I John 4:18: Mothers’ Day/Child Dedication

Mother’s Day/Child Dedication
May 10, 2009
I John 4:7-21 (I John 4:18)
Fearless Love

Our bulletin cover art this morning is from Lora Jost—a local artist that many of you know. In a written piece accompanying the artwork, Lora says that it is intended to reflect the nurture of children. The written words are those called out to her by a man one day when she was carrying her baby son, Nicholai: “Don’t let those angel’s wings get scuffed nowhere.”

Lora also writes that she heard Nicholai’s heartbeat for the first time on September 12, 2001.

When Sue Adam was a senior in college, she got pregnant, and she decided to give her baby up for adoption. She describes that period as the loneliest time in her life. In the story corps booth, she tells her birth daughter about it: “When I was in the hospital, I was there for hours by myself. And then they took you away, and they wouldn’t allow me to see you. But one of the nurses took pity on me and brought you in to my room in the middle of the night one night so that I could count fingers and toes.”

Adam had to physically hand her daughter over to a doctor when she left the hospital.

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, died of lung cancer when I was three or four years old. I don’t remember her, but I do remember going to her grave site once a year or so. Across the little gravel road from Grandma Margaret’s grave there was another grave that we would visit. It was the grave of the son of my mom’s best friend. Daryl was born the same year as my brother. He died while still a baby.

My mom would gaze at the gravestone, tracing the lines of the date with her eyes: 1976. Then she would look at my brother, touch him gently.

I heard an interview on This American Life with a mom and her two teenage daughters. After their parents’ divorce and a long-distance move, Amanda and Stephanie began acting out at school and disregarding their mom’s rules at home. They cut their hair, dyed it bright colors, and formed it into mohawks. They played their music loudly and when they went out they wore combat boots and heavy make-up.

Amanda got arrested for arson when she lit the trashcan in the girls’ bathroom on fire.

One day their mom, Debra, got a phone call from the school telling her that they hadn’t been in class for a week. She found the girls at home. They said they didn’t feel like going to school. Debra told them they couldn’t go out that night, but they went anyway. And they didn’t come back. Debra hired a private investigator to comb the streets, looking for her girls. When he found them, they were sent to wilderness camp and foster care.

Eventually, they came home again, but it was a constant battle. One day, Amanda and Stephanie came out of the house carrying backpacks that were packed full, an extra pair of shoes dangling from each one. “Where are you going,” asked Mom. “To get some coffee,” the girls replied. “Why do you need two pairs of shoes to get coffee?”

But Debra was simply too exhausted to even try to stop them. And like that her two oldest daughters were gone again. They hopped trains, slept in the backyards of abandoned houses, and did whatever drugs they could get their hands on. A few days after Amanda nearly died from a heroine overdose, she and Stephanie got picked up for loitering. Stephanie gave the cops her fake name, but Amanda gave her real name and went home.

For nine more months, Debra, Amanda, and the two younger daughters waited for word from Stephanie, who was 14 at the time. Amanda told her mom about a community of homeless drug users that they had been part of in San Francisco. So Debra went to San Francisco, to a run-down part of town where there were homeless people sleeping on every bench and piles of clothes all over the place. Debra went there and peered desperately into each face, looking for her daughter.

I know a woman who divorced her alcoholic husband when their son was in grade school. My friend moved away, but the son insisted on staying with his dad. Every once in awhile, the son calls her. She even got to visit him a few times. And her ex-husband has been in touch once or twice when the son was in trouble with the law. When I asked her if I could share her story, she said of course. She also said she hadn’t heard from her son in two years.

Dalton Hawkins was an 18-year-old freshman at KU. He was an honors student. He was a friendly guy who had just been on a trip with his fraternity brothers to see a Wizards game in Kansas City. He drank some alcohol—apparently too much—and somehow ended up on the roof of Watkins Scholarship Hall. One minute he was on the roof. The next he was on the ground, dead.

When they were contacted for a newspaper story, Dalton’s parents had no comment.

John says that there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear.

As a parent of three children, I can barely grasp this idea: Perfect love casts out all fear.

As a part of this congregation, pledging to love and nurture these amazing children, I wonder what this looks like: perfect love casts out all fear.

The love I have for my children is so mixed up with fear that sometimes I can barely separate the two.

My love is imperfect. Real. And good. And powerful.

But imperfect.

It is God, father and mother of us all, who loves with perfection—with completeness. As we commit ourselves to these children—to each other—let us open ourselves up to God’s perfect love. Let us let go of our fears and rest in that divine, fearless love.

Amen.

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