Real Mission: Enough
"Mama, it's mornin' time" a little voice whispers as I flutter my eyes open to catch the first light of day.
"Mama, I'm hungry."
"Okay buddy, what would you like to eat? Cereal, pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast with jam, Greek yogurt?" I've barely gained consciousness before I've rattled off every breakfast food option known to man.
"Hmmmm...yogurt! With TOO MUCH honey!"
Too much honey. That is what he wants. Too much. He’s three years old. He wants too much syrup on his pancakes and too much jam on his PB&J and too much television and too much of pretty much everything. He wants milk on his cereal, but then he doesn’t eat it quickly enough and the cereal goes soggy and the milk and grain are both wasted. My three-year-old son wants too much. He wants to take anything that I will give to him.
For weeks now, I’ve been giving him an appropriate amount of honey on his yogurt, and then when he asks with wide eyes, “Is it too much mamma?” I lie to my child and say, “Oh yeah buddy, it’s TOO much." He is always delighted by my expression of excess. With glee he receives the gift and with pride he carries his bowl to the kitchen table, elated by overindulgence.
Today, something changed. I broke. When my son asked me if he could have too much honey, I told him, “No, you can’t. You can have just enough."
He’s three, so, he cried and insisted that I give him more. Nearly refusing to eat his breakfast if he couldn’t have the thing he wanted…too much. I carried on and drizzled the exact same amount that I always do. The amount that is enough. The amount that I had been telling him was “too much” for weeks. I sat him down, I told him about the bees and how hard they had worked for the honey, and how we needed not to waste the gift and just enjoy the amount we are given. I told him that it’s not right to take too much. He cried some more and slid the bowl away from his presence. He looked at the same offering that had delighted him the day before with disdain. He grieved the reality that his mother was no longer willing to lie to him in order to let him go on believing that he was entitled to too much.
"Buddy, you can be upset, you can choose not to eat your breakfast, but it’s time for me to tell you, that if you take too much, then others won’t have enough, and that is not okay in our family."
The words of Deuteronomy 11 echoed in my mind: You shall love the Lord your God, therefore, and keep his charge, his decrees, his ordinances, and his commandments always. Remember today that it was not your children (who have not known or seen the discipline of the Lord your God), but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness…You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
The land of my home is flowing with milk and honey. There are blessings too great to number, but today I am reminded of my responsibility in teaching my sons, my white sons, that when they take too much they are denying others the right to have enough.
The events of the past two weeks have broken my heart. Watching a man plead for his life, struggling to breathe, slipping away under force. It is unconscionable, horrifying, and reprehensible. Those are honestly the nicest words that I can possibly use right now. But really, there is only one word that needs to be said, enough.
Enough already. My son is three years old. He has so much to learn, but what will become of him if I continue to teach him that he is entitled to too much? What sort of Christian will he be if his own mother won’t tell him that enough is enough? What kind of witness, advocate, and friend will he be to his black and brown friends if he can’t even wrap his mind around entitlement in his own home?
It starts with you. It is time to teach your children the way of love. The way of Jesus. We cannot begin to reconcile the world if we are not up to the task of confronting the foundation of racism in our own homes. For as Jemar Tisby writes, racism is not America’s original sin. Greed is. Greed drives us to take more than our fair share, to exploit others for our own personal gain, to hoard more than we need out of fear and mistrust.
Jesus has something to say about our propensity to protect a profit, while denying the prophet. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-21
And John, as he prepared the way for Christ to come into our heats, reminded the people of their role in welcoming God into their midst. “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’” -Luke 3:10-14
This blog is about mission: the reconciling of all people with God and one another in Christ. Today my mission field is right here in my own home. Sometimes it is far off and sometimes it is near, near enough to be your own blood. We each have a responsibility to educate our children, educate ourselves, in the way of love. The way that Jesus taught us, the way that leads to eternal life.
The way is lived, and the way is learned. Little white boys, like my sons, will be taught by our society that they are more valuable than little black boys, that their voice matters more than the voices of little girls in their class, that their expression of love is more valid than their gay classmates, that their anatomy defines their gender, that their faith is an exclusive audience with the Creator, that their economic privilege excuses them from getting their hands dirty, that and that they have a right to take too much. And my role as their mother is to say, "Enough."
We must live in a new way. We must learn a new way. We must learn the way of love.
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. -Nelson Mandela
When he was done crying about losing his privilege, my son looked at me, and said, "Mama, do you have enough?" With tears in my eyes, I responded, "Yes, baby. Let's make sure others have enough too."
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