Our children are spoiled rotten. Not spoiled in the sense that they have a pony and get to eat graham crackers every morning for breakfast and win arguments by failing around their arms and screaming. They’re spoiled because they get to live in a home with their own bedroom, packed with soft blankets and stuffed animals and books. They never have to feel hunger pains shooting from their stomachs, drink sugar water for sustenance, or live in bombed-out basements and see their father bleeding to death on pile of rubble. My daughter skips around in peaceful oblivion, thinking of ballet and scavenger hunts and Miss Piggle Wiggle’s magic cures. My son is learning his A-B-C’s and likes to eat peanut butter bars. How sheltered they are.
When I read about what’s happening in Syria, how families are torn apart and blown up for crossing the street or hunting for a piece of bread, it makes my heart ache. It seems so far-off and foreign, like a movie that’s covered in mist and gunfire and the music of symphonies. Like I can somehow shut the pages of the New York Times and it will all go fading off into the distance, credits slowly rolling.
But there’s nothing beautiful in this tragedy. Some of those children will likely survive, which seems the worst of it. I can only hope their mind locks down the memories, although they will surface someday in dreams, etched like a third-degree burn onto their heart. The welling up of tears will be gone and only a hollowed-out black hole will remain, their soul empty and waiting to die.
The last few weeks, I’ve been inordinately stressed about my daughter’s educational experience, of all the silly things. I’ve been wringing my hands about how little fun she’s having these days, learning math and handwriting and all those repetitive sound tests. I call my mother and my good friends and say things like “Shouldn’t Kindergarten be more fun?” and “those classrooms need more color, I tell you what.”
I complain about how the discipline and structure of private school seems to tug at my daughter’s natural buoyancy, and I don’t want anyone to break her creative and independent spirit. She might not always follow the rules and complain about having to walk too far. She might gripe about picking up her toys or having to eat her broccoli, but isn’t that just what children do? Let’s allow them to be young and have fun. Why should we make life so hard for them? Wimps, I tell you. Spoiled rotten wimps.
Jesus, the great teacher, said that “behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33.
My children are spoiled because we spoil them. We worry about trivial things and place great emphasis on what matters very little. We allow them to complain and whine and worry about making their lives comfortable and entertaining. As if their lives aren’t comfortable enough. Perhaps we should be worrying less about how fun their lives are and about how better to equip them for their own spiritual battles to come.
My thoughts drift back to the Syrians, cramped in basements and locked away from the sun or their grandmothers or a decent day’s food. I weep for you, sweet children. I tear my clothes and fall to my knees in angst for your innocence.
This world is a fallen, scornful place. That is true. Your world is ugly and empty and smoldering. In a sense we live in that same world, albeit on the opposite side of the globe, and the ugliness not so obvious. We, too, are busy scattering like cockroaches into our own basements, except we don’t have the luxury of having nothing left to rely on. We have BFFs and soft down comforters and bottles of wine and cheerful husbands to console us. We don’t see the reality of war.
Jesus taught us of peace. Of taking comfort in things unseen. Of complete surrender. Despite the smoke and blood pouring down city streets, He has overcome this world. My dear children, I hope you will someday feel this truth. It makes all the difference.