Snap

Written over three years ago, applicable this week.

Charis: Subject to Change

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I delete a lot of photos. Because the camera lies.

I have deleted photos of people with eyes half closed, limbs twisted in odd configurations and facial expressions from disgust to lust, none of which reflect the personality of the subject. They were snapshots of moments in time, captured moments on the way to more meaningful moments.

I kept this photo in my collection because I find it visually interesting. Some photos are like poems and condense an expression of an entire day into a moment. Some photos suggest cause for judgment where there is no actual cause. It is a snapshot. That is all.

Yesterday I realized how easy it is to make a snap judgment based on one moment. Social media can set these snap judgments in concrete. Mob justice is a terrifying thing. Mobs don’t have the time to make an effort to see the larger context. They grab…

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Who’s Fault Is It?

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It’s four o’clock in the morning and I am trying to console two terrified children. They want their mother. I am a stranger, and this is not their home. They came to the door in the middle of the night with a sleepy-looking social worker accompanied by a very big policeman in a squad car that looked just like the one that took their mommy away.

I know nothing about these children. Their ages, their health needs, their favourite foods, and their familiar comfort items are a mystery. I don’t even know the youngest boy’s name. He is either too young, too delayed, or too frightened to speak.

His pants are wet. Is he toilet-trained or do I need to find a toddler diaper? His sister screams and hits me when I try to take his soiled clothes off to clean him and put on a borrowed pair of dry pyjamas. She is sobbing so hard her entire body shakes.

I try to be kind and gentle. I speak softly and move slowly, but no matter what I do it is wrong, because I am the wrong person. I am not Mommy. They shouldn’t be here. They are traumatized.

By five a.m. they are exhausted enough to fall asleep. Their bodies jerk with sobs even in their sleep. I put them in the same bed for mutual reassurance and give them a piece of bread to hold because I have learned that in the absence of their own blankie or teddy bear, food is the next best comfort item. This whole thing is a game of “the next best.”

The other children in our foster home will start to wake soon. No use trying to go to bed now. I start to play the senseless game I have played before – the game of who’s fault is it?

I know if the media told this story they would cast me in the role of horrible foster-mother who only does this for money, treats the children with indifference, imposes my values, and makes two kids sleep in one small bed. They would use the situation to back which ever political faction they were supporting or philosophical ideal they were trying to fly in the continuing saga of Us and Them.

I am angry with their mother for making choices that foists her pain onto little kids, but I also wonder what injustices might have led to her desperate actions and put her in prison.

Where is their father? Is he also incarcerated? Does he have a substance abuse problem as well? Shouldn’t he be caring for his own kids in an emergency? What kind of father abandons his little ones?

Some people would blame the social worker for bringing them here or the government for not providing a receiving home with paid staff and enough private bedrooms for all the kids who need placement within an hour in an isolated northern town.

Was it the fault of the police officers who took the mother away and separated the children from her?

Was it the fault of the judge for imposing the law? How many times had she been in his courtroom before she used up all her chances? Was it the fault of the lawmakers who placed no responsibility on the men who treated her as a commodity or the pimp who terrorized her or the drug dealers whose wares kept her placated or the local gangs with their warlord-wanna-be leaders who ran more than we cared to know about?

Could I blame a bullying school system with teachers like the one who prophesied failure for one of my foster kids because of his race? Did they fail to teach the children’s mother how to succeed?

Were her parents there for her when she was a terrified three-year old or were they victims of someone who was raised in a residential school back in the old country himself? Were their parents and grandparents victims of aggressors and fraudulent schemes to grab their resources and break up families?

I want to know where on the chain to pin the blame because there are two helpless little victims here in my home and somebody besides them needs to pay. I want justice!

Eventually, as usual, I realize that we are all victims of someone else’s pain. Without hope, without someone who can break the chain of sin (and yes, let’s call it what it is) consequences of living out of the order God intended us to live in, a life of caring for each other based on love, not selfish gain, play on. The best we can do is assign blame and choose the victim who will carry the weight of all of this.

We are all victims of a victim of a victim going back to the first people who chose to believe the father of lies when he asked, “Did God really say…?” The whole thing plays out like a Rube Goldberg device with one thing knocking over another and doesn’t stop until it lands on the lowest, least powerful members of society.

Those children entered my life years ago. I can’t forget them. Not everyone can make room in their homes for needy children. I burned out, physically and emotionally. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep pushing my bio kids’ needs aside to try to clean up another mess. I was becoming alternately callous and shrill. The need is endless and I had a responsibility to my own first.

I felt like a failure, but it was exhausting. I didn’t like what I was becoming. I was in danger of turning into the stereotypical foster-mother who avoids attachment. I quit because empathizing with the children’s pain began to trigger my own pain. I quit to go get healing.

Jesus was there for me. He still heals hearts. He has the power to break every chain. He can break the cycle.

Yes, I see the reports of children separated from their parents on the border between Mexico and the USA. Yes, I hear the children’s cries and yes, I hear condemnation of Christians who supposedly don’t care. I have been reluctant to jump into the discussion because I have been on both sides of the line.

I have worked to re-unite families and I have defended the law and hidden victims of crime from their parents. I have shared my space and given everything I could and I’ve had to set boundaries to protect my family’s needs as well.

I believe that except for Jesus’ life-transforming power, there is no solution that does not make another human the consequence-bearer at the end of this chain, because this entire mess (and it is an unendurable mess) is the consequence of the sins of many people for a long time.

Who is to blame? We all are.

There are no white hats in this scenario – only varying degrees of grey hats. We have all sinned and fall short of receiving everything God provided for us to be who he created us to be. We can try to alleviate suffering, but we can’t go back and deal with the root causes. Without divine intervention we can only offer the next best thing, and, when we fail to transform hearts with well-meaning charity and political power, lower our standards and offer the next best thing… and the next… and the next…

Our best hope, our only hope, is to let go of each other’s throats, raise our empty hands to God, and cry, “Help!”

 

Heart Change

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Politics deals with externals: borders, wealth, crimes. Authentic forgiveness deals with the evil in a persons heart, something for which politics has no cure. Virulent evil (racism, ethnic hatred) spreads through society like an airborne disease, one cough infects a whole busload. When moments of grace do occur, the world must pause, fall silent, and acknowledge that indeed forgiveness offers a kind of cure. There will be no escape from wars, from hunger, from misery, from rancid discrimination, from denial of human rights, if our hearts aren’t changed.

-Philip Yancey

Expect

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Don’t be worried with evil workers
or envy the gains of people with all-wrong-upside-down ways.

Soon enough they will wither like grass,
like green herbs fading in summer’s heat.

Believe in the Eternal, and do what is good—
live in the land He provides; roam, and rest in God’s faithfulness.

Take great joy in the Eternal!
His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires!

Commit your path to the Eternal; let Him direct you.
Put your confidence in Him, and He will follow through with you.

He will spread out righteousness for you
as a sunrise spreads radiance over the land;
He will deliver justice for you into the light of the high sun.

Be still. Be patient. Expect the Eternal to arrive and set things right.
Don’t get upset when you see the worldly ones rising up the ladder.
Don’t be bothered by those who are anchored in wicked ways.

So turn from anger. Don’t rage,
and don’t worry—these ways frame the doorway to evil.

Besides, those who act from evil motives will be cut off from the land;
but those who wait, hoping in the Eternal, will enjoy its riches.

(Psalm 37:1-9 The Voice)

Are we there yet?

I want my newsfeed back. It seems to have been hijacked by some people who have noticed that there will be an election going on months from now –in another country –where I do not have a vote.

How many important stories about the conditions facing billions of other people in the world are being displaced by speculations about a few rich men as they jockey for position in a race which determines who gets to move on to the hemi-demi-semi final? You’d think they were running for the position of god. I pray for leaders everywhere, but sorry guys, that job competition is closed.

Here’s what I think: I think the ideal candidate would demonstrate the ability to come up with creative solutions to staying within a tight budget, be able to resolve disputes, show no favoritism, resort to force extremely rarely and then only to protect the most vulnerable from certain harm, inspire people to move in the same direction and to share their resources, have ties to neither lobbyists nor big business (including their own) nor be dependent on government hand-outs. They should respect other people’s beliefs no matter how weird, have a perfectly clean criminal record check, pay the same percentage of taxes as the average wage earner, respect the needs and hopes of parents, promote a safe clean environment for individuals to follow their dreams and develop their talents whilst obtaining a good educational foundation, be quick to deal with breaches of a well-defined code of conduct, place high value on good nutrition and health care for all, be constantly alert for outside threats,  make room for animals and respect nature. They should be able to speak well in front of groups and explain complex concepts in simple language. They should have the ability to think clearly in highly stressful, chaotic environments under threats of violence whilst inspiring hope and always having an eye to future development. They should be willing to lay down their lives for the people they serve, yet command respect for their position.

Yes, the ideal presidential candidate is a nursery school teacher.