What an important question posed by the Ali Michael, author of an online post entitled What Do we Tell the Children? Its advice lingers in my mind. Here are her talking points:
- Tell them we will protect them. Tell them that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage.
- Tell them you will honor the outcome of the election, but you will fight bigotry. Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.
- Teach them how to be responsible members of a civic society. Teach them how to engage in discussion—not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of understanding and being understood.
- To ease their minds, remind them (and I am paraphrasing) that people cast votes for lots of different reasons.
Let me just say, God BLESS all of you who are serving on the front lines with children who, because of the election outcome, fear for their families, themselves and their futures. In the name of all children I am considering this question: What do we tell the children?
The answer I hear in our nation is:
- Sometimes adults may say this, but you shouldn’t.
- Sometimes adults might do this, but you shouldn’t.
- Sometimes adults watch this, but you shouldn’t.
- Hey kids! This is adult stuff. You’re too young to understand.
And by ‘adult’ we mean… These are “adult drinks,” this is “adult entertainment,” this is for “mature audiences only,” caution there is “adult language.” These are “adult issues” kids, don’t bother your little heads about these things. The adults are here to protect you.
Are we? Are we entitled to engage in all these behaviors, dabble in all these things, and then excuse ourselves because we are being “adults”? Do we really think our kids are this naive?
The term family values has been bantered about and, apparently, has gotten the boot from our political process because we can’t agree on its proper usage. But what if we used our children as the litmus test for our own behavior? What do we tell the children about what’s going on in their world? in our world? in the world we are meant to share?
Early this morning, I got my first word on the election results via WhatsApp from my young adult daughters who were distraught, saddened, angered and fearful. Instantly, my brain went blank and my vision was clouded by the tears of an unbidden prayer. “I’m so very, very sorry for the world you have inherited,” I responded. “PLEASE go and change it.”
As one devastated mom I set out on a very long run-walk. Two hours later I returned wondering this: If my life were a prayer, how would I live it? After all, my life is what people see. Some of those people are children.
If my life were a prayer, how would I live it?
May God forgive us and help us forgive each other that we might draw closer and do better, ever to praise His Holy Name.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. ~ Ephesians 5: 1-5
News travels fast. At 2:24pm on Tuesday afternoon my daughter, who lives in DC, messaged me asking, “Do you know what’s happening on Point Rider Lane?” She had seen a news link, shared on Facebook by a friend from her middle school soccer team who was concerned about the helicopters flying over her house. I didn’t have an immediate answer, but soon I would. What does one do with news like this? As our Pastor put it yesterday, “the worst possible news.”
We do what people do in hard times. We gather and share the news.
Yesterday, I pulled into the church parking lot past an oddly marked vehicle. In the driver’s seat sat a man furiously typing on his laptop. I thought this odd because, as usual, I was arriving only minutes before the start of the service. Why wasn’t the man getting out and coming in? When I walked by, the ads printed on the side of his car told me why. He was from the media, probably on deadline to submit this morning’s story.
Floris UMC worship was news. And the news outlets were reporting it.
I felt a little odd, then, walking into the service. Wasn’t sure what I would find there. But I was greeted, as usual. Welcomed, as usual. Seated, as usual, although the sanctuary seemed a bit more full than usual. The sermon title had changed, but we were still welcoming new members and handing out Bibles to our 3rd graders. Just like usual. Then we sang our opening hymn, so familiar, so fitting: I Love to Tell the Story.
It felt a bit ironic but so fitting. Today, an old, old story was breaking news.
We are a community suffering through tragedy. And so we come. To be comforted and to connect. To ask questions with no answers. We bring our grief and our sorrow. But we come. Tom Berlin’s wonderful heart for all of us was poured out in his words.
Tom brought to mind a message I heard this summer delivered by Rob Fuquay, a pastor in NC. The theme was the “I am” statements of Jesus. Rob was teaching from John 11:25-26. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus lay in the tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Rob asked us if we could put our trust in this. Rest in this. Because the resurrection was not just for those who have died but for the many left behind, the people who have to live with death. Who carry grief.
Tom cautioned us that “grief carried casually can easily convert to anger.” So, so true, Tom. Thank you. But grief, cradled carefully, the way our church has helped us carry it this week, can be made alive again. Life, not resuscitated, but resurrected.
As the song goes…I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true; It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old old, story that I have loved so long. I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
What a privilege we have as keepers of the whole story… of Jesus and His love.