I have heard from more than a few people that my stories of our parenting journey scare them. Or maybe it makes them nervous about having kids. Or that they wish I could be a be more positive and share more happy stories.
Please know, I am incredibly grateful to have a healthy baby girl who is growing and developing and has many happy moments throughout the day. I know there are many out there who are having trouble conceiving or are waiting to adopt or have a child that is more challenging than ours. By sharing our story and experience, I am in no way trying to invalidate or one up yours.
I’m simply sharing our story and experience because that is what it is, our story.
Overall, we have actually had a very good week (knock on wood). Jimmie is beginning to smile more, she is very curious and observant, and she is much more content to just sit on your lap, lay on her play mat etc. It’s also been a tough week for other reasons but this week there seem to be many more little victories to celebrate.
Here’s the deal though; I think my experience of people sharing that my stories scare them, make them uncomfortable, or wish I could be more positive speaks to a deeper issue in our country and in North American Christianity. We don’t like stories that challenge (what we think is) the dominant narrative or cultural ideals. We are all living the American dream, right? Well actually, for far too many, they are living the American nightmare.
#blacklivesmatter makes us uncomfortable so we try to cover it up and silence it with the response #alllivesmatter on Twitter and Facebook. While a war rages in Syria and more and more families flee for their lives and children are found washed up on the shore, we are outraged that pictures are shared on social media and the news . . . because it makes us uncomfortable. Sure, we call it respecting the privacy of others or their grief but really, it’s about what those images stir within us that we don’t want to face.
While we remember September 11th and the thousands of American lives that we were lost, we are outraged when attention is drawn to the stories of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our country and around the world by the hashtag #afterSeptember11. Are we even aware or do we even care that hundreds of thousands of innocent people have lost their lives as a result of attacks that were not their fault? I heard it said this week that when the U.S. is attacked it’s called terrorism but when the U.S. attacks others it’s called foreign policy. We create the narratives that support our causes.
I come back to one of my favorite quotes I discovered in a slave castle museum in Ghana: “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero.”
When people ask me what it is like being a chaplain, the know there is lot’s of pain and grief but they only want me to share the success stories. When I’ve witness a miraculous recovery, when the cancer is gone, and when the transplant was received just in the nick of time. But what about the countless stories I experience every week when a family and their church and thousands and thousands of people all over the world are claiming and believing in a miracle and it doesn’t come? What about when the cancer isn’t cured? What about when their isn’t a match for a transplant or even calling to mind in prayer and conversation that while one family is celebrating a new liver, that means another family is grieving the loss of their loved one who provided that liver? Are their stories any less valuable, meaningful, or needed?
We need to create more space for stories that scare us. We need to have eyes to see and ears to hear voices and stories and experiences that make us uncomfortable. We need to make room for all of our voices and stories and experiences at the table of grace and love and learning.
Today I was out running and there was a group that was hosting a small race and the volunteers were handing out water. Most of the time these groups only provide water to those that are a part of the race, their group that have a number. That was not the case with the group that provided water today. They were handing out water to those participating in the race and those who just needed a drink. The volunteers offered me water and encouraged me to finish strong. I received water from the volunteers and I thanked them for their hospitality.
They are my neighbors. They are my brothers and sisters. And they happened to be Muslims.
Let us rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Let us share our stories of a struggles and our strengths. May there always be room for stories of death and resurrection. After all, that is the way of Jesus.