Each youngster is on the altar
Today's musical pairing, chosen to illustrate the meditation below, is Flight from the City by Jóhann Jóhannsson. See the video embedded below. Note that all of the songs for this series have been put together in a Spotify playlist here.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged wood on it. He tied his son Isaac and put him on the altar in the forest. Then he reached out and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven: Abraham! Abraham! "" Here I am, "he replied. "Don't put a hand on the boy," he said. "Don't do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld your son, your only son. "
Genesis 22: 9-12
Day 10. 838,061 confirmed cases, 41,261 deaths worldwide.
When the shadow of death touches the front door, we draw our children closer. We fear more for them than for ourselves. What should happen to them if the virus gets into their veins?
Most of the suffering and death in the pandemic focuses on those who are grown up and full of years. However, statistics and probabilities are no consolation when it comes to losing your children. Or the thought that your children will lose you.
Children watch their parents go to the hospital and never see them again. Fathers say goodbye through windows. A mother spoke her last words to her children on a walkie-talkie. Even those without children of their own pray for the children they know.
Becoming a parent means letting love flood in all its wondrous creativity. To be a parent means to ruthlessly love what is fragile, fleeting and at risk. We want to own our children, but we don't. We want to protect them, but we cannot. Our children escape our grip and grow out of our protection.
Kahlil Gibran speaks about it in The Prophet:
You are the arch from which your children start
are sent out as living arrows.
The archer sees the mark on the path of the infinite.
and he bows you with his might
so that his arrows go quickly and far.
Let your bend be in the archer's hand for joy;
Because just like He loves the arrow that flies
So he also loves the bow, which is stable.
I have been captured since my first daughter cried her first cry and put her hand around my finger. She may not be mine, but I am hers. We care more about our children than ourselves because we are created in the image of a God who gave his life for his children. We are not creators of children, but we are vessels of God's creativity and longing to have more children who love him and love to be loved by him.
We remember these things – their first screams, their first steps, the nights we held them, things they can't remember. Before they fade, we collect these memories like leaves and push them between the pages of our own memories. We will carry their memories and they will carry ours and so we will become part of each other.
This is our fear and our consolation all at once: that our children are not finally in our hands, but in the palm of his hand. Like Abraham, we offer our children on the mountain of the Lord. And as with Abraham, we only really receive our children when we are ready to give them up. Then God does not give them to us as objects of sacrifice, but as people who carry their own destiny and journey to him.
We are their roots, but not their branches. They rise from us, but they reach their arms higher than we do and open their hands to the face of God. And when the time comes for them to grow without us, we whisper a prayer of thanks for every day we knew them. Then we step aside, happy that their lives go on, and we entrust them with the only hug that could ever protect them.
Every child is on the altar. But we know that you are smiling, Lord, if we give you whatever was already yours. You are safer on your altar than in our shelter and more loved in your hands than in ours.
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The corridor through the sea
The Corridor through the Sea is a series of daily meditations by the President and CEO of Christianity Today, written specifically for those suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. It will address our feeling of fear and isolation, and the way we find beauty and truth and hope – and Christ Himself – in the midst of suffering. The title of the column alludes to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. We are a people who have been released from our slavery to sin, but we live between where we have been and where we should be. There is danger on both sides, but our hope and belief is that God will deliver us through the sea and into the land of promise.
Timothy Dalrymple is President and CEO of Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter @TimDalrymple_.
The corridor through the sea pillars: