“You guys make me smile,” I tell the sheep this morning. “Thank you. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything. You all are a sanctuary for me.”
They give me that look that tells me they have no idea what I’m talking about. But they don’t interrupt, and give me the space, which is what really matters.
So, I tell them a story. It’s a story about a reporter covering the fighting and violence during a war in Sarajevo. He watches as a little girl is fatally shot by a sniper. The reporter threw down whatever he held, rushing immediately to the aid of a man who knelt on the pavement cradling the child.
As the man carried the child, the reporter guided them to his car, and sped off to a hospital.
“Hurry my friend,” the man urged, “my child is still alive.”
A moment or two later he pleaded, “Hurry my friend, my child is still breathing.”
And a little later, “Please my friend, my child is still warm.”
Although the reporter drove as fast as was possible, by the time they arrived at the hospital, the little girl had died. As the two men were in the lavatory, washing the blood off their hands and their clothes, the man turned to the reporter and said, “This is a terrible task for me. I must now go tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken.”
The reporter stood speechless. He looked at the grieving man and said, “I thought she was your child.”
The man shook his head. “No. But aren’t they all our children?”
Yes. They are all our children.
Like any good homily, I pause, just to let that last line sink in. Not because we don’t know it to be true, but when our world is spinning, we easily lose track of the very things that anchor our soul.
And in that pause, I remember. I’m not just the preacher. I’m also the child.
That we live in a world unnerving and unpredictedable is no revelation. But what always hits me in my gut is our capacity to be cruel and merciless.
I know, this is not new. But for some reason, it still disheartens.
And there is a heap plenty to blame—people and systems. (Of course, it is always “other” people, and “other” systems.)
But the truth is straightforward. We wound one another.
We wound with real wars, and with real bullets.
We wound with words, with hatred and resentment and umbrage.
And we wound with intolerance and small-mindedness (some of it in the name of God… and “love”).
“If we have no peace,” Mother Teresa reminded us, “it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Well, if we do belong to one another, then “they”—the “least of these” and all those without voices—are indeed, our children.
Ours to care for.
Ours to listen to.
Ours to see.
“Because we have forgotten” is not about some shortcoming in my psyche (something I need to berate myself for, and nurse guilt). It is an invitation; to remember that the child, cradled in the man’s arms, embodies every single one of us.
No, we’ve not fallen victim to a sniper’s bullet. But life has rough edges; much, much rougher for many. Especially now.
This, however, is assuredly true; there has been a time in each of our lives when we needed someone to say, “Aren’t they all our children?” When we knew that someone had the interest—the magnitude and worth and belovedness—of that child (in us) foremost in mind. And it made a difference in the choices they made. And it made a difference in the choices we make.
(Let me pause again; When I read stories about child abuse, or violence to children, I clutch my heart—literally—and here is my confession, I want to go out and hurt someone… anyone who has done these things. And then I read stories about children who have been wounded and who have been abused, and who have found a way to survive. And to not only survive, but to thrive. And to become beacons of hope for us all.)
Back to the story; our prayer is not just about the child’s life we’re trying to save, but the very freedom to be a child. And to savor the reminder of the light that burns inside every single one of us. The Imago Dei… this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…
So. This Sabbath Moment is dedicated to the child within us: because like it or not, our childhood stays with us forever, regardless of our age. And I hope that we do, at times, continue to behave childlike. (Jesus seemed to think it was a good thing—something about entering the Kingdom of Heaven and all that.)
Childlike behavior may even help one stay pure at heart, and to live life simply. Simplicity is always a wonderful thing. And it just may be that we’re not childlike enough.
Carl Jung called it the “Divine Child” and Emmet Fox called it the “Wonder Child.” Some psychotherapists call it the “True Self” and Charles Whitfield called it the “Child Within,” and someone later coined the phrase, “the Inner Child.” Whatever name you use, it refers to that part of each of us which is ultimately alive. It is where our feelings come to life. When we experience joy, sadness, anger, fear, or affection, that child within us is coming to life. Not in order to be measured or to impress, but simply to embrace and to be embraced. To breathe the holy air of the present moment, in laughter, wonder, open-heartedness and unabashed baltering. (To balter is to dance without particular skill or grace, but with extreme joy.)
Is it possible that we don’t trust our own goodness?
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention,” L.R. Knost reminds us. “So, go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
What does it mean to embrace the gifts of this child? To embrace the gifts of the child within you?
Sometimes we need to be carried. Sometimes, we need to carry. This week remember that the smallest of words can make the biggest difference. You can be the voice for those who don’t have one. “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being,” Dr. Albert Schweitzer wrote, “Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.”
It is warm. Well, actually, for this neck of the woods, it is hot. So gardening is a morning activity. Black eyed Susan and Japanese Anemone blooming. Blackberries ripening this week.
Quote for the week…
A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. Rachel Carson
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you Terry for such a beautiful sabbath moment. The world has truly lost a great champion for love and peace in John Lewis. I’m so grateful to have you appear in my inbox every Monday. You are truly a blessing to many. Stay safe. Carol
–Hi Pr. Terry – It’s the “Two-step with the Newborn King” guy! We spoke by phone of the possibility of your Sacred Presence as Lead Speaker for our planned Chaplain/Spouse Retreat in Colorado this fall. I regret the circumstances of the day have dictated that we cancel the proposed gathering. I feel a deep sense of loss because I was so looking forward to meeting and speaking with you. You have made a profound difference in my life by your gentle view of life as informed by Scripture – the very example of grace. Warren
–Hi Terry, How are you my friend? Your Sabbath Moments and Facebook posts nourish and nurture my soul. I am grateful. I have experienced recovery from my lifelong battles with anorexia and bulimia through working the 12 steps in the AA Big Book, bringing me a deeper relationship with God who has solved my problem. In order to keep what I’ve been so freely given, I need to be of service to others who are still suffering. All of that to say, if any of your sheep congregants (or humans) suffer from binging, purging, restricting, etc… please feel free to provide my contact information to them. Love to you always! Holly
(Thank you Holly. I’ll post your note. And if anyone reaches out, I’ll pass it along to you.)
–Terry, lovely writing thank you for sharing the sheep and yourself with us in Australia. I don’t know of many of the plants or places you reference from time to time, but the sentiment is greater than geography and botany. This poem is apropos of today’s reflection. Ken
(Thank you Ken. I posted the poem, The Bridge, below.)
–Thank you, Terry. I thought of you and your sheep when I heard that John Lewis preached to chickens. Jennie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Prayer for Peace
I offer you peace.
I offer you love.
I offer you friendship.
I see your beauty.
I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the highest Source.
I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together. For unity and peace.
Of course I am jealous
We bless the earth with each step we take.
And the firmament too needs our touch:
someday your tenderness
will read it.
Look how the birds climb some invisible staircase
and lay their hands upon Him.
Of course I am jealous,
When I too cannot do that.
The seas waited long to sing. Not until we leaped out laughing
was their birth of us
“Tell me about your heart,” my every word says.
Speak to me as if we both lay wounded
in a field and are gazing
as our spirits
St. Francis of Assisi
There are times in life
when we are called to be bridges,
not a great monument spanning a distance and carrying loads of heavy traffic
but a simple bridge
to help one person from here to there over some difficulty
such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness, a bridge which opens the way
for ongoing journey.
When I become a bridge for another,
I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape from the small prison of self
and exist for a wider world, breaking out to be a larger being who can enter another’s pain and rejoice in another’s triumph.
I know of only one greater blessing in this life, and that is
to allow someone else to be a bridge for me.