….do we suffer children??

I was listening to Relevant Radio a few of days ago (I think it was a rerun of a show from a much earlier date)  and Marcel LeJeune said something that really hit me between the eyes.  He proposed (I paraphrase)  that our society has taken the gift of fertility and turned it into a curse; preventing fertility is now the desired “gift”.  And he is exactly right!  Not so long ago, societally we viewed pregnancy and having children as a blessing.  Large families were normal, not the fodder of ridicule and gossip.  When did that belief change?  In the 60’s when “love” became less about relationships and marriage and more about “love the one you’re with”, thanks to the pill?  In the 70’s when abortion became the norm?  Or the 80’s when selfishness replaced the idea of sacrifice, disguised by the politically correct jargon of  “affording children” or “being able to give kids the best college education” or “giving kids the all the best of the everything”?.

Some of my best childhood memories were holidays spent at my grandparents.  Both sides of the family were large; my parents had 14 siblings between the two of them.  So there were tons of cousins to play with, sharing the joy of just being kids. At Thanksgiving, we all brought food and their homes smelled of turkey and pies.  My paternal grandmother was an amazing seamstress.  Many years she would sew every girl a Christmas gift.  I still have my Raggedy Ann doll, a small doll quilt and some Barbie clothes.  When I received them, I was so excited.  Now I appreciate them even more because I understand the work and love that went into making these gifts.  And also because my grandmother has been gone for years now.  My maternal grandmother made yummy cookies and had a way of making us feel special.  She was Catholic, so there was always a crèche and midnight mass.

Those big family traditions are far and few between now.  Scattered across the country, or even across the globe, families, including ours, see each other much less often – sometimes years go by without a visit.  Most of us have a couple of kids, who hardly know their cousins, aunts, uncles or even grandparents.  A book that records the voice of a loved one replaces their actual presence.  It makes me sad.

Then I see commercials that get me riled up and angry.  You’ve probably seen them.  One depicts women who look so put together walking through what appears to be a department store.  But instead of purchasing normal items, they pick up things from baskets marked “grad school”, “significant other”, “trip to Paris” and “Buy a House”.  Of course, in the midst of this important shopping spree, a stork with a special package catches the attention of one woman, but on second thought she shakes her head “no” and waves off the stork.   Or the one where a woman is in a grocery store with her children and fruit is bumped to the floor.  Fast forward to her arriving home, only to find more mischief (a water balloon dropped from the stairs).  Her exasperation is evidenced in her interior dialog about whether she can handle additional children.  Contraception to the rescue!    Next scene:  she is playing in a pile of fall leaves with her little ones, children having fun washing their dog, then sneaking up on their dad….she ponders “only two…..well maybe”?   What a message for our girls in middle school, high school and even college.  Who needs kids right now when all these other options are so tempting?   What will this next decade be remembered for in the realm of family, marriage and children?  Scary thought!

…now I see.

One of my goals is to see God in everyday events; in the little things that  I normally  tend to ignore.  For most of my life I did a lot of ignoring!  Instead of looking for God in the “whispers”, I was looking for a burning bush, a flash of lightning.  It seemed to me that big “aha” moments would be an effective way for God to “talk” to me, leaving no doubt of his presence or meaning.  Although I have a hard time admitting it, was I wrong!

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  I KINGS 19: 11-13

One of the first times I realized that God speaks to me in the quiet, normal moments of everyday was an evening after work.  At the time, I was working as an inside sales specialist for a large computer and electronics company.  It was just before Christmas with numerous calls from unhappy people still waiting for the arrival of gifts they had ordered.  It’s easy to understand their frustration, so I spent more time than we were really allowed, helping track down their gift.  Those calls I didn’t mind at all.  The ones that irritated me (okay, thoroughly annoyed me!) were the calls from parents who were spoiling their children with outrageously expensive items.  For instance, one lady called to purchase two xboxes, two sets of games, two sets of accessories explaining that her sons would not share.  Are you kidding me??  Another caller ordered a laptop with all the bells and whistles for a 12 year old who was yelling at her in the background.   I realize that for many Americans, Christmas is an entirely secular holiday.  Even so, what are we teaching our kids?

The kicker that night, however, was a caller who was so upset she was crying.  I immediately felt sorry for her; the gifts that she had ordered for her son were on back order and wouldn’t arrive till after New Year’s Day.  After some investigation and order tracking, I discovered that the game box had been delivered, but without the bundle of games.  When I got back on the line with her, I tried to get her to see the bright side.  The game box could be wrapped and the games arriving a week or so later would give him something exciting to anticipate.  Still she cried.  I asked her why she was still so upset (in hindsight not my smartest move!).   She explained that her 29 year old son had specifically asked for these items and she promised him they would be under the tree.  Well, I was so shocked!  The call didn’t last more than a minute after that revelation!  Luckily it was my last call.

I clocked out, grabbed my stuff and proceeded to stomp out to the car.  It was a brisk night, with a clear sky full of stars and a large, bright moon.  Normally I would stand and stare up at the sky, in awe of the beauty.  I love stargazing.  But that night I looked up with my arms outstretched and yelled at God, “Why am I doing this?  What is wrong with these people?  Don’t they know the true meaning of Christmas?”  I just stood there in total frustration, waiting for an answer, but not really expecting one.  As I continued gazing at the moon, this thought popped into my head “who do you think you are?”  It’s not like I heard a voice, but it was a distinct, clear thought that came out of nowhere, taking me by surprise.  Of course, my immediate reaction:  “What do you mean, who do I think I am?  I would never have my children experience Christmas like this!”  No response.  Just loud silence!  After a minute or so, I began to feel a little foolish.  Really, who am I to judge people for how they celebrate Christmas?  Who am I to decide what is too extravagant a sum to spend on gifts.  Instead of being critical of people who obviously think differently than I do about this, why couldn’t I see it as an opportunity to evangelize?  Why couldn’t I use my frustration to spur me to pray for their change of heart (or mine?!)  It was a good lesson.  In many ways.  Including the lack of a burning bush in God’s communication with me.

 

 

Stained Glass Window St Columbkille Catholic Church