Some stories are like restorative prayers. They invite (no, they require) retelling, for the healing of our spirit and our soul.
In the tragic war in Sarajevo, a reporter covering the fighting and violence in the middle of the city, watched a little girl 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.
We live in a world that can be cruel and merciless. That is not new. But for some reason, it continues to shock and dishearten us.
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 we wound with intolerance and small-mindedness (some of it in the name of “love” and God).
“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.
These days, I have moments when I lose my faith. My faith in goodness and in hope.
This is not a shortcoming in my psyche (something I need to berate myself for, and nurse guilt). No, I lose my faith, because I have forgotten. I need to be reminded…
Here’s the deal: that child, cradled in the arms of that man, 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. 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.
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.
So, 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 the reminder of the light that burns inside every one of us. The Imago Dei… this little light of mine…
This is important. When we remember, it is a practice of indispensable self-care. Indispensable because all care and compassion and cradling and listening and healing must begin with self-care.
Again, Mother Teresa, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
So. What does it mean to embrace the gifts of this child?
Or to embrace the gifts of the child within you?
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. And simplicity is always a wonderful thing. 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 to embrace and to be embraced.
Is it possible that we don’t trust our own goodness?
Remembering is a way we put our faith and hope on the line.
We put love on the line, every time (with the wisdom of tenderness) we open ourselves to the frustrations and failures and magnitude of loving.
“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.”
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.
It snowed all this past week, but today in the PNW our snow is gone. So I spent time in the garden. I cleared perennial beds, and I pruned roses. For gardeners, this is heaven. And if you sneak up on us, you’ll see a pretty full-sized grin. (It helps that we have ibuprofen waiting for us in the house.)
I watched the Olympic closing ceremony. And I used a sentence I’ve never used before, “US Men Win Curling Gold.” Who knew? (My question, what are they shouting as they are sweeping the ice in front of the rock?)
And I took heart in this news bit from a pub in Wrexham, in northern Wales, “Customers at The Fat Boar will get 25% off food bills for giving up their phones as part of its ‘Mobile Free Monday.’”
Quotes 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
This week, go deeper. Chose a phrase from Sabbath Moment that
invites you to revisit and remember.
Note: Versions of the Sarajevo story are quoted by both Jim Wallis and Max Lucado.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Guard Your Heart
She takes the bird into her hands
and brings it near
to hold it in her crossed arms
her fingers tight together
as if it would slip away.
She hugs it to her
as if holding could revive it
as if she could protect it
from every kind of harm.
She looks into the distance
and all her energy
sinks into the heart, beating,
warmth to warmth, as if
it could fly again.
Beannacht / Blessing
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.