All the Babies Who Weren't Moses


Hush baby hush,
sleep baby sleep,
God will take care of you

My preschooler turns the pages of his Bible storybook, convinced he's reading what he actually just has memorized. Isn't the story of David and Goliath every little boy's favorite- promising him that children can be braver than grownups, and more powerful than they feel? Mine is no exception. But in a close second place is this one: The story of Moses, his namesake.

Another page turn, and back to the refrain.

Hush baby hush,
sleep baby sleep,
God will take care of you

His little mouth (so much like his daddy's) forms the words into the most innocent of sounds, rhythmic and lispy. A baby. A basket. A mother who dares to take a risk. A close call. An act of compassion. A proof of not only the goodness of God, but of humanity as well. It's touching and it's lovely and it's all the right things.

Except complete.

My own little Moshe doesn't read about the Hebrew baby boys who didn't share our hero's fate; he doesn't need to know, let him stay little a few years more. But it beats through my head like a drum as I look at the smiling cartoon pictures: I hear all the mothers wailing the cries of which Jochebed was spared, see all the tiny carnage of a deranged king's fear. I can barely think of it long before it becomes too much and I have to look away.

The Bible is nothing if not honest about evil, both the force outside of us and that sometimes found within our very own hearts. But we dine on Scripture like the choosiest of patrons, moving our forks right over the unpalatable parts and letting the savory go down smooth. Chase it with a Cabernet, for good measure. We exalt voices who assure us that God wants to "bless us" with financial security, easy relationships, and a comfortable life. We read verses like Jeremiah 29:11 to mean if we do it all right, we are guaranteed those things- or worse yet, that we deserve them.

In college, I had a runner friend who was convinced that God had promised him an Olympic medal. Now, in my mid-thirties, it sounds laughably ridiculous but at the time we drank it down seriously- maybe with a bit of awe on the side. It wasn't that I felt no skepticism, but that I had never met anyone so confident in God's favor. It was admittedly attractive.

Most of us aren't walking around making claims such as my old friend's (to my knowledge he never went to the Olympics), but the same spirit can usually be found given one quick sweep of our hearts. Our version of Christianity so often becomes an expectation of replaying the narrative of Jochebed and Miriam, and we forget about all the babies who weren't Moses.

I don't know what it's like to lose a baby, but I listen to the inconsolable grief of friends who do. I don't know what it's like to be a child who sleeps in a bed a grown man slithers into every night, but I know there are a disproportionate number of little girls who do. I've never witnessed the devastation when hurricanes strike, the earth quakes, or wildfires burn, but I know people all over the globe today are numbly trying to survive the hand they've been dealt.

But I know a little bit about praying for healing and seeing none over and over again, and the paradigm shift in your brain as you are forced to confront what you thought you were sure about God. I know a little about circumstances you're convinced are more than you can bear, and of crying out to the Great Silence from the confines of your closet where no one else can hear.

I have known a God who feels intimately near me and I have known One who won't lift a finger to stir the pot. I have known divine intervention and I have known the perils of free will, and I yo-yo daily about what it all means. Maybe there is no physical throne that He's either on or off; maybe He is simply the love that propels subatomic particles through time and space, the goodness that passes between skin cells when one human shows compassion on another. Maybe the idea of easy Sunday answers fails to hold up against suffering and mystery, and all that is left is to trust in the existence of mercy, pooling black around us, dark as freshly shed blood.

Maybe there is only Emmanuel, God with us. And maybe that could be enough.

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)