Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I mentioned in my previous post that Abby injured her head while we were in Mexico. It happened while Josh and I were out of sight: we had just returned to our room from breakfast to change into swimsuits, and I had gone into the bathroom to clean Abby's bib, and Josh had followed me in to talk logistics. We heard the kids talking and laughing before we heard Abby's cries. Josh went out to check on the situation, and that's when he found her bleeding quite profusely.

Of course, a whirlwind of activity ensued as we applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding and got ourselves down to the resort doctor as quickly as the elevator allowed. Ben had told us that they were playing and Abby fell against the marble corner of the ledge near where they were (supposed to be) removing their shoes.

We had her examined, and the wound itself, while deep, was pretty small (the beauty of a corner, I suppose). The medic cleaned it out, applied a bandage similar to a butterfly strip used in lieu of stitches, and advised us to stay out of the sun and water for the day (more easily said than done in Mexico). So once we returned to our room, we decided Josh would take Ben to the pool and I would occupy Abby in the room (also easier said than done).

Throughout the morning, though, Ben made comments to Josh that made it clear he felt some responsibility for the incident. We assured him that it was an accident, but we could see it was nagging at him, whatever had happened.

After his long nap, Josh, Abby, and I went in to greet him before he had even slid himself out of bed. In his sleepiness, he snuggled into my arms and asked if Abby's head was okay, if it was still bleeding. I assured him again that she was fine and that it just needed a little time to heal. Feeling like maybe he needed an opportunity to get something off his chest, I said softly, "It's hard to see someone you love get hurt, isn't it?"

He nodded his head and then said, "After she fell, I gave her a hug to try to make her feel better. That's how I got blood on my shirt." And he did have blood right in the middle of it, probably where her head had been pressed to his chest.

I affirmed his attempt to comfort his sister, acknowledging his love for her, and said something about how it can be messy to take care of someone who gets hurt, and that it's okay. Knowing how fastidious our son is about cleanliness and order and germs, I recognized how uncomfortable it probably was for him to get bloody. He immediately replied, "Yeah. We always get blood on us when we're loving someone who's hurt."

There was something about his words that struck me as being so very profound. He's right: when we love someone, especially someone who is hurting, we risk sharing the blood, the mess, the ugliness of hurt and pain. Love, true love, does not watch suffering from a safe and sanitary distance but rather enters in, disregarding the risk to oneself. My heart melted for this little boy who grabbed his sister and held her close, hoping to make it okay. If you'd seen her, you'd know how frightening this would have been: when I came out after Josh called, "Shaundra, I need you!" her face was covered in red, there were pools of it on the floor, it was dripping off her as Josh tried to figure out where the gash was located.

When Ben made that statement, I could only think of Christ, who not only is willing to enter into and assume our hurts but to shed his own blood, to make a mess of himself in order to heal our pains. Every theological mystery and debate and disagreement is somehow resolved in that truth: "We always get blood on us when we're loving someone who's hurt."

Well, we left the conversation at that and went into the bathroom to find his swim trunks so we could head to the pool. While he was changing, I remembered the time when my littlest sister, only one at the time, cracked her head open on the edge of a doorway while we were running through the house together and how worried I had been, how responsible I had felt. I was seven at the time. I shared this story with Ben, hoping it would give him the freedom to lay down his mental burden.

And it did. He asked a few questions to make sure I was actually involved in the process of her getting hurt and not just a witness; I assured him that while it was an accident, I was definitely part of the reason she got hurt. And then with great focus and concentration and big hand gestures so I would know exactly how it happened, he told me the story, at times stumbling over his words as his mouth tried to keep up with his mental and emotional outpouring.

It turns out they were "playing a little rough," in his words, hugging each other while spinning in circles, which is a favorite game of theirs here at home. At some point, they let go of each other, but Ben lost his balance, and as he tried to catch himself, he knocked Abby into the ledge. It was completely innocent, an accident in the truest sense of the word. But he was involved, and it was eating at him, as the incident with the jaguar ate at me.

I could visibly see his spirit lighten as he told the story. After thanking him for telling me and assuring him again that we know it was an accident, I hugged him, and he bounded off to finish getting his swim gear on.

Josh told me later that when he was putting Ben to bed that evening, Ben asked, "Daddy, do you want to know what happened?" and relayed the whole story again. I think he was so relieved to share the truth of it, to get it out in the open and know there was nothing between us. He very bravely walked into the light of honesty, and found that through confession, he was healed.

So much amazed me: how my vulnerability provided a safe context for Ben to be vulnerable; how hiding things--out of fear or shame or guilt--only makes us feel worse; how often times, we need to share the darkest places of our heart so that someone else can tell us we're okay, we're not bad, we're not in trouble. And even if there had been some culpability in his actions, I hope our reaction would not have been anger or judgment but instead would have been to acknowledge the trespass but then call him into and remind him of the greater truth of who he is, by grace.

Ben still asks how Abby's head is each day. When Abby realizes the band-aid is there, she says, "I hurh mah heah." There may be a small scar, but it won't be noticeable. And in some ways, it is a scar of love. If they didn't adore each other so much, didn't delight in being together the way they do, there never would have been an opportunity for the accident.

So if their friendship continues as they grow, which I pray it will, somehow I think Abby won't mind the scar.

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