Sunday, August 12, 2007


Two years ago, in the midst of an extended inner dialogue questioning the existence of God, I was left in charge of our 4 month old grandson for a little while. I sat on our porch, surrounded by fuschia bouganveilla and fragrant jasmine and cradled him in my arms. I studied his face, and zeroed in on feeling the exact points on my skin where his tiny fingers touched.

I rocked and sang him to sleep and thought about mothers in other places of the world: mothers whose cradle is a sidewalk in Calcutta which floods with garbage and human waste during the rainy season, mothers dying of AIDS in a dusty African village wondering who will care for their children when they are gone, mothers with breasts as dried up as the parched land around them, cradling their baby for a few more hours before death steals their hope once again.

Pictures of children filled my mind: children who will grow to adulthood without their parents, children who have witnessed the rape, mutilation and murder of their family members, children who have themselves been forced to do the same horrible things to others, children whose life teachers have fostered only hatred and destruction.

My life had been built on the foundation of an all-powerful God who is love, and principles of reaping the consequences of what is chosen. But now, in the face of the suffering of these other mothers, answers I would have once given about the inequities of life and the long term generational impact of individual choices felt arrogant and empty. Why would, how could all-powerful LOVE choose not to stop multitudes of children living and dying in extreme poverty and war day after day, generation after generation?
Does hope really remain when all else is gone? Where is the choice in these life circumstances? How could anyone say that these mothers and children have the same chance to believe that God is good, that they have a choice to follow or spurn Love as I have had? As this baby in my arms will probably have? He will likely never know the pain of starvation or the horror of being a child soldier.

Along with the baby in my arms had come a weighty awareness I never had as a young mother of the immense, privilege that belongs to a child born in America. What undeserved joy to hold a contented, healthy baby in your arms, to gaze at his face and know that you are welcoming him into a life where his chances of survival to adulthood and of a full and rich life are high.

The invisible butterfly touch of Isaac's hand on my arm broke through all the witnessed suffering and I simply HAD to give thanks for the wonder of the conception and birth of this child. The joy was incomplete without thanksgiving.

If the existentialist conclusions my wounded heart had been whispering were right and there is no supernatural Other who grants that privilege and joy of bringing children into the world, then who do you thank for the new baby in your arms?

All the alternative answers I formulated seemed to suck all the joy and purpose out of giving thanks, and giving thanks seemed to to me to be intrinsically necessary to a well-lived life. A world with no Supernatural Lover is a flat, two dimensional world - a world without enough space to host the exhilarating joy of new life.

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