I grew up during a civil war. It was a vicious and bloody affair, complete with all the expected atrocity and horror. It was also a confusing war. Why is everyone fighting? I wondered as a ten-year-old child. Why are people trying to hurt and scare each other?
I sensed early on that most of the grown-ups around me were frightened.
‘The war’ (as it came to be known) was ultimately about acquiring and asserting power, as most usually are. Neighbor betrayed neighbor. Husbands were ambushed in the night and their widows took up arms. Babies were dashed against rocks; forests cut down to stumps; homes were desecrated and seized; and verdant fields torched. There were too many funerals.
What will become of us? all the weary people said. How can all this terrible wrong ever be made right?
Growing up, it was never clear to me who the ‘bad guys’ were or what team we were supposed to be on. I didn’t know what people or tribe I was supposed to fear, and I credit my parents for nurturing the seedlings of charity – the deep love of humanity – that God plants in all children.
I sensed from a tender age that my mom and dad operated within a different framework than most: My parents were not afraid or dismayed in the war. They didn’t act angry or scared, even though they had every justifiable reason to do so.
I’m certain my parents had their private moments of trembling and doubt; they were raising five small children in a war after all, but overwhelmingly as a young girl – OVERWHELMINGLY – I sensed that mom and dad lived out a deep and expectant trust in the plans of God. They didn’t huddle up, hunker down, lash out, or wring their hands in despair. They hoped for all their people. They prayed expectantly for their country. They nourished their wounded community.
And this humane hope of my parents – the steady trust that God’s plans are for all our good – has shaped me forever.
And so for those of you who have young children in your life today, this is a serious question: What do your children sense is informing and shaping you in our culture’s war to gain and assert power?
What is your response – your tangible witness – to the children growing up in today? confusing culture? Do they sense the deep and abiding hope you have in God’s words and ways? Are they watching you trust, and pray, and nourish humanity with God’s help?
My parents gave me such a gift. They gave me a front-row seat to what it looks like to trust God – tangibly, and with charity – even in the throes of an inhumane war. My mom and dad regularly welcomed in mean, sick, depressed, black, white, drunk, rich, impoverished, atheist, racist, chauvinist, weary, bitter, oppressed, questioning, misguided, wrecked, and frantic people to our family’s table.
Because they hoped for all of these. They didn’t fear or avoid them. They didn’t belittle, berate, or give up on the most difficult and distressing individuals. They hoped for all of them, with God’s help. My parents went out and welcomed all people with peace and gladness, because their final hope was in the LORD.
Peace to you as you trust that God’s plans are for our good. May your children bear witness to the living hope that is in you, and may it shape and inform their lives forever.