Lately, John the Baptist, the locust eater, has been bugging me.
John the Baptist is in prison and wondering if the Spirit that was like a dove alighted on the right man. And, against protocol, the last great prophet, passed that doubt on to his underlings who went to Jesus and asked. So Jesus sent word that "The Blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Mathew 11:5-6) John knew about the miracles. So the more important part of the message was, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." Jesus basically said, I am doing miraculous things, but I'm not going to rescue you. You'll be blessed if you don't fall away but here on this Earth, things are not looking good for you. Remember, don’t fall away.”
John may have died wondering if Christ was the messiah. If I had gone through my entire life eating locusts and honey and wearing camel skins out in a desert for Christ, my cousin, I'd expect a little preferential treatment. And when it didn't come, I might wonder just for whom my head was being offered up on a plate.
For lack of a better phrase, this scares the heaven out of me.
Last night we took Elise to the emergency room for what I thought was a broken arm, but what turned out to be nursemaid's elbow. We also learned that this isn't really a serious thing and that it is a relatively easy adjustment of the arm (At your infant’s next visit to a doctor ask what to do and save yourself the trip to the emergency room and the money.) But we learned this sometime after one in the morning after having cowered in a corner of the emergency room for two hours fending off the germs from five other toddlers who looked sweaty and splotchy red and unhappy. And just before the nurse entered, Elise, gave Eric a high five with the bad arm. The one that, prior to that moment, when touched caused her to howl like a lemur.
As the doctor told us, while he filled out the paperwork to facilitate our hundred dollar payment, these things can work themselves out on their own.
Mayans believe that where the roots of the Jaguar tree meet the ground there are entrances to the underworld. I'm pretty sure they are wrong. I think those entrances open in the corners of Emergency room waiting areas behind plastic ficus trees. Last night I was about to check, when I looked around and realized how many teenagers had entered the waiting room holding ice packs and looking beaten about the ears with haggard, bleary-eyed parents following in their wake. I had harbored a fancy that my life would be easier once Elise was old enough to know not to eat marbles or climb into burning fireplaces or "walk" down stairs frontward. But in the ER I realized that oasis of calm just past the desert of toddlerhood is but a mirage. And now I know that my heart, which my son had kicked into my throat during my first pregnancy, like the stretch marks under my belly button is there to stay.
I guess the irony is that kids make it hard to live in God's kingdom, but they daily confront us with the need to do so. I want to add extra locks to our doors, dress my son in football pads before he rides his bike and saran wrap my daughter to a bedpost to keep her from opening the childproofed cabinets with all the cleaning supplies--again. But this is no way to live, and to do so--to pass fear like an inheritance on to my children is murder.
And so, as I sit over another cup of coffee this morning and allow Elise to sleep off her, well, our long night, I am confronted with another sleepless night truth--we all sacrifice our children. We all, slowly or all at once, tie them to an alter to the gods we so desire or fear and then unless we glimpse a ram in a thicket we will draw our swords. It cannot be helped. And the alternative, in light of John the Baptist’s experience, looks scary to me. God asks for them without any warranty or guarantee on this Earth.
So now I have to go back to my quiet place and think. What does Christ save us from? What peace does he offer in the midst of such demands? Are there guarantees? How do I raise able spirited children in Cain’s world?
In the ER though, with its entrances to other realms close by, our realities prove false and we see the world for what it is. In the ER those questions are asked in a moment of clarity--exceedingly rare in our comfortable existence. And as a mother I recognize that I often times straddle the line between two Kingdoms. This kingdom, the one I perfect says, “Protect your children.” But Christ, who sees me with one foot on a sinking ship says, “Give them to me.” He tells me that my children do not need safety for He has conquered death. They need significance and lives of abundance—lives not for me to define.
God asked Abraham for his son. In my reality, the story seems like a cruel joke on an earnest man blinded by blind religion. But God is forever reminding us that we see only a little and that he is a Jealous God-- he competes with something else for our very lives. And so when Abraham binds Isaac to the alter, in these moments of clarity, I wonder which alter I am binding my children upon and will that God provide a ram in the ticket.