Blind to Brutality

Four little boys screeched, “Help us! They’re using batons and won’t stop! Lady, please help us! They’re beating us up! They might kill us. They’ll take me to jail! I didn’t do nothin'”  I quietly observed the boys’ laughter-filled playtime, slowly becoming more and more appalled at what they considered play.

Police brutality. They think it’s funny. The boys couldn’t have been more than seven. They already think brutality is funny. 

By the age of 12, I was a hopeless tomboy. I enjoyed horsing around with the guys much more than painting my nails or trying on my sister’s prom dress. I know what it’s like to have a childhood of accidentally going “too far” with wrestling and playing cops and robbers. It’s all in good fun. Welcome to a healthy childhood. 

But adding police brutality? Imagining the role of a “bad cop” misusing his authority? No, that wasn’t my childhood.

I know I’m not a parent. I realize it’s quite possible I’ll come back to to this post and disagree with my younger self after having actual parental experience. But at this point, all I have is frustration over the fact that our culture’s children have very little understanding of the sacredness of life. Many of them have even less respect for authority. 

I had a childhood packed to the hilt of learning respect and the difference between right and wrong. The current generation of children are learning their version of those things by watching media. They are also watching us — their parents and role models. 

Are we modeling wholesome characteristics which are worth them mirroring? Or, are we reacting in anger, sarcasm and cynicism and simply shrugging our shoulders and telling ourselves they’ll understand better when they grow up? 

A seven-year-old knew that a baton can kill. We need to stop shrugging our shoulders.

Put It Away, Kid

I had two little boys between the ages of four and six live with me for right around a year. I am not, by any means, anything now but an amateur idealist when it comes to being a good mom after that experience. A year of playing their referee, jungle gym, nurse, teacher and caretaker (caretaker came first… usually… I think) taught me a lot and yet taught me nothing. 

One thing I learned was giving them broad instructions didn’t work. I learned to say things like, “Boys, by the time Auntie comes in there your socks & underwear, shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, dinosaurs, etch-a-sketches, paint brushes, 8-balls, tools and books better be on the shelves where they belong.” 

As their forced angelic voices wafted down the hall, “O’taaaaaay, Auntie Tassie, we do dat,” I flew through a mental catalogue of everything they had. Inevitably, they’d come tromping into my kitchen with a toy and the innocent question, “What we do wit’ dis one, Auntie? You didn’ say anytin’ about dis one.”

I spent an entire year trying to learn the right amount of patience, enjoyment, and training to teach those boys life skills. I wasn’t very good at it, but somehow their grins and inquiries usually made me want to hug them rather than scold them. That was my momentary taste of parenthood.

Fast forward to today. I’m no longer an “auntie” to two rambunctious boys and I no longer micro-manage my household just to keep it standing one more day. I am, however, finding that at 27 years old, there are days, weeks and months where I identify deeply with those two boys. 

I understand all too well what it’s like to not quite get life just yet and being in need of a God to help me through ridiculous, clarifying questions. He patiently reinforces His command to “trust and obey” really does mean with every corner of my heart over and over again.

But still, I have to ask, “Yes, so God, you said trust You with my future, but what about my future in regards to…? What if this crazy situation happens and I’m left with a broken heart? What then? Do I have to trust you then, too?” 

My whimsically imaginative heart can almost picture God chuckling, kneeling down and whispering, “Kiddo, put your worry where it belongs.” Somehow, His enjoyment & patience in seeing me work out my salvation never ends & He’s never too annoyed to give me the same assurances He’s given me my entire life. 

This is the grace the teaches me to love even when I can’t get my mind around how it gives my life purpose. 

Already, Now or Not?

“Wait till 5:00 for dinner.” I hated that command as a kid when waiting meant I couldn’t eat now. It seemed like the magical hour would never come and I’d starve to death waiting for the clock in the living room to chime it’s freeing chime. My thought was always the same: 

How am I supposed to wait that long?!

Somehow, though, I survived. Ironically enough, by 5:10, I had already forgotten my mother’s perceived cruelty for making me wait. I was fed. I was happy. My stomach pains which I felt resembled starvation were already forgotten. 

I thought I knew what I wanted… I thought if I could get the sugary or salty snack right when I first desired it, I’d be satisfied. My mother knew better, though. She made me wait because, if I did wait, I’d be satisfied with something better for me. Not only that, it was quite possible I’d like it more, if only I could wait!

I should have learned then what I’m still learning now — anticipation for a promise fulfilled is not cruelty. Our world often tells us differently. In a world where robbery is okay as long as you don’t get caught and Netflix is best because there are no commercials, waiting and anticipation are rarely experienced. 

I often anticipate promises I know God has spoken over me, yet I’m very firmly told to wait in fulfilling them. Often times, I can almost hear my heart mumble, “Fine. I’ll wait. But not joyfully. Definitely not peacefully, either.” When I catch myself grasping that attitude with an iron fist, I can almost guarantee you I miss out on the little blessings God hands me simply out of love, not necessarily out of promise. 

What would happen to our hearts as Christians if we didn’t merely settle with being content in life only when a promise was fulfilled? What if we took God up on His promise to provide for us and then kept our eyes open, rather than ignore His will for us until it fit into our plans?

What if we reveled in anticipation and longing because it makes us relish Jesus’ presence more?