"Mothering God you gave me birth in the bright morning of this world. Creator, source of every breath, you are my rain, my wind, my sun," - Julian of Norwich
My dad would often tell me, "You'll never quite understand my love for you until you are older and have little ones of your own." Like any good teenager, I would contradict his statement, rejecting the notion that parental love was different. But oh, the truth our forebears hold! Sure enough, I now have a little one I love in a unique and immensely strong way. Dad was right.
On Saturday at Boots Bakery, a group of dear and brave folks gathered to peaceably discuss a gnarly subject: violence and the sacred. We succeeded. Many voices brought a wide range of ideas to the table. As I left to attend to the needs of my family, I began thinking how frequently small children were mentioned in this conversation about a cultural, global, and deeply personal topic. And yet, it is when my mind turns to the horrible idea that my child might suffer that I begin to imagine myself engaging in some sort of violent behavior.
[Here I also wish to honor our difficulty in defining violence. Of course I engage violent behavior every day: I use fossil fuels violently stripped from the earth, I enjoy tremendous privilege as a white westerner which necessitates the suffering of others. There is a big ol' hairy network of violence I exist within every day.]
Violence and children were not chiefly discussed as a problem (ie. I must defend my home) but rather as the beginning of solutions. "We first learn security, love, and self worth as an infant, tenderly and safely held in our parents' arms. We must provide for mothers and children," I heard argued. Yes, yes! I remembered thinking while nursing my newborn son, "If only all the leaders of nations could hold a tiny baby for a few minutes each day, we might reach world peace."
Okay, that's a bit rosy. And the converse is true that when you are holding a screaming baby who seems to not welcome any of your efforts to comfort him, you might consider jumping out the window. Children cut to our very core. And what we find in that core is kind of complicated.
Which is why robust nonviolent parenting practices, nay, a nonviolent village life oriented toward the nurture and care of parents and young children is so necessary. Yes, I felt the urge to strike my child. In fact, I often feel it. (Oh, having a toddler!) But I also have resources given me by my own loving home and community of friends which prevents me from doing so. What of mothers and fathers who lack those extra resources? What of me when my anxiety overrides those helping resources?
We spoke of mercy on Saturday as well. Yes. May we practice abundant mercy in dealing with each other. May we also practice bravery and creativity to make Spokane a place that raises peacemakers. Today's conversation was a tiny taste of that.
Often, we use the tools closest at hand. I will continue to advocate for unarmed homes, families, churches and communities. Let our tools be mercy and justice. Let our security come from the love we know first as in infancy, the love of our Mothering God.