Recent news stories about the rash of teenage suicides provoked by bullying have given me a heavy heart. I see the faces of these young people – children, in some cases – and their bright eyes and lively smiles make me mourn for the men and women they would have become. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child; I cannot fathom the devastation of losing your child to suicide.
Regardless of one’s feelings about homosexuality and what the church or the state should do or not do about it, I pray that men and women of faith can agree that it is Too Much for children in this country to feel driven to despair and death because they are persecuted by their peers. As parents we have to say Enough is Enough and demand better for our children, for our schools, for our communities.
As I reflected today on these heartbreaking stories, I thought of God’s own Mothering Spirit and the pain God must feel when we inflict such pain on one another, when we terrorize and persecute and bully and shame. How God’s heart must break with our own, and yet still remain the constant, eternal, unconditional source of love that heals and forgives and redeems the whole world.
When I feel despair and anger at hearing such stories of violence and evil, I pray for an increase of strength and wisdom and understanding. I pray that God’s Mothering Spirit will guide my own. I pray for a recognition of the in-dwelling of God within each sacred human soul. I pray that my own actions and words – or the actions I fail to do and the words I fail to speak – may not inflict suffering on others.
I looked at S today and I wondered what kind of man he will grow to be. I pray that he will be loving and compassionate and fair and kind. I pray that he will not know the terror of being bullied or the self-loathing of hating the person God created him to be. I pray that he will be someone who stands up when others are being put down, that he will fight for justice and truth, that he will be unafraid to speak the prophetic words that God calls him to speak.
But he is his own beautiful mystery, unfolding in God’s time before my eyes. I cannot control what he becomes or what will happen to him. I can only accompany him on this journey. Sometimes that is a terrifying prospect.
So my prayers tonight are with the mothers and fathers who are grieving the loss of their children to suicide. I pray for those children who cannot sleep tonight because they are terrified of facing bullies at school who insult their sexuality, who belittle their religious beliefs, who degrade their ethnicity, who mock their disability. I pray for all of us who are raising children, that we may commit ourselves to caring not only for the children in our own family, but for all children – from the unborn, to the poor, to the persecuted, to the marginalized.
I pray that we remember that the vocation to parenting calls us to seek the common good for all children, not simply our own.