a blog about faith and life by Rev. Cindy Maddox

Posts tagged ‘children’

Now Is When

Flying birdsToday I let go of my daughter. Just a little bit. Or I guess I should say, just a little bit more.

Today she started middle school, and that means big changes are on the way. Now is when we begin loosening the reins just a tad. Now is when we begin trusting her to make more decisions for herself. Now is when she will start learning more about the responsibility of freedom. Now is when we begin to see if all our rules and guidelines have taught her anything.

So far so good. A few months ago, at a school dance, she sought me out thirty seconds into a song to declare, “Seriously?! They’re playing ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’ at a fifth grade dance? This is soooo inappropriate!” I loved that her words echoed my thoughts. But will her values still be mine in three years? And if they’re not, will she be clear enough about her own values to make good, safe choices? Now is when it starts getting hard. Now is when it starts getting real. Now is when we have to learn to trust.

I have parishioners who, just a few days ago, took their babies to college. I know their letting go was harder, more significant. But this is the farthest I’ve gone, so forgive me my desire to hold on.

Today I let go of my daughter. Just a little bit.

Tomorrow I will let go of my son. For good.

You could say that he is not really my son, since he is my foster son. And you would be right. And you would be wrong. Because for eleven months and eleven days, he has been mine. Ours. Part of the family. And tomorrow he leaves us to go live with his grandmother. She loves him, and I know she will do her best to keep him safe and healthy. But he has lived with us for more than 70% of his little life. We are the ones who helped him learn to roll over, who encouraged him to crawl, who watched and applauded his first steps. We are the ones who discovered that he will eat anything as long as it has pesto on it, and that he thinks the best way to comfort someone is to bring them gifts and then hold their hand. We are the ones who know him best, and we have done our best to fill every growing inch of him with love.

And now is when we let go. Now is when we let someone else be his shelter. Now is when we have to learn to trust—trust that we have done our best, trust that he is in good hands, trust that even if he doesn’t remember, he will still somehow know that there are three extra people in the world who will love him forever.

Tomorrow I will let go of my son–my foster son, who was never mine to keep. And then I will want to hold even tighter to my daughter, for I know that my letting-go has only begun. And I know that although today I sent her to middle school, tomorrow I will take her to college.

God help me not to hold too tight. Now is when I need to learn to trust.

And the church bells rang

I just listened to the attorneys in the Jerry Sandusky case as they reported on the verdict. Sandusky was found guilty of 45 out of 48 charges in this horrific case, and although sentencing likely will not take place for several months, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

I have to admit that I am pleased with the verdict. Although nothing can undo the trauma of abuse, at least those who were victims of Sandusky’s atrocities know that he is finally being held accountable. I cheered for the victims—not just his, but victims everywhere. I cheered for the survivors. I cheered for justice.

The State Attorney General said that at least one of the victims had asked, “Who would believe a kid?” She replied, “We would believe a kid.” I loved that. It was a powerful statement. I just wish it had been true.

People didn’t believe the kids. Not when there was one. Not when there were two. Not until there were many accusations, coming from adults, not children. Only then were their voices heard and honored.

This case illustrates so much of what is wrong in our society: that people will go to great lengths to look the other way; that those in power will do anything to preserve it; that the already-vulnerable continue to be targeted and preyed upon; that truth just simply doesn’t matter.

So yes, I cheered when the verdict was announced, for truth won out and the vulnerable were heard and the powerful were brought down and no one can look away.

I cheered. And then I was silent. I sat in prayerful silence. For the victims. For the survivors. For the families torn apart, including the Sandusky family.

And then I heard the church bells. As the Attorney General was speaking, the bells of some nearby church rang the hour. While the bells rang, she quoted a Supreme Court decision from 1988: the twofold aim of the law is that guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer.

Innocence has suffered. As the mother of one of the victims said after the verdict was read, “Nobody wins. We’ve all lost.”

Another verdict was brought down within hours of the Sandusky verdict, just two hundred miles away, in Philadelphia. Monsignor William J. Lynn was found guilty of endangering children, “becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.”[1] He himself did not molest anyone, but he was found guilty of failing to protect children from priests known to be pedophiles.

I cheered this ruling, too, because the church must not tolerate abuse. The church of Jesus Christ—in whatever manifestation—must not allow any form of abuse, molestation, discrimination, marginalization, or intimidation. Not physically, not emotionally, and not spiritually. After all, Jesus said, “What you have done unto the least of these, my children, you have done unto me.” And what we have done unto Jesus is an abomination.

We have some important lessons we need to learn, and quickly, before more innocents suffer. Only then can we proudly let the church bells ring. Only then will they mean something.


[1] Jon Hurdle and Erik Eckholm. http://www.nytimes.com

The Teacher

ImageIt’s Christmas Day, and the house is quiet. The rest of the family is asleep. No, it’s not early morning; we were awake at six. But after two worship services last night and another this morning, none of us got enough sleep. So at 11:30 we all were sent to bed for a nap.

But I couldn’t sleep. So instead of the nap I need, I’m getting some quiet. After this busy week, maybe I need the quiet more.

I’m sitting here surrounded by abundance. Each of us has a pile of gifts, with way more than we need. We are not wealthy by any stretch of the American imagination. Our daughter’s “haul” will undoubtedly be less than that of many of her friends. Still, we have so much. I wonder if she’s grateful. Oh, she said “thank you” several times, and she is very aware that other kids aren’t as fortunate as she is. Of course, she is equally aware that some kids have more, too. I know she appreciates her presents and the effort we put into getting them. But are we teaching her to be grateful?

How do you teach gratitude? How do you cultivate it? How do I, as a person of faith, express my gratitude? How do I, as a pastor, teach it to others?

During Lent last year I invited members and friends of my church to keep a gratitude journal. Every day they were asked to write down something specific for which they were thankful. A number of people kept their journals on Facebook, which was wonderful because we all got to share in one another’s joy.

But gratitude isn’t all about joy.

Take, for example, the trees outside my window. When I was younger, I used to hate winter. The bare trees were so stark and depressing. Now I look at these trees and I realize how much better I can see the squirrels and birds when they’re not hidden by foliage.

Similarly, I remember a time when I took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway near my home in North Carolina. I stopped at a scenic overlook and watched a storm blow in across the mountains. It was breath-taking. Then some tourists stopped, took one look at the view, complained that there wasn’t any sunshine, and got back in their car. I wasn’t sorry to see them go, but I was sorry for their sake that they couldn’t see the beauty in the storm.

Maybe this is part of gratitude. Being aware of the beauty in the storm, the joy in the pain, the hope in the turmoil.

Well, my daughter is up now. She has been uncharacteristically quiet for the past ten minutes. I’ve been watching her, so adorable in her panda hat, so intent as she writes in her new journal. Sometimes I am so overcome by my love for this child I didn’t give birth to that I just cry. It’s the only response I have to a heart so full.

I don’t know if I am doing a very good job of teaching her gratitude. But she is doing a wonderful job of teaching me.