It’s late, and I should go to bed because my son will wake up crying in a few short hours, but I can’t sleep. My heart is too heavy and my brain too full of thoughts. I’m just…incredibly sad.
Tonight I watched a video of another clash between the police and young people of color. In one especially difficult scene, a teenage girl was slammed to the ground and pinned there by an officer’s knee, all while she cried in visible fear. Watching this unfold, my mama heart shattered into a million pieces. Later when I crawled into bed next to Ike, I burst into tears. Some days, it feels like the brokenness is winning.
Obviously, I don’t know the whole story behind that video. In the coming days, that will be a loud refrain, as it always is, to “wait for the facts.” And that has its place. But whatever the story, I just can’t stop thinking about those kids and how scared they must have been. Who do you call for help, to save you from the help? Who do you turn to then?
As that question swirled in my mind, the teenage girl had an answer. Pinned to the ground, crying, scared, she wailed over and over again, “Somebody call my mama.”
There is a story in Exodus chapter 1 about two midwives–Shiphrah and Puah–who were commanded by Pharaoh to kill all the Hebrew boys they delivered. The women feared God, so they refused. When Pharaoh asked them why they had spared the boys’ lives, they replied, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
These women were cunning, but more than that they were brave. We don’t know if they had children of their own, but most likely they did, which meant they made a big sacrifice for other people’s kids. They risked their lives for other children, as if they were their own.
We live in a time not unlike the midwives’. In our culture, some children are valued more highly than others. Some children are protected and fought for, while others are discarded as throwaways. Some children are especially vulnerable, much like those Hebrew boys, which has left me asking this question:
In our day, what does it look like to carry on the legacy of the midwives?
Here’s what I think it means: I think it means is we dispense with the us-versus-them language. It’s not “our” children and “their” children. Instead all children are our children.
Instead of treating some children as problems or liabilities, what if we treated them with the care and patience we want for our own kids?
Instead of writing off the “young punk” who “probably deserved it,” what if we cried out for the dignity and understanding we would want afforded to our own sons?
Instead of sizing up that young man standing near you on the street, what if your orientation toward him was motherly? What if you worried about him? Welcomed him? Surveyed the surroundings to make sure he–not just your own children–was safe? What if, you enlisted your mama bear instincts to protect your children AND him?
A few years ago, Amy Chua wrote the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother about the fierceness of Chinese mothers. The term refers to a mother’s strict discipline, so the concept has some baggage, but I still love its imagery. It evokes the power of a strong, protective, intelligent mother who would do anything for her cub. In that sense, I wish the world had more tiger mothers.
And what if it did? What if more of us were tiger mothers for the children of the world? What if we were like the big-hearted midwives, who didn’t simply look out for their own kids, but for all kids? What if “our kids” was all kids. Would our country, and our world, look any different?
I think it would. I think God can do a mighty thing through mothers–not just literal mothers but spiritual mothers too. I think God can use women to be ferocious for His kids.
So here is my modest proposal–let’s be tiger mothers for our kids. Not just the kids in our families, but the kids in our world. Let’s be fierce. Let’s be brave. Let’s resist the temptation to protect our kids from other people’s kids. Instead, let’s love our nations’ children with the heart of a mother, and the heart of our God. Let’s carry on the legacy of the Hebrew midwives.
Being a tiger mother means we don’t have to wait for the facts–not to mourn with those who mourn, and not to wish for a different outcome. Any parent knows that regardless of whether a child deserves it or not, we love. We endure. We hope, we pray, and we labor for redemption. That’s what a parent does. Whether our kids deserve it or not, we love them and fight for them and do anything for them. Not every child has that kind of parent in the home, which is why we need to stand in that gap.
Church, let’s stand in the gap. Let’s be the tiger moms, or mama bears, or lionesses, or whatever gets your mama blood pumping. Let’s bear witness to a God who shows no partiality, and parents us all with a burning, risk-taking, put-it-all-on-the-line kind of love. Mothers, tiger mothers, let’s take back our kids.
Amen! I keep thinking, “What do I do if I see it in front of me?” And I think my best answer is, “Let my maternal instinct kick in.” I’m pretty good in a crisis – so I trust my quick-thinking instinctual response in a tense situation. But before a tense situation plays out in front of me, I will rehears and practice the truth you speak here, that I will “treat the children of the world as if they are my children.” I want that to be my footing on which I act.
Sharon, this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by James Baldwin: “For these are all our children. We will all profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.”