There is a wise lady at church, Sister Avis, who tells me that I am so young and how time goes so quickly especially as we get older. I think it was just after the Easter lilies were cleared off the altar that she said something like, “Christmas is coming!” And here we are. She was right. Christmas is here and 2012 nearly accounted for. The pages of the calendar have been full this year and of course, there are twenty bajillion things for which we can and must bow our heads. Luke and I are filthy rich when it comes to material and spiritual blessings: moving arms and legs, people that love us and cheer-lead us, employment that is meaningful and a Savior that we believe has come to deliver this weary world and secure our Hope.
Speaking of immeasurable blessings, scrolling through my Facebook news feed is better than peering through the windows in a maternity ward. So many lovely people I know are bringing life into this world. Seriously, it feels like there are bellies popping out everywhere. And next, the babies: these tiny hes and shes with perfect names and toes and expressions on their faces. They come out alive and kicking and in a matter of moments, bam! love wins. Things are never the same. I have never held a tiny person I grew inside me and felt my soul change, but I do believe I have an itsy bitsy baby idea of what mothering might be like.
Sometimes, I think about my counseling room as an incubator all its own. A little cocoon. Womb. A place where the babes I see get to be born some more, explore the world some more…alive, kicking, and wondrous like they were when they were two days old. “I said that!” they get to say. ” I want more!” they get to dream. “I am okay,” they have sorted out. And I get to listen and say Yes. I have heard with all of my ears and all of my eyes and all of my heart what you have said and I acknowledge what this means. You do not know how my heart and tear ducts swell when I think about this very precious kind of swaddling I get to do.
And no matter if we are 3 or 11 or 27, don’t we all kind of need this at some point or another? To be reminded of who we are like the people that ooogled over us when we came out in that hospital room? Don’t we all need to scream without abandon and be held that way too? To be celebrated for the beautiful work, the beautiful life that has begun? For gosh sakes, we are the same exact human being we were then. Bigger brains, bigger bodies. But still, vulnerable spirits and delicate. Some days, we all need swaddles.
Last Friday, we felt vulnerability in the very worst-in-the-world kind of way. And still, I feel pretty dead inside when I think about Sandy Hook. Everyone tells me to turn off the news and stop looking at their faces: their sweet picture day, jack-o-lantern, familiar looking grins. So, sometimes I do. I do turn it off because it is too big for me or it is time for me to go to sleep. But sometimes, I do not because we must grieve this together. This tragedy belongs to us, friends. Those families cannot be alone. And if my horse-loving, craft-making comedian of a six year old was shot, I think I would want people to swaddle me, and to care. Like, really really really care. Not in a, “oh that’s so awful I can’t think about it too hard” kind of way. That’s shallow, and if December 14th, 2012 taught us anything it might be that we cannot afford to be shallow.
In times of tragedy, I know we try to make a teensy bit of sense out of senseless things. I want to know, like everyone, if there was anything that moved this 20 year old boy to these actions. I think of the kids I work with in my practice who are suffering emotional distress on a lesser scale. Most of the time, they have no blessed idea why. If I sat a child in my therapy room and said, “Now tell me why you are kicking the other kids in your class,” it wouldn’t work. They know something feels uncomfortable, they hurt, they don’t like it, and their response is, well, less than stellar in our adult opinions. The emotion runs deeper than the reason: this is a neurological fact in young children. In the same manner, we do not ask a boy with a fresh gash in his arm why he screams in pain. We figure out what he needs, what kind of wound it is and how his body responds to certain medicine. Next, the medication stings, he resists, but slowly, with help, he begins to bear the pain. Then, perhaps, he might be calmed down enough to tell us what in the world he was doing to create such a gash in his arm. In the same way, we must give our children the tools to feel before they develop their self-insight. We must teach our children to bear their own emotional pain and to help others do the same. We must teach them to use all of their hearts. And we must teach them with all of ours.
Of course I don’t know what was going on with this monster of a shooter. But I do know, he wasn’t always a monster. At one point in time he was our baby just like the victims are. And in my humble opinion, I might venture the guess that the shooter didn’t know what was wrong with him either, but by gosh, something was wrong, terribly wrong and now all we have is a horror story to tell.
I have searched Scriptures these past couple of days desperate for hope. Desperate for the light that people are talking about this season, the light that can’t be shut out, that flickers on. I have lit candles and read the names of the victims out loud. But most of all, I have clung to this verse from The Message translation of Hebrews 13:3 “Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.”
In Chapter 13, the writer of Hebrews is telling recently converted Christians how to be Christians. He is giving them practical guidelines. He is saying that we must lean into our brother’s suffering and musn’t ever, ever begin with judgement, but with pure heart: the really, really pure 7-year old, freshly swaddled kind of heart.
So let us start here. Let us all be mommas and daddies and professional swaddlers and givers of light. And let’s teach our babies to do it, too. And their babies. And their baby-dolls. Whatever. But, please, let’s make this the most important thing. More than the rat race and the degrees and the enlightening experiences is knowing how to love. Please. I know this tragedy makes God weep. I also know that God loves to give us hope in the most unexpected ways, and we must be looking. We must be looking for babies in barnyard stables, lying in mangers in swaddling clothes of His own. May you experience the redemptive grace and love of this Peace Baby in your homes, in your hearts, in each other. May we all.