. No, the peace that God offers to me as parent is only available if I surrender my son into God's own keeping. I must sacrifice the little idols of keeping him safe and guarding his future. I must build my hope on Christ alone and, as he grows, I must give my son space to do the same.

This is easy to say but much more difficult to do. Feel free to pray for me as I work on it.

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