Friday, December 14, 2012

There But For The Grace of God Go We

Parenting is an amazing combination of job, lifestyle, and heart-filled obsession. It makes your heart sing. It makes you sink to the depths of despair. 

It makes you vulnerable. 

Parenting rips you from a world that you can carefully construct to convince yourself that you are in control. Before having kids, you can work hard in school, get a good job, work for the right promotions, save and invest wisely, and construct a safe and comfortable world for yourself to inhabit. You can sculpt your body through marathons and trips to the gym to look and feel the way you want. You can live in the right neighborhood to have all of the conveniences you'd like. You can move the distance from family that you'd prefer - either as close or as far as is comfortable. Before having kids, you are in control of your life. And then you have kids and you suddenly aren't anymore.

Before the baby even arrives, it takes over your body. Sleeping, puking, with bulging belly and swollen ankles, it doesn't matter what you want your body to look like. The baby will have its own way with you. You can construct the perfect birth plan, but you can only have it if the baby agrees to enter the world the way you'd like. You spend the beginning of your child's life eating and sleeping at the child's whim, not your own. No matter how much you think you'll stay the same, having a child changes you.
And when you get past the hectic early days, you realize that you can again eat, sleep, and shower whenever you'd like. You start to feel in control again. 

And then horrible news splashes all over the internet, and you lose control. You see images of children being led from the school where their classmates were killed, and the tears are unleashed. The terrified faces of those children don't belong to strangers in another state, they belong to yours. You feel their fear, you want to comfort them and hold them. You see the anguished parents waiting to be reunited with their children, and you say a prayer that they will be holding their terrified children soon. You pray that they won't be one of the ones to get the bad news from the authorities - that theirs is one of the 18 (or more) children that were killed in the school. That they'll be setting one less plate at the dinner table from this night forward. That they'll have Christmas gifts under the tree that will never be opened. 

Parenting makes you vulnerable to fear. Vulnerable to the knowledge that you can't protect your children from everything. Vulnerable to the heartache that befalls other families. Because there, but for the grace of God, go we all. We are all in the same family. And none of us are in control.

I'm sure there will be a flurry of reactionary activity to follow this horrible school shooting. People will want to ban guns. People will insist on new rules to make schools safer. People will point fingers and place blame. I'm sure there's blame to go around. But really, it's just all a desperate measure to try to help us feel better, to help us feel that we have a bit of control over the situation. But none of us do. And let's face it, that's the tragedy that we're all mourning together today. We'd give our own lives to save our children. And sometimes we're not given that chance. 

So we should all pray for the families in Newtown, Connecticut. Not just today, but on Christmas. And New Years. And next Christmas. And the Christmas after that. And for the families all over this country who have lost children to violence. This is a horrible day for them too, because their child died all over again. They were actually there, in those heart-breaking news photos, once upon a time. And let's pray for all families, as we mourn our new-found loss of control. It's not the message we'd prefer to think about during the holiday season.

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