I’ve had enough of being afraid.
A constant, ominous cloud of fear hovers over our culture. It encompasses all sorts of topics—democracy and disease, the economy and the future, racial justice and law enforcement.
But there’s one topic that hits close to home for many of us, no matter your stances on politics, vaccines, or masks.
Sure, most of us have a soft spot for kids in general; they’re vulnerable, innocent, and cute.
But I’m talking about the most tender, intimate, primal spot we have—the one for the kids who made us “Mom” or “Dad.” It’s a spot of overwhelming feelings of pride and joy, anger and disappointment, and love beyond words or conditions. It’s the spot where I feel fear for my kids’ wellbeing, and I’ve had enough of that.
The spot begins forming as soon as cells begin multiplying. We fear deformities and disabilities before we ever feel kicks, hear cries, or see smiles. Then we fear delivering and feeding babies and the numbers of dirty diapers changed and ounces gained. As they grow into kids, the list grows to include sugar, screen time, and bullying. With adolescence come fears of social media, mental health, and opioids.
There are fears associated with learning and school—concerns about reading and writing, counting and multiplying. But for most parents most of the time, those fears—while real and valid—are wispy, fleeting clouds of worry and concern.
Then in 2012, parents’ fears about school immediately switched from grades and tardies to their kids’ bodily safety as a shooting happened in an elementary school. The devastatingly tragic event shook the country, and schools mobilized to change procedures, emergency drills, and the structures of their buildings. Parents’ mindsets about sending their kids to school changed just as quickly and strongly.
From that time until now, whenever I drive past a school one of my kids is in, I pray, “God, please keep them safe from illness, injury, and evil.” By “them,” I mean every teacher, staff member, volunteer, and student…and most especially, the ones who call me, “Mom.” For years, I’ve thought that prayer covered a lot of the bases—flu and strep, playground accidents and natural disasters, bullying and violence.
Now it’s 2020, and my prayer no longer feels adequate—not this week when I’m sending my kids back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrestle in my own head, because that feeling of inadequacy doesn’t make sense; COVID is clearly covered by “illness” in my prayer. So why doesn’t it seem like enough?
Because they’re my kids. As long as there are threats to their wellbeing, no prevention or protection, or even prayer, seems sufficient.
And there’s “the issue”. It’s that spot again—the one at the tender core of every parent that passionately pulses with conviction: Our kids should be safe and healthy forever.
But they aren’t. They can’t be. It’s impossible.
Reality is that there will always be threats to my kids’ wellbeing, despite all preventions, protections, and even prayers, possible. In normal years and situations, I forget that. I trick myself into thinking my kids are okay.
2020 has a way of making me face reality. While the pandemic may be new, the reality is not; our kids have always been vulnerable.
Consider Moses in the Bible. He was born into Egypt when Pharaoh ordered that every Hebrew boy be killed.
Consider Jesus. Because of his birth, King Herod ordered that all boys age 2 and under be killed.
The threats to Baby Moses and Baby Jesus’ lives weren’t viruses that they may or may not catch that may or may not cause them to experience any symptoms. They were royal, absolute laws demanding their murders.
Can you imagine being their parents? Can you imagine living in that kind of fear for your kids’ wellbeing? I cannot. Yet, I want to learn from their parents. Here’s what I take from them:
1. We do what we can.
Moses and Jesus’ parents were poor and powerful against the pharaoh and king. They couldn’t fight them; they had no vote, no say. But they also didn’t offer up their sons to be killed. They didn’t give in nor give up. They assessed the situation and decided that even as poor people with no political power, they had the wealth of wisdom and the power to make decisions for their families.
Right now, it’s easy to feel poor or powerless against the powers that be. Thankfully, we do have some say; we do get to vote. But even then, there’s much beyond our control. We don’t have to give in nor give up. We can assess our current realities with wisdom from God. We can utilize the power we have to make decisions for our families.
2. We sacrifice.
Moses’s mother put her baby in a basket in the Nile River so that he could have a chance at life. She got to nurse him, and then she gave him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and “he became her son” (Exodus 2:10). Moses’s mother sacrificed her role in his life, so that he could have a chance at living it.
Jesus’s parents fled from their homeland to Egypt to protect their baby boy from the troops commanded to murder him. They left everything and everyone they’d ever known and went to Egypt—a place of oppression and pain in their culture’s history. They sacrificed life as they’d known it, so that he’d have a chance to live it.
Right now, life as we’ve known it has changed. Parents are faced with decisions about what to sacrifice to keep their kids, themselves, and other family members as physically and emotionally healthy as possible. There’s no one right way to sacrifice, but the parents in the Bible show us that sometimes immense personal sacrifice is required of parents for their kids’ wellbeing.
3. We trust.
Moses’s mother trusted another woman—one of a different race, religion, and socio-economic status—to do the most heartfelt work anyone does: raise their child.
When I was six years old, my mom remarried, and we moved to another state. My dad learned from the time I was very young to trust God to be with me when he couldn’t and to trust other people to raise his daughter. I can’t imagine what that was like, and I’m grateful I don’t have to do what he did. But I’m also grateful to learn from the example of Moses’s mom and my dad to trust God to be with my kids when I can’t be.
I’ve had enough of being afraid for my kids’ mental and physical health. But the threats to their wellbeing are never going away. I can’t change that. All I can change is how I respond. I can choose to do what I can instead of playing the victim or being paralyzed. I can be willing to sacrifice my own preferences. I can trust other people to care for my kids and that Jesus is, as he promised, with them always to the very end of the age.