Historically I have been afraid of a lot of things. I tend to be a bit phobic. In no particular order here are some things I have been (or currently am) afraid of: The dark, mice, cruise ships, seaweed in small lakes, abandonment by my mother (not in the traditional sense, but when I was young and she went to the bathroom I would knock hundreds of times just to make sure she was still there). And that is just the top of my weirdness. Fear has always been an issue with me.
Surprisingly while I am desperately afraid of Corn Fields (am I the only one who grew up terrified of the cover to the Children of the Corn video at Block-buster?) I have always be very comfortable in most urban settings. In places where some would be shaking in their boots because they were in “the ghetto” I have never really felt a great deal of trepidation. Now I am not stupid, so when I accidentally wrote down the wrong address and map-quested my wife and I into the wrong neighborhood in Chicago last year, I was of course very glad to see the police officer whom we followed out. But for the most part the ‘hood holds a special place in my life and God has called me to it. I have found the God gives me the grace and strength to fulfill that which he calls me too. And I am good with that.
Right now however I stand at the edge of an interesting precipice looking over the edge and I am going ot have to decide what wins out. Calling or fear.
Let me explain. We are a public school family. We are a public school family because God has called us to be so. We have seen what God can do with a family of missionaries who live fully indigenous in this way. The kids for their part are not very interested or even aware that within evangelicalism there are people who choose to do schooling another way. They just know that every thing our family does is committed to God and that they belong to him for his Glory. We talk about this. A lot. T-Ball= God’s glory, Drama= God’s glory, PTA= God’s glory, Coop Preschool= God’s glory, Time consuming, highly annoying presidency for wife of said coop preschool=God’s glory. These are conversations we have. they are beautiful conversations. I see even now in my babies the rejection of American gold for deeper treasures. It is lovely.
So here is the quandry: Hayleee is nine, and nine is almost 12 and 12 is almost 13 and 13 has the word “teen” in it. That is just scary. Thirteen means JR. High and that is really scary. JR. High means fighting, and teasing and mean chicks who feel terrible about themselves and who have a tendency to attack anything that moves. Scary. Do you know what else is scary? J, (who is so called because fresh from the womb we dubbed him “Baby J” but at the ripe age of 6 he no longer lets us call him “Baby”) is halfway to 12. Do you know what happens to twelve year old boys in neighborhoods like ours? Twelve (and honestly younger) is when gangs start to put on pressure. I just thought of this recently. I totally freaked out inside! Gangs and my baby J. That scares me to death. Not to mention all the other things that happen in neighborhoods like ours. Last week for instance, our school’s Jr. High football team got into a post game fight because the other team’s (Calvin Christian Junior High) players told our kids during the post game hand shake “You Black Boys can’t play football”. And while it is true I view this as a justified fight, I am also aware that in neighborhoods like ours their are a lot more fights, both physical and spiritual, justified and unjustified. It can be dangerous. It can also be exhausting, because if you are going to live here you are going to have to fight the spiritual fights that people who live far from here know nothing of.
I admit it. Sending my children to public elementary school was an easy decision for me. It’s a great school and we are very involved. It is always fun to tell people that my daughter (who is in forth grade) has never been in the majority culture in any year of school. But I will also admit this the prospect of Jr. High is scaring me to death. I love my babies deeply. I am scared of sending them to catty girls and dangerous gangs. But there is also the issue of calling. I know we are called here. I know God told me to place them in the Public school. Two weeks ago I even preached a message and told Haylee from the pulpit “Haylee, you belong to Jesus.” It is just much easier to live when there is no fear.
Ah the fear. But what to do. For me as I fight the interenal urge to latch on to my children and snatch them back from the edge of a future I do not know, the only answer I have found it to give up on the myth of control.
A story. Two days before Haylee was born my beautiful nephew Christopher died. He died of SIDS at the age of 11 months. We were deep in the mounring and praying hard the God would keep Haylee from being born for at least another week when Libbie’s water broke. It was time. From the hospital I called my family at the funeral home and sobbed how beautiful Haylee was, not sure if I wept for Christopher or Haylee. Three days later we returned home and the fear set in.
I was scared out of my mind. If Christopher could die in his sleep then so could Haylee. This bent me to my core. I had to do somehting to keep it from happening so I gave myself over fully to the myth of control. I would keep her alive. It was a simple system really. Each night I would place Haylee in her crib in the room next to ours. I would make sure she was on her back. I would also make sure that there was nothing in the crib that could fall on her face. We dressed her in thick pajamas even so that we would not have to put a blanket in the crib. But that was just the beginning. After placing her in her crib, I would go tuck my self into bed. This was January so there is a certain amount of nestling that one who lives in Michigan has to do. I would nestle puling the covers up to my neck and get comfortable. Then as soon as I was comfortable I would jump back out of bed and run back down the hall to the crib. When I got to the crib I would pick Haylee up and hold her close listening for here breath. Once I was sure that she was breathing I would place her back in bed and return to mine, where I would craw into bed and begin to nestle again. I repeated this process several times through out the night. My working theory was that if I could go into her room enough times during the night, if I could place my hands on her belly and feel her breath, if I could just keep this up then I could keep her alive. I was in control. The problem was that I could not keep it up. A human can only go so long consumed by fear and without sleep. So what was I supposed to do? Let my baby die? No. I just had to give up on the myth of control.
It occurred to Libbie and I almost at the same time, and when it did it was as if a veil had been lifted and we were able to see the most beautiful sight we had ever seen. What occurred to us was this: We were not in control. But God, our loving father, unequivocally was. If if God was in control, I mean really in control and we were not, then it changed everything. If God was in control then it did not matter how many times I snuck into Haylee’s room and listened for her breath, If God should call she would not live. But the reverse is also true, if God was in control, I mean truly in control, then there is nothing that would sneak up on him and surprise him, no disease, no syndrome, not anything, if God should choose, she could not die. The day I realized this it changed everything and I finally slept.
When I kiss Haylee good night now at age nine I instinctively plass may hand on her belly. The other day she asked me why. I smiled and told her the story. But I do not do it with fear. Now the act for me is like Noah’s rainbow, a reminder of God’s promise.
Here I find myself contemplating school, and mean girls and gangs and the glory of God and I am again forced to question whether I will give into the myth of control or allow a loving God to be in charge.
What will I do? Haylee, J and Noah: You belong to Jesus.