I am sitting on a chair in a circle made up of women and mothers with many more children than me, many more years of experience and of wisdom. I have come to see them as my mentors, and I glean what I can from our discussions in spite of the sleep-deprived fuzziness that is my constant companion. Our toddlers play loudly in another room.
“We need to trust God with our children”, one of them is saying, “We need to trust that He knows what’s best for them.” I silently object while the discussion continues. How can He really and truly know what’s best for my children, when these children spent 40 weeks as part of me, when I was their sole source of food for so many months, when I am the one who wakes when they wake, who comforts them when they cry, and who has put everything that has to do with me, my wants, and my needs, aside for the sake of their little lives?
And I say “What if God thinks it’s for the best for my child to die young, to be abducted, to be hurt, to be abused, to be forgotten, to have his heart broken by betrayal?”
Ten pairs of knowing eyes meet my red ones. “He knows best. Our kids are in His hands anyway — it only makes sense to leave them there. It will hurt, but He understands that pain. Remember, He has a Son too.”
It doesn’t make sense to me. Why would God allow these children to be in my care if He didn’t want me to be the one to protect them forever?
Stories are read, prayers have been said, and my children are tucked in their beds. I am filled with a feeling of completeness, the kind of feeling all mothers have when they know their children are safe and happy and warm. I am able to relax and feel the satisfaction of putting in a hard day’s work in our snug little house.
Outside, the darkness presses up against the windows and the chill in the air is visible, but we are safe in our little house. These four walls offer reassurance that my children have nothing to fear from anything that may be out there, out in the unknown, out of my protection, out of my control, out of my sight.
But I hear a cry. A quiet cry. It is the cry of a little one. And I recognize this cry. My babies are sleeping soundly. This cry — it comes from outside. I look out the window, into the black darkness that shrouds our house, but I can’t see anything.
The cry is louder now, and more insistent. It is the sound of one child, frightened and alone. Why is a child outside, alone, on this dark night? I must do something, to make sure that this little one is being taken care of. I purposefully stride toward the front door, but the door — the door is gone. I race to the window to open it, to somehow get outside to rescue the source of those heart-wrenching wails, to offer some comfort, some warmth, some nourishment. But the latch and the hinges are gone. I can not open the window. And I watch the black, as the cry goes on. I am helpless.
This dream haunts me. I think of it while rocking my baby in the wee hours of the night, and I beg and plead with God that He would be with that child in the darkness. To offer comfort, warmth and nourishment, and to protect her from those who would take advantage, who would neglect, who would use this child as an outlet for frustration or anger. Night after night, I tell Him that he must have given this child life for a reason, He must have a purpose, because He wouldn’t give someone life only to allow them to be tossed around like last week’s garbage.
And in the graciousness of His understanding, He gives me an image. It is burned in my mind so fully that it remains a source of reassurance, and a reminder that He is the Protector.
I see a hand, strong and calloused from use, angular, with wide fingers. And in the center of that hand is a little one, perhaps 2 years old, curled up as if in a mother’s womb. She is sleeping, and the edges of her tiny lips are turned up ever so slightly. Her hands are tucked under her cheek, and her knees touch her elbows. She looks so peaceful, so relaxed, and so incredibly safe. Behind the hand is darkness. I think it must be the night sky, but there are no stars, no hint of light behind that hand at all. But this little one sleeps bathed in light. Not a blinding light, but a warm light that surrounds her and covers her like a blanket.
And I begin to understand that even if I follow the school bus in the car, if I lay my hand gently on the back of a sleeping child to feel the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, if I teach my children who not to trust, what to do in an emergency and how to say no, if I take them to “Home Alone” courses, and even if I pray over them every morning and night, it doesn’t matter. I still really am absolutely helpless. I can do absolutely nothing to ensure their safety. I can’t guarantee that they won’t get hurt.
So my open palms lay facing upwards in my lap as I ask the God of the Universe to take my children and the child in my dream, to protect them, to bring them to a saving knowledge of Him, and to use them in His plan, in whatever way that may be. And I beg Him for the strength to remember that these children are not mine, and never really were. They may have spent a short time in my life, but they have been part of His plan since before the creation of the world. He has known them far better than I ever will, for longer than I can even comprehend. And He knows what He’s doing.
Those women, they already knew that. And I’m beginning to know that too.