Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Stop and think before rushing in...

I shall surely bungle this, but here goes...

I think, perhaps, one of the greatest errors in being around wounded people is those who take on the task of binding up those wounds, of healing or even "fixing" the person, as if they are in need of repair.  Few actually have that vocation.  To try and heal when that is not your calling, not your gift, can end up hurting the wounded person more.

So often, we want to do something...anything...and in the longing to be doing something great or grand or sweeping, we lose sight of that which we are called to do to our wounded brothers and sisters.  Speak the Gospel to them.

There is a woman who is not well mentally and physically.  She is not really capable of independence right now, much less caring for her children, one of whom has been hurt.  A number of folk are trying so hard to fight a process by which she is losing her home and her children.  But this quote from Jurassic Park keeps popping into my mind: "They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."  It is a movie line that has stayed with me ever since I first heard it.  How often do we rush in?  And, in so doing, how often do we miss what is important?  

In this situation, what stands out to me is that no one is trying to help the hurt child.  She is secondary.  Yet, to me, her mother clearly cannot care for her right now, and as horrible as that might be, it is best that she and her siblings live in a place where they are nurtured.  They are not adults.  They should not be caring for their mother and scrambling to keep from being evicted.

Of course, I have very mixed feelings about children I have seen who are put in positions of caring for siblings and for the household.  What is a child's vocation?  I believe it is one thing for a child to learn responsibility by caring for her room and his things and by helping with chores.  But, to me, it is altogether a different thing for a child to be responsible for the care and upkeep of a home or the well-being of a sibling while parents are otherwise engaged.  Not merely brief times, but where that care and upkeep are a large part of the child's day, the child's life.  But...that is my conflicted heart.

Here, in this situation, the hurt child needs physical and mental care that the mother cannot and has not provided.  The mother's actions have put herself, and by extension, her children in danger.  So, why is everyone so concerned about doing whatever it takes to convince the authorities to not intervene in this family?

A few years ago, there was a case of a foster child who assaulted a child in the home where he was staying.  Because he was from a troubled home and was troubled himself, the social workers and parents spent all their focus on him.  A week later, when I learned of what happened, I asked the social worker to the foster family how the assaulted child was doing.  The social worker replied, "I do not know.  I have not talked to her."  A miopic response if ever there was one.

That little girl needed help, immediate help and long-term help.  Yet all the adults in her life were focusing their energy on trying to keep her foster brother from getting into further trouble with the choice he made.  And some were professionals!  Staggers the mind. 

In truth, the professionals were so busy trying to sweep what happened under the rug, they did not stop to ask why the mother was not fighting for her daughter.  In the end, we learned the mother was abusing the foster son and didn't want him removed from the home lest his plight come to light.  In all the visits to the home, no one helped the boy and so he hurt the girl.  No excuse.  He made a terrible choice and has to face the consequences of his actions.  But he was doing what he was taught to do in a place that was supposed to be safe for him.  No one saw anything.  No one was really looking.  And when they were forced to look they still did not see clearly because of the fear of the impact the situation would have on their license.

In this recent situation, well-meaning Christian folk are so busy trying to solve the problem that they have not stopped to understand what exactly is the problem and to question if they should be trying to solve the problem in the first place.  The battle cry is to keep the family together.  But I keep wondering why no one is stopping to measure the cost of doing on on the lives of the children.

Instead of trying to solve a problem, I believe those well-meaning people should focus their energies on sharing the sweet, sweet Gospel.  That is, after all, what they are given to do.  It is not a difficult task in and of itself.  The Gospel is clearly laid out for us.  We have rich and varied language with which to speak it.  But speaking the sweet, sweet Gospel to those who are wounded does have its own challenges.  Perhaps that is why others seem so intent on fixing the person, on solving the problem, instead of working to share that which can heal, can bind up wounds, can give strength and sustenance to the wounded person  and do so in greater and more profound ways than any of our "fixing" can ever accomplish.

For the wounded person, the sweet, sweet Gospel can be painful to hear, its dissonance with her own experience reverberating against his wound and obscuring sight and hearing.  No matter.  Keep speaking.  For the wounded person, the sweet, sweet Gospel can be quite elusive to grasp.  No matter.  Keep speaking.  For the wounded person, the sweet, sweet Gospel can be rather frightening, unfamiliar and utterly foreign to that which she knows and understands.  No matter.  Keep speaking.

Dr. Yahnke teaches about the need for sacrificial listening when addressing pastoral care for those who are suicidal.  That need fits all wounded people.  I think, however, she should add the need for sacrificial speaking of the sweet, sweet Gospel and broadened this task to include the mercy Christian brothers and sisters can show the wounded.  We are called to speak the sweet, sweet Gospel to each other, to share the message of Christ crucified.  When asked how many times we should forgive someone, wondering if it should be even as many as seven times, Christ answers we should forgive them seventy times seven, a number seemingly so large as if to say there is no end to forgiving.  If someone had asked Him how many times we should speak the sweet, sweet Gospel to others, I imagine the answer would be the same.  Seventy times seven.  No matter.  Keep speaking.

Why?  Because we underestimate and oft lose sight of the awesome power of the Living Word.  This is because of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, which no one can praise enough.  For it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do. [BOC, LC, IV, 17-18]  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. [Isaiah 55:10-11]  

It is Jesus who heals the broken hearted and bind up wounds, to free the captive and to heal the sick (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18; and Matthew 9:12).  It is Jesus who will bring rest to the weary, break through our fears and despair and give them true peace (Matthew 11:28 and John 14:27).  It is Jesus, not us.  It is Jesus, so speak the sweet, sweet Gospel so that the Holy Spirit can sow that Living Word into the hearer and accomplish the work He is given to do.  

We do not have to worry if our speaking is enough or will be enough.  We do not have to heal or fix or save the wounded person.  All we really have to do is trust that God will work through those whose vocations it is to bind up wounds and to heal and focus on that which we are given to do:  pray for our wounded brothers and sisters and to speak the sweet, sweet Gospel to them.

Whether the woman and her children remain together is in God's hands, as played out through those whose vocations places them in a position to be the hands and voice of Christ to the mother and her children.  It is not, in my opinion, the call of her Christian brothers and sisters to do so.  They can pray for her and with her.  They can listen to her.  They can speak the sweet, sweet Gospel to her.  They can visit her.  They can visit her children, if removed from the home.  They can speak the sweet, sweet Gospel to her children for her. And they can help her find an advocate whose vocation it is to walk her through the processes and choices she faced.  They can also serve her in body as occasion arises, such as cooking for her, driving her to an appointment, cleaning her home, washing her clothing.  Those are the things that are good and right and salutary for them to be doing.  They should not, even in the best intentions, stand as an obstacle to the processes that are designed to protect children and families.  They should not presume to know what is best medically and mentally for this woman and for her children.

I ache for the mother in her illness and depression and fear and hopelessness.  But I also ache for the daughter in the confusion and hurt she faces with a wound, that if left untended, can fester and breed shame and despair for a lifetime.  My prayer is that God, in His infinite wisdom, provides for the well-being of the mother and her children in a manner that is pleasing to Him, to His intended good of all involved, and that the Christians in her life will walk beside her and share with her the sweet, sweet Gospel that she might be comforted and healed, if not in this life, then when she is restored in glory.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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