Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pitter Pattering Feet

He liked cucumbers.

Roderick called cucumbers "comb comb".  Two year-old French, and a drooly pointing finger, got the point across: 'Cut me another piece'.  

We sat on a porch the Peace Corps rented from Roderick's family.  Cote d'Ivoire was hot and eating inside made things worse, but eating on the porch made me Roderick's target.

"Comb comb..."

Cherub cheeks and a toddler's indecency made him unapologetic.  'You see me standing on the porch and you just came back from the market.  Give up the goods,' is a rough translation.

His belly distended, nose ran and feet were bare.  My twenty-something idealism fueled the trans-Atlantic volunteerism.  I shared with Roderick, but his entreaties became intense.  Once, I ate a cucumber by myself.  

I did.

Twice or so, I hid in the oven of his father's rental rather than capitulate to Roderick's demands.  Magnanimity was the mode, and miserly meditations the exception, but remembering my stinginess stings.

If I'd shared more cucumbers, would Roderick still be alive?  He, like Wynter, died before his third birthday.  He, like Wynter, was embedded in stinging circumstances.

Wynter was abducted from her home, driven across county lines and killed.  In oppressive heat, officers searched for Wynter's cherub cheeks.  Sometimes they second-guessed themselves.  'Did I let a bad guy get away?  Was there something else I could have done?'

Answers that satisfy are in short supply.  Seeing children die is hard.

Connecting cops to the Lord is the best I've got.  God sees and cares.  Roderick's and Wynter's Creator cares, yet 'Why do wee ones die?' haunts.  Scripture helps.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. ~ II Corinthians 12:7

'Why do children die?' is a thorn in our flesh.  Alan Kurdi's family asks for relief from torment.  Three times, the Apostle Paul asked the Lord for removal of the thorn in his flesh.  How many times, and how many of us, have asked God to spare children's lives?  

If children dying pains you, you understand Paul's plea.  Scholars are torn over the origin of Paul's thorn, but Roderick, Wynter and Alan reinterpret what a thorn in the flesh means today.  Children dying HAS to have something to do with Satan.

Sorry, not sorry.

Longing to stop deaths pulls us irresistibly to scripture:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ II Corinthians 12:7-9

Longing for feet, that will pitter-patter no more, makes us weak.  In our weakness, Christ's power is made perfect.  Grief and doubt are stirred in the hardest hearts when children die.  All of us, including cops, grope for answers.

So that Christ's power may rest, chaplains minister in His name.  If a child is missing, police officers are summoned.  If a child dies, it's a police matter.  Scores of abused, missing, suicidal, accidentally killed and murdered children will impact a 25-year police career.  A chaplain trusts, and invites law enforcement professionals to trust, the sufficiency of God's grace amidst heartbreak.

Nothing is as heartbreaking as eating a cucumber.

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