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Raising World Changers

Raising World Changers

My daughter “got in trouble” at school a couple months ago. “Got in trouble” is in quotes because, like all sensitive children, her perception of trouble is a far cry from any actual trouble. Still, the recess teacher did talk to her and that counts in her book.

The problem happened during a game of 4-square. There was a disagreement over whether the ball was in or out of bounds. Eventually the disagreement escalated into a full-blown argument and my daughter weighed in on the side of the underdog, a fellow new-kid in school who was now in tears over being yelled at by the others.

By the time the teacher got involved, both girls were crying. When my daughter relayed this part of the story, the hurt and outrage was still fresh in her voice. What really got to her wasn’t the disagreement about the game or the boundaries, it was the response of the teacher. In a reasonable effort to calm down two crying girls, the teacher said to them, “This isn’t a big problem, just let it go.”

But bless her heart, in my daughter’s eyes this was a big problem. Someone had been treated unfairly. “She’s new, mom! And no one would listen to her. They’re all friends already so they just believed what they wanted to believe.”

Several weeks ago, a fellow parent asked me how we’re supposed to raise children in a world like ours. With acts of violence splattered all over the news and fear running rampant, what can we do to keep our children safe?

I hear this question with a mother’s heart. My first instinct is to say, “Lock them up in a safe-house.” And when that turns out to be impractical, maybe we could let them out on occasion, with full-body armor and clear instructions to stay away from any trouble.

Of course this isn’t the response of my best self. This is the voice of my fearful self, worried about my child. This is the part of me that wakes up at 3 a.m. to worry about how I’ll keep her safe when all I see is danger. But that part of me forgets that there’s a whole world of children out there and every one of them is precious.

This is why the real secret to raising children in today’s world isn’t to create safety, it’s to build courage.

The world is full of unfairness. It’s full of people banding together against the powerless, watching out for their own interests. But it’s also full of people who are standing together to create a new power structure. It’s full of people who are willing to cry over injustices that aren’t their own, and to demand that people listen when they might not want to otherwise.

Raise those people.

When my daughter told me this story, I just hugged her and assured her that I knew the teacher hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings. “Tomorrow will be a better day,” I said.

What I wish I’d added was this: you did the right thing. Standing up for someone who is hurting is the best way to be human. Sometimes people won’t listen. But sometimes they will. That’s what makes it worth it.”

This is how we raise children in a world like ours: we do it bravely.



When Fear Takes Hold

When Fear Takes Hold

Don’t be afraid.

The words came as a still, small voice in my head as I reeled from the Paris attacks.  Don’t be afraid.  I recognized these words, of course I did.  They appear in the Bible a gazillion times.  (365, actually, but not always in context.)  They did nothing for me.  The fear was weighing me down like plate mail armor and the biblical command ricocheted off without making the smallest dent.

I spent two days like this, wrestling with the terror and looking for comfort.  While others were praying for Paris, I sat mute in the horror.  I was sad, angry and afraid but the desperation wasn’t turning me toward God.  It was turning me inward, making me look for a way to shut out the dangers.  I honestly spent some time wondering if it was possible to just check out of this world altogether.  Could we buy a bit of land in some undiscovered corner of the world where no one could find us?  Could we stay where we are but never leave our home?  Was there any hope, when violence lurks in schools and movie theaters, on street corners and concert halls?  “Don’t be afraid,” seemed a mockery, a PollyAnna optimism that has no place in the aftermath of tragedy.  

I never found any comfort.  There are no words of reassurance for this situation, no promises that all will be well, that everything is under control.  What I found instead was the Gospel.  Not the cheap-grace “look at the bright side” version but the real, true, “What are you willing to sacrifice for another” version.  Oddly enough, It came to me via Twitter. It came as people rose up against the news that politicians were calling for a “pause” to accepting Syrian refugees.  (A “pause,” being a lovely, safe way of saying, “We’re going to let them die while we debate this.”)  

“I would rather die at the hands of a terrorist than be the kind of human who turns away from suffering,” someone tweeted.  I don’t know this person, I don’t even know why I saw this tweet but I do know that it hit me with all the force of an altar call at an 18th century revival meeting.  This is the Gospel.

Somewhere along the way, I had confused “don’t be afraid,” with “there’s nothing to fear.”  Those are two different things and only one of them is the way of Christ.  

Look, politicians will be trying to provide comfort.  They are looking to keep us safe.  They will be talking about risks, vetting processes and financial resources.  They do this because they, too, are scared and also because they want to look like they have the easy answer for a complicated problem.  But at the end of the day, we simply cannot let these discussions sidetrack us.  

The way of Christ was never, ever a way of safety.  

Believe me, that comes as hard news to me as I sit in my cozy house, typing away on my laptop as evening settles in.  So you all are going to have to help me out here.  We’re going to have to press forward together, not because we think we’re safe but because we believe that the way of love is worth the sacrifice.

The one bright spot I see in this whole mess is that we have companions on the journey.  I have been proud of Christianity, proud of the larger Church itself, in its response to the refugee crisis and the concerns of terrorism.  I have seen you all posting on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram demanding that refugees continue to be accepted.  I watched the statements from leaders across denominations roll in on Monday and I cried tears of pride and hope.  While the voice of fear is still clamoring, I’m hearing the voice of Christians raising above the din demand that we let compassion win out over fear.   

So let’s keep going.  Let’s walk the walk as well as we’ve talked the talk.  Let’s not let our passion get cold with the news cycle, or our comfortable commitments get in the way of real love.  Instead, let’s keep lobbying our government leaders, looking for ways to volunteer  and flooding relief agencies with donations.  Let’s drop the plate mail of fear and go into the world vulnerable and unprotected, clothed only in the clothes of Christ.  Let’s remember that while it is human to long for safety and comfort, it is Christ-like to long for peace and sacrifice.