Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

God is Love

Last night my family got the chance to join together with over four hundred other community members to march on the campus of North Central College in support of the power of love to win out over hate. This is Anti-hate week at North Central and as a part of that event the college had scheduled a showing of a film called "The Anatomy of Hate." The film looks at the way in which fear instincts in humans can sometimes lead to violent and primal reactions to groups that we believe to be a threat to us. It takes a closer look at hate motivations in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Iraq war and highlights a couple of hate groups in the US, including Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS which protests at the funerals of US soldiers because they believe war deaths are God's punishment on the US for tolerating the homosexual lifestyle. WBC had threatened to protest the showing of the film at North Central, calling the school "pervert-run." That threat (which turned out to be empty) was what motivated over four hundred people to march in a show of resistant love. It also meant that four hundred people (instead of let's say maybe 30-50) turned out to see the movie and spent time thinking about where hate comes from and how to recognize it in ourselves. Even though the protesters didn't show-up, it was a powerful night. With all the recent suicides in the news because of gay-bullying, the back and forth on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the legislative battle over the right to marry, it felt like a historic night to stand outside with a group of people from very different backgrounds and perspectives and proclaim love above all else. It felt like what the people of God should be doing. I am grateful that my family could participate together, and I hope that one day when I tell the story to Micah and tell her that she was there with us, she'll be amazed that it ever happened at all because of the progress we will have made. I want to be on the right side of history. I want the people of God to get this right so that we don't have to look back in shame anymore.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. - 1 John 4:7-8

Check out the trailer for "The Anatomy of Hate"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Power of Choice

Before I ever got pregnant I knew that I would choose to stay home with my baby and be a full time Mom. I'm sure that I didn't fully understand all of the realities of that kind of choice at the time, but most days I am still glad I made it. I am definitely not saying it is the right choice for everyone. This post is not an examination of what mothers should or shouldn't do, or what positive and negative impacts working or staying home has on children and their moms. I realize that there are pros and cons on both sides and that it is an issue that is often hotly debated with guilt, anger, and frustration coming from both sides. So let's just turn down the heat right away. I'm not interested in entering into that debate. I don't have a side. Or at least my "side" is that mothers should make the choice that works best for them and for their particular family situations. What I am interested in is the power of choice. The freedom to make a choice is often one of the things that sets Middle and Upper Class mothers apart from mothers living in poverty. (Also sometimes separates single moms from moms who have the benefit of a partner.) I had the luxury of making my own choice about working or staying home. Many women do not have that same luxury.

Lately I've been feeling a little weary of being home with Micah everyday. I love her and I love spending time with her, but she is in a particularly fussy stage that can grate on me over the long hours of a day. And it has been a little painful for my ego that as soon as her daddy comes home she wants nothing more to do with me and often reaches for him when we are out in public and cries if I try to hold her. My logical brain tells me that this is just a stage. That she sees me all the time and takes for granted that I will always be there, but doesn't get nearly as much time with her Dad. That I should be happy that she loves her daddy so much and that I should be grateful for the break since I obviously need one. Even so, it makes me feel bad. There have been some hard, emotional days for me lately, but one thing that I always know in the back of my head is that ultimately I still have a choice. If I ever decided that being a stay at home Mom was just not for me, I know that I could start looking for a job and for a daycare. That thought never stays in my head for more than a second, because I know it's not what I want, but there is something comforting about knowing that the choice is mine.

I know a refugee Mom in her mid twenties who has six children, four of whom are kindergarten or younger. She stays home with her children, but she really wants to work. She grew-up in a refugee camp in Kenya with almost no education. She is not literate, not even in her first language. She has no work experience and very limited English. Even if she could find a job, it would not pay more than minimum wage. And there is still the issue of four small kids at home who would need childcare. There is also the problem of transportation, since she does not own a car or have a license. Her husband works, but she stays home. She could try to work the night shift when her husband could be home with the kids, but even so she would still be home with kids all day. She is a stay at home mom like me, but not like me because she has no real choice.

I know another refuge woman whose husband was injured on the job and then fired by the company instead of cared for under workman's comp. After that incident the man could not find work and so the woman, who had been working only a part-time job starting to work two jobs to take care of her family. (It took two jobs for her to make as much as husband had at one because he had worked for the company for several years.) She wanted to be home with her young daughter, but now she had no choice. She worked all day and often late into the evening and didn't even get home until after her daughter had gone to bed. She is a working mom, but not by choice. I'm sure there are also many single moms who would love to stay home with their children, but they have no choice. They must work.

Sometimes I hear middle class working moms say that they also have no choice. They must work. In some cases that might be true, but also sometimes those moms have made other choices about what kind of lifestyle they expect that in itself is a choice. It is true that in order to drive certain cars or live in certain kinds of houses or wear certain kinds of clothes that many women must work outside the home, but that lifestyle is a choice. It is a very different thing to work because you must in order to feed, clothe, and shelter your child with the basics.

Choice is a luxury that I often take for granted, especially after a particularly difficult day being a mom. Choice is freedom. Choice is hope. And choice is just one of the things that poverty steals from people. I am so grateful that even in my most difficult days as a mom, I still have the power to choose. And I want to make sure that I never forget all the millions of mothers here and around the world who do not have the luxury of a choice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Troubling Headlines on my Mind

There are a lot of things that I am unsure of, but one thing I know for sure is that having Micah has woken me up from a deep spiritual sleep that I didn't even know I was in. Sometimes when I hold her; really hold her, not just to get her dressed or change or her diaper or keep her from jamming something sharp or dirty or electrical in her mouth, but hold her. Treasure her. Breathe her in. I get this little glimpse of holiness as if I too had somehow reached out and touched the hem of God's robe and felt the sacred power enter me. When I look at her and really see her, remembering that she was once just a little speck of a fish swimming inside me and now she is here and real and warm and full of light, I feel as if I am standing in the presence of God. Not because she is some perfect child. Far from it. She is as fussy and demanding as any sticky, clingy toddler can be. But because as her mother I have a unique front row seat to see up close the image of God sparking in her. And now I really know for the first time that all that stuff about each of us containing the image of God is actually true. I have always believed it. But Micah has given me the gift of seeing it. It might sound crazy, but the feeling is so overwhelming sometimes that I don't know whether to dance or pray or burst into tears. The swell of love in me is so much bigger than my tiny soul could possibly hold. I know that it must come from something bigger than me. Something I call God.

These last few weeks the news headlines have been flooded with stories of young people who took their own lives because of bullying related to their sexual orientations. My heart aches for the mothers of those once babies. Babies, who like Micah, carried within them the image of God. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if Micah grew-up and discovered that she was gay. I don't mean that I wonder whether I would accept her. There is no question in my mind about that. I mean I wonder what I would do about my relationships with other people...family, friends, church folk, who might try to tell her and me that she was somehow less. Who might try to diminish the image of God within her. Who might think they are being kind by saying "love the sinner hate the sin" but all time are still alienating and rejecting my baby, my love, my very window to the wonder of God.

No matter what you think about this issue, too many children are dying. Too many mothers are weeping. History is going to judge us harshly on this one. When I think about Micah being put in that situation I feel fiercely protective. I would shout my love and support for her from the rooftops. I would reject any person or institution that tried to deny the image of God in her. I would do whatever I could to protect her life and her spirit and her joy. So why should I feel any different about any other Mother's child?