Sunday, May 29, 2016

God's Leash

A few Sunday afternoons ago, while on his bicycle, my eleven-year-old was hit by a motorcycle.
While he was applying his brakes, sliding on rust-colored mud into the intersection, I was at home, deciding I would take a Sunday nap. I’d barely closed my eyes when one of my children called my name. This happens quite frequently, as one might imagine, and my husband has lightly chided me on contributing to our children’s entitlement with my jumpiness to their needs. So I waited to see if they’d come get me. I don’t remember what finally tipped me off that this was not the typical, “She won’t share the biiiike!”
I didn’t expect the stranger at the gate, or my weeping son, clutching his shoulder, a small tear in the new shirt his grandma had brought over from the U.S. The sight of his mangled front tire unsettled me; somehow torqued metal seems to accentuate the gravity of an accident, alluding that our limping bodies don’t tell the whole story.
The congregated neighbors at the intersection made me jittery; past experiences cause me to associate African mobs at accidents with trouble. I waved and shouted my thanks, my stomach clutching further in my cultural bewilderment in these situations, then ducked into the safety of my compound to tend to my son.
I wish that I was one of those people who is a rock when crisis descends upon them. Though at times I have been this person—in this particular instance, already flustered by other preceding circumstances, I was a bit unhinged. A thousand thoughts collided. What kind of mother was I? My husband was in Kenya…should I take my son for X-rays? Was I foolish not to? I didn’t have access to cash since my ATM card wasn’t working… What if it had been just half a second later, or one foot further?
I prayed together with the kids, my voice throaty and breaking as I held my son in the cool of the hall. The verse clanging in my mind:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Here is what I know. When God responds to Job, He speaks of the boundaries He sets for the sea. I imagine Him setting that great blade of His palm in the cradle of land just before a beach. In my mind, the waters roll up to it and immediately relinquish their strength.
He prescribes the seasons for the snow. Everything, from the wind to the gestation months of a deer, He says, He has placed boundaries on with His hand.
All of this power—and pain, I see with Job, and suffering—are on His leash. His hand says, You stop here.
I see this in His promise to Abraham—that Abraham’s descendants will return to the Promised Land after 400 years; because the Amorites’ sin “is not yet complete.” (This theme cycles through prophecy of the end times of Earth.) I see it in His cryptic statement to Peter, that Satan has asked to sift Peter like wheat. I see it in Job, when Satan must present His ideas to God—who of course has already hijacked them for His own purposes.
My problem always seems to be with the length of said leash. Why not prevent the evil and pain entirely? Why not, say, prevent my son’s tears and my heartache altogether?

Today, as I ran jogged jog/walked to a podcast, I appreciated Tim Keller’s illustration of a baby wailing in the delivery room. The child is thinking, I was fine. I was warm. I was safe. I was happy and fed. And now you’re slapping me and blood is everywhere and I am upside down. But from outside the infant’s perspective, all of this is for the child’s well-being. All medical professionals are focused on the baby, to bring it from infancy to maturity and thriving. All of this, child, is for your well-being and good and flourishing.
After the tenor of Sunday’s chaos had muted to a dull throb, I held my tween son. Immediately after his accident, he had helped the woman who’d fallen off the taxi. I was proud of him. There as we talked, I felt a twinge of what I’d asked for with my son: connection, and that I would continue to have his heart as he developed into a man in this funky handful of years before us.
I thanked God that today, His leash stopped with an arm treatable with pain medication; with a wonky bike wheel that now sits round and again well-used in my driveway. That after making the rounds, I’d connected further with my neighbors and the honorable driver who brought my son and his bike home rather than running off. That my son was alive and teary and warm beside me. That today, His leash unfurled to a place I could understand—but and was deeply good even when I didn’t have that luxury.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16
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