We see it all the time with kids. They have something, and they want to keep it. We want to take it away for one reason or another--maybe it's dangerous, maybe they just took it from another child, maybe it's simply time to put the toys away and go to bed. So the child hangs on for dear life, gripping it tightly, curling his body around it, fighting tooth and nail to keep it. I saw it at least once every time I visited the orphanage. Most of the kids did it at one point or another. It always reminded me of that Charlton Heston quote, when he said that the government could take away his gun when they pried it from his "cold, dead hands." That's the attitude you see in children--you can take this toy away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, because I'm not letting go of it while I still have breath and energy to fight.
Adults often have that attitude too. Sometimes it's appropriate. As a conservative, as a gun-owner, as someone who believes that the right to keep and bear arms is what keeps our other rights from slipping through our fingers, I agree with Charlton Heston's attitude. But this isn't a political post, so I won't say more about that. When you're protecting your child or fighting for justice, it's perfectly appropriate to fight tooth and nail, to never let go, to not give up. Sometimes the right thing to do is to grab hold, grip tightly, and fight to keep it.
But sometimes it isn't.
John, one of the first children I met at Mother Teresa's, had a game that he liked to play. He'd walk up to me and hand me whatever toy he had been playing with. He'd hand it over without hesitation, without being asked. Because he knew what was coming. Every time he gave me a toy, I gave John my biggest, brightest smile, and I would say "Shukran, ya John!" ("Thank you, John!") Delight filled my face and my voice as I commended him for sharing with me. His little face would light up with sheer joy. Often he'd laugh. He 'd just stand there and delight in being delighted in. Then, usually but not always, I'd give the toy back to him. He'd wander off, then come back and do it all over again a few minutes later.
A few times, when John handed me a toy, I didn't hand it back. I always smiled and commended him, but sometimes while I was doing that, whatever child was in my lap would pluck the toy from my hand, or it would be time to put the toys away, so I'd put it in the toy box. John never protested when he didn't get the toy back. But if I did give him the toy back, and then another child plucked it from his hand, he would weep and wail and hit and do everything in his power to get it back. If I had to take a toy away from him--one that he had not given me--he tried desperately to keep it. It was only when he'd given it to me freely, and then I chose not to give it back, that he didn't mind the loss. Once he made the choice to give me the toy, he was at peace with whatever I decided to do with it.
I've been thinking a lot lately about John. I think I'm a lot like him, in both good ways and bad ways.
You see, I was an authority figure to John. It shouldn't have mattered if he volunteered to give me a toy or if I told him to; he should have been okay with obedience in either case. I know that's a lot to expect from a one-year-old, too much to expect, but ideally, that would have been the case. But how different am I? During this pregnancy, I've been forced to contemplate the fact that the ultimate Authority--God--may choose to take this baby away from me. I should be okay with that. After all, I know that God wants the best for us, that He loves this baby even more than I do, and that there is no better place for any of us than in Heaven by His side, which is where this baby will go if God takes him or her away from me. But I'm often not okay with that. I weep and wail, internally, if not externally. I vow to do everything in my power to keep this baby--which admittedly isn't much. I rebel against His authority and demand that He do things my way.
But there is another way, a better way. I can give this baby to God, just as John gave his toy to me. When I'm able to do that, to truly give this child up, I feel a peace that can only come from God. I can put this child in God's hands and trust that God will do what is best, whether that means letting me have this baby or not. And I can be content with that. Don't get me wrong; there is still a deep sadness at the thought of losing my child. But there's also peace. There's a confidence--a rock-hard certainty deep in my soul--that if my baby dies, God is still good and God is still in control and, as a kind soul recently reminded me, God still works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
So just like John, I have a choice.
I can hold on tightly and fight to not let go. My life can be a struggle to keep what's mine. Even if this baby survives to be born, I can worry all the days of my life about what's going to happen to this child, and if the child lives, I can teach the child to live a life of fear, anxiety, and struggle.
Or I can go to One who is bigger and stronger than I am, and I can say, "Here You go. I trust You. Do what's best." And then I can lift this baby up to Him, loosely held, ready to let go, ready to let God be sovereign. I can have peace, no matter what happens. I can delight in my God and know that He delights in receiving my trust. And if this child lives, I can teach the child to live a life of trust, joy, and peace.
The choice is mine.