Yesterday I saw a photo.
If you know the story behind the photo, you know exactly how awful it is.
It’s a little 3-year-old boy, curled up on his belly. On the sand. With the water lapping at his face.
The photo makes him look as though he is merely asleep…. Not that he had drowned and had literally washed up on shore, with his (also dead) 5-year-old brother.
I have heard, “Syria this … refugee that … worst humanitarian crisis since WWII …” but none of it clicked for me.
Not until I saw that sweet boy, who reminded me of Z.
Then everything changed. My heart ripped, my body wracked with silent sobs, and I begged God to let it end.
Let the senseless death, the hopelessness, the loss of precious life, please God, just bring it to an end.
And I thought about the mother of these boys, who also drowned when their boat capsized.
What kind of fear does it take to risk her children’s lives in order to save them?
In the middle of the summer, we took a boat ride out on the Puget Sound. We were on a speed boat, and I was honestly afraid most of the way. Both kids had life jackets, but I kept I thinking of what could happen if the boat flipped, or my kids fell in.
My fears were really unfounded, as the risk of an accident happening was ridiculously low.
But then there’s the refugee mom. Who had the odds completely stacked against her.
How afraid must she have been to put both of her children on an overcrowded raft, filled past the point of safety? To cross a sea without life jackets on her kids. To know that a giant wave or a shark or a malfunction of the raft could be the death of them. To know how often people have lost their lives making a trek across the sea like they did.
And yet she stepped on board anyway.
What must have been running through her head when the raft sank, and her kids sank with it?
Did she have more kids than arms to reach them? What could it have been to experience the terror of drowning while knowing your children were drowning in the dark water somewhere next to you, but out of your reach?
And in that moment, was the risk still worth it? Was death still a better option than the terror of living under ISIS control?
As I slowly woke this morning, little Alyn was first on my heart. I wished someone could have held him. I wished he didn’t have to die alone. I wished he hadn’t died at all.
And the veins of entitlement, which has so subtly weaved itself into my character, became so apparent to me.
Entitlement feeds my discontentment with ideas like, “my house should be bigger, cuter, more in-style. I should be cuter, and smarter and more in-style. My kids should be better behaved, and not so draining, and so needy.” All while others would be thankful for a safe home with doors that lock, instead of living in a car, or a tent. They would be thankful for any children, no matter how demanding. My blood has run thick with entitlement, and it has poisoned my soul.
As I drove to church yesterday, the shame felt heavy and unavoidable. I asked God to forgive me for the years I have allowed discontentment to drain my gratitude and joy.
And still, even with the Syrian refugee family fresh on my mind, even with gratitude pouring from every part of me, I still struggled today with the hard of being a mom to three kids.
My kids were not screaming in terror of drowning, but they were screaming. About poop. Loudly. In the grocery store. For a long time.
And I thought to myself . . . This is hard.
I now go to church by myself. Ryan helps sometimes, but mostly, I do the church thing with 3 kids alone. And in the parking lot, my kids were running ahead of me, in spite of my admonition for them to stay close, and a blue van drives a little too quickly, a little too close for my comfort. And I scream “STOP!!! STOP!!! I reach out, but I have more kids than hands. (Z was safely in one arm, and my bags and phone in the other.)
As soon as my kids stopped and the van passed, we were out of danger. But the Syrian mom, when would she ever felt like they were out of danger if they had survived? Would she have ever been able to let her guard down?
No, my fear was very much fleeting, unlike her gut level fear of staying in the same place, or chancing death in a risky move accross the ocean.
And still, I thought to myself . . . This is hard.
I wasn’t trying to contain my kids on a small raft, fleeing for our lives. Instead, I was trying to contain them in a shopping cart for an hour, trying my best to minimize bickering, squashed loaves of bread, and screaming about poo.
And in spite of our admittedly low discomfort in the grocery store … And in spite of the fact that I was surrounded by food I could have easily bought and eaten … “Still” … I thought . . . This is hard.
And what do I do with these spaces in between what is hard for others and what is hard for me? How do I live each moment filled with gratitude, breathing in the beauty of the present, and offering myself grace in the moments that are not so beautiful. (My preschooler screaming about poop all the way from the checkout stands to the restroom for instance — not a glorious moment.)
And yet no matter how hard my day is, there is someone else having a harder day and someone else having an easier day.
These are the spaces in between.
I hope to live in those spaces with grace, compassion, and respect for the hard of others AND the hard I know. While still creating space for gratitude.
And maybe the person in those spaces I need to show the most grace to is me. Because I know there will be days I will fail, days I have failed. Days I have compared the hards of others, maybe to make myself feel better. And days I have ignored the hard of others, because I was too content keeping my own little world safe and happy.
We all live in the spaces in between. I guess the question is, how can we do it well?