King: A broken heart?

Jan 21, 2019 by

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Decades ago, discovery of a murmur alerted me that my heart will always require monitoring and more of it, plus potentially treatment, as I age. Recently while grandchildren raced hither and yon, seemingly oblivious to grownup realities, some of us adults pondered the latest data, which was not awful but did fit the forecast trajectory.

Michael A. King


The next morning Maya, age 3, approached with a Popsicle stick. “PawPaw,” she announced, “this is to check you out.” Stick placed on back. “Lift your neck, PawPaw.” Stick under chin. “Now I check your heart, PawPaw.” Stick on chest.

“How is my heart?” I ask.

“It has problems, PawPaw.” Her brother, age 6, agrees. “Yes, his heart is broken.”

“Can it be fixed?” I ask.

“Probably not,” he pronounces, with perhaps a tad less concern than I might have wished, given the gravity of the verdict.

The stick comes back to the chest. “Let me check it again. Yes, PawPaw, your heart is broken,” Maya confirms with heightened confidence.

I was struck that from somewhere, almost just out of the air, these two had plucked awareness of factors they had seemed, if you watched them casually, oblivious to.

This reminded me of my own lingering images from when I was their ages. Though who knows how accurate my memories are, they do point to picking up all kinds of cues from the grownups even as they seemed to have little idea how carefully I was paying attention to their conversations for clues as to how life is put together.

I glean from all this several takeaways. One is that often children, whether consciously or perhaps at some barely aware yet meaningful level, are likely dramatically more affected by their contexts than adults, with our faded memories of those days, realize. This means it matters tremendously to their and our well-being how we build and manage the settings that shape them.

Another is that children deserve for us to treat them more gently than we often do now in our culture. Their entire beings are vulnerable, open, ever questing. They deserve shelter from the cruelties and crises surrounding them.

This makes me think that even as “helicopter parenting” is to be resisted, parents who seek to buffer children from cellphones, social media, the pixels ceaselessly streaming from endless channels to endless devices know what they’re doing.

It also makes me think this: There is something primally wrong with concluding that instead of prioritizing treating all children tenderly, churches, communities or entire countries can be justified in inflicting another round of trauma on them.

It can’t be right to wash our hands of their needs by blaming adults in their lives for having the temerity to flee the broken hearts and communities that launched them in search of something better.

And it makes me think that Christians who believe God wants us to support those who lie, boast, mock, ridi­cule, pursue self-aggrandizement and personal wealth at the expense of their larger communities and nations have some reflecting to do.

Can a God thought to favor those who so flagrantly live against God’s ways, who create for children and many of us settings of endless turmoil and trouble, really be squared with the God visible through Jesus in Matthew 19? There Jesus orders adults trapped in their too-often cruel priorities not to deport but to learn from the children who use Popsicle sticks to explore the healing the adults so often make impossible.

Michael A. King is publisher of Cascadia Publishing House and blogs at Kings­view & Co.

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