Yesterday my wife and I were at our eleven year old son Bobby’s middle school soccer game. He was starting for the first time and was playing well, and we were enjoying his success, and then all of sudden there is this play where he gets kicked in his side (he’s the goalie), and he’s in agony, and has to come out of the game. The pain hadn’t left by the end of the game, so we took him to IMCC to get an x-ray fearing he might have a cracked rib, and the doctor tells us there are no broken ribs, but he’s concerned about a worse possibility, Bobby’s spleen could be ruptured — his blood pressure is off a bit and he’s still in pain — and that we should take him to an emergency room immediately to get a catscan. Which is what we do — getting caught in a traffic jam on rt. 287. Finally at 11 p.m. they send Bobby home after a catscan that indicates he’s okay — just a bad bruise — no ruptured spleen. Which is, of course, great news.
How easy it is in life for things to suddenly go terribly wrong. During the “not knowing” phase of the evening there was great mental effort warding off the “what if” thoughts, focusing instead on what needed to be done in the moment. For us, the trauma came to a happy conclusion — a couple of days of rest and our son should be fine. Truly, how fortunate we are, and how hard it is to fully grasp our good fortune. Both frightening and humbling, at the same time. Thank you, God.
But what of those for whom the happy conclusion doesn’t come? On the “This American Life” radio program I referred to on Wednesday, one of the stories involves a Mom and a Dad describing their experience of raising a severely handicapped child (autism). For them, the experience I described from yesterday evening became something of a lifestyle. One of the things that struck me about what they had to say was they did not like it when people would say to them things they experienced as mere platitudes, like, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Nor did they care for it when people referred to them as “saints”, saying to them, “I don’t know if I could do what you’re doing.” Their reaction would be, “well of course you would, we’re simply doing what any decent human being would do who is a parent and finds their kid in great need.” They simply stayed focused, as best they could, on what needed to be done in the present, and somehow they got through, horrific as it could be at times.
I’m thrown back on the basics of the Lord’s prayer as daily requests to make of “our Father”: “Give us this day our daily bread…” There are millions of parents who don’t have bread today to give to their children. Going hungry yourself is one thing; not being able to feed your kid when she cries out for bread — that’s quite another.
“And forgive us our tresspasses…” To be a parent is to sin — no one does this perfectly; there is no parent without regrets. Forgiveness keeps yesterday’s failings from poisoning the present.
“as we forgive those who trespass against us.” To be a parent is to be sinned against — by your kid, and also by those who would, knowingly or unknowingly do harm to your kid.
“And lead us not into temptation,” into those impossible situations when yes, we do wonder whether we’ll have what it takes to survive — when we will be tempted to give up.
“But deliver us for evil…” There is nothing quite like havinig a kid that makes you aware of the reality of evil in this world, threatening, without warning to do harm to your kid.
It was good of Jesus to give us a prayer that pretty much covers it.