Tonight my girls were silly, laughing at each other around the dinner table. The door was open and frogs were singing in the distance as a gentle breeze stole in. It felt like a bit of heaven. I watched Natalie giggle and sing. I found I just couldn't tell her about Boston, about our hurting and scared brothers and sisters far away. I didn't want to be the one who made her afraid. I didn't want to be the one to remind her that for many here and around the world, there is no heaven on earth. I didn't want to tell her how we hurt each other, how we kill one another. I didn't want to take away her innocence and joy.
I wanted to freeze the moment and let her be a little girl, naive to the darkness in the world and ways of evil and suffering. Protect her from hurt.
When we lived in eastern DRC, we somehow talked about the hurt and pain in the world more because she wasn't so sheltered from the realities most of the world faces; we were forced to talk about it because we couldn't hide from it. Our life was still, quiet, and at times quite idyllic. Yet, there were constant reminders of the pain and suffering that exists every day, because we knew those who suffered or we witnessed suffering of those we cared about in our lives. Our friends all had stories of pain, of loved ones who had died suddenly, children with chronic untreated illnesses, wives dying in childbirth. Some had stories of violent robberies, of murder, and of stark fear. Some things were too hard to share.
And because we lived down the street from a UN base, we would regularly see soldiers and guns. I remember one day that I pushed her to preschool and we walked past a contingent of congolese men in uniforms all holding machine guns as they guarded a compound near us. They stood next to a pick up truck that held a huge gun that I've only seen movies ( the kind that has what seems like 1000s of bullets that fire in rapid succession as someone stands behind it). It didn't faze me much. Because I had already seen so many guns held by so many different people with different uniforms on (and half the time I didn't know what the uniforms meant). I was pushing my then 4 year old in by blue BOB stroller past them. As if it were any other day. She would ask me about the guns. And sometimes we talked about the "sin and naughtiness" in the world. We talked about how people sometimes hurt each other, how they sometimes killed each other. Struggling to explain it to a 4 year old.
Somehow, God gave me the words to explain evil to a little girl, because I don't know how you ever explain evil to a child. Another time we walked passed a man with his nose, lips, and ears that had been cut off and the scars had healed. I didn't have words that day and she didn't know what she saw to even ask. Sometimes, there is such evil that I have no words and God is silent. Silent but very present. This is what I learn from Natalie every night when she prays. "Thank you God for always being with me." That God never leaves us. I look at my little girl and in her innocent joy, I see hope. Hope and the presence of God with those that suffer. Because surely the God that made my little girl would never leave those who suffer. That in His silence is deep pain and mourning for all those full of pain and loss, for those who suffer, and for all the ways we harm each other. In His silence is rage against evil. There will be redemption. Surely God did not leave us alone. Not only do we have each other, we have Emmanuel. God is with us. We are not alone; God is with us and He gave us each other. These are the words I tell my daughter.