Archive | September 2015

Bible Moms: Rock-a-bye Baby Moses

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Nile River

When I was a child, I loved to play “let’s pretend” with my older sister or with my friends. Did you? Now a grownup, I have outgrown childish games, but I find that writing with a healthy dose of pretending or imagination brings words to life, particularly ancient words.

Jochebed is an ancient name found in the Old Testament. For a moment, let’s pretend Jochebed has joined a grief support group. She is seeking kinship among other mothers who know loss. Jochebed knows loss, too, but hers is different from theirs. She has just weaned her child . . . and given him away. Let’s join the group and listen as she shares her story.

Hello. My name is Jochebed. I’m a mom like you. I have suffered, too, over the loss of my child. However my loss is different from yours. My son has not died from suicide or other causes. Hopefully he has not died at all. Perhaps it will help you to understand if I tell you what happened.

I became pregnant with my little boy, Tov, at a most horrific time in my life. I am Hebrew. My people are slaves to the Egyptian people. They work us hard and beat us if they think we aren’t doing our jobs fast enough. In spite of our circumstances God is blessing my people, and we are multiplying greatly. It seems the size of our families worries the Egyptian Pharaoh, so he ordered all male babies to be killed during birth. Midwives defied the law and let baby boys live. This so enraged the Pharaoh that he ordered all newborn baby boys be cast into the Nile River! Being pregnant I was beside myself with worry. None of us wanted to lose our babies. Many of my friends were already in mourning because of this heinous law, and babies will continue to die as long as this law is enforced.

Then little Tov was born. He was such a beautiful baby . . . how could I give him up? Few Hebrew women knew of my pregnancy, and they would not tell. I decided to try to keep my baby hidden from sight, hoping he wouldn’t be heard. I met his needs quickly to keep him comfortable and quiet. My plan worked for three months, but then he became too noisy to keep hidden any longer. He was a big baby with a loud and lusty cry. I lived in constant fear some Egyptian would hear him and report us.

But God gave me an idea. I would put him into the Nile River, just in a different way. I made a basket out of papyrus and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. When it was dry, I added a blanket for padding and nursed my sweet baby one last time. My husband, 7-year-old daughter Miriam, and 4-year-old son Aaron took turns holding him and loving on him. We closed the lid, and in the early dawn I set our little water baby among the tall reeds at water’s edge. Miriam, who was assigned the task of keeping watch, hid among the reeds nearby.

What a dark day that was. Would we ever see our precious bundle again? Would he die of starvation or be eaten by wild animals? I shuddered to think something horrible would happen to my baby, but I couldn’t allow him to be thrown into the Nile as Pharaoh had ordered. I would just have to trust in Jehovah, my God.

Miriam watched the basket as it rocked gently on the little ripples near the riverbank. Tov loved to rock, so he remained quiet . . . for the moment.  Miriam hadn’t been at her post long when she saw Pharaoh’s daughter, with her servants, approaching the riverbank to bathe. As the princess walked along the bank, she spied the basket. Curious, she called for one of her servants to retrieve it for her.

They could hear a baby whimpering as they drew near, and when they opened the lid, Tov let out a wail. “Oh, this must be a Hebrew baby,” she said, her heart melting at the sight of such a beautiful baby. Instantly Miriam sprang into action. She approached Pharaoh’s daughter and asked, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, and Miriam took off running to get me.

When Miriam burst through the door with her news, can you imagine my relief? Hurriedly Miriam led the way to the riverbank where the princess was holding my baby in her arms.

Pharaoh’s daughter said to me, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So I took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, I returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:9-10, paraphrased).

Now you know how my baby got his name changed to “Moses”. I was so overjoyed to have him in my arms again that I tried not to think about what lay ahead. I knew he would be given an Egyptian name, but I chose to focus on the present. I was happy that I could nurse him, and openly love him, and he would be a part of our family for a little while longer. The most I could hope for was maybe three more years. It would have to be enough. We tried not to spoil Moses, or treat him better than our other children, but it was hard not to. Every day I sang to him, and told him stories about God. How much would he remember? After years in the palace in Egypt, would he even know he wasn’t born an Egyptian? So many thoughts made my heart ache.

Then came that awful day. I had been dreading it as you can imagine. My husband and older children had bonded with Tov, too, so we were all sad to hand him over as promised. He would grow up Egyptian. Later we heard what his new name was, so foreign among my people. He now was one of them.

That’s my story. I weep every day for my child. I can’t see him. I never hear how he is doing. There are so many unknowns: Does the princess take good care of him? Is he accepted along with the other palace children, who were born Egyptian and not Hebrew? Will God keep His eye on my child, who will be brought up to believe in heathen gods? My heart is heavy with grief.

Now I must move forward without my son. I have other children who need me. And we are still enslaved to those who have my son, but I can’t pretend I never gave birth to him. This is why I joined your group. I pray you will accept me, even if my story differs greatly from yours. I want to hear your stories, too. I cannot fathom the depth of your pain from loss. I ache for my child, but I believe he is alive. I am so sad that your children are not. I hope that as we share our stories together, we will all be comforted.

Sidebar:

Moses did live and he did reach out to his Hebrew family when he grew up.  As a man Moses heard God calling him to play a mighty role in rescuing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. The story of Moses continues . . .

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians. So now, go. I am sending you [Moses] to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelite’s out of Egypt.’” Exodus 3:7-8, 10 NIV

Baby Moses’s story found in Exodus 2, New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2015. 2 Comments

Family Genes

I love blue jeans. In fact I love them so much I have newer, trimmer sizes “weighting” in the wings ready to wear . . . if you get my drift. Perhaps I’m the only one having to admit I’ve failed in my attempt to drop unwanted “somethings” in order to fit into them? Probably not . . . but let’s focus our attention on the other kind of genes for a moment.

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~ Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death. ~ Coco Chanel

I am mindful that we all have hurting hearts. I like to ask questions to stimulate thought. If I fail in my attempt, please tell me so in your comments, and I promise to try harder.

Like snowflakes, we are all different and yet similar in our pain. Those of you who are new to your grief journey may choose to set this piece aside for now. I may be asking questions that only increase your pain, and I don’t want to do that. And may I add that I am so sorry for your unspeakable loss.

All of our losses leave us with questions that don’t seem to have answers. Often we are bombarded with guilt. I describe it for myself this way: It’s like having a personal black cloud overhead that follows me wherever I go. No one can take it away or tell me to get rid of it. They can advise me, but that is all. Ridding myself of guilt is something I must do. It has no power over me ~ only the power I give it. Once I realize that I have a choice between living under a black cloud or living in the sunshine, I can chose to set myself free, and release the guilt to the wind.

Releasing the guilt is like accepting a gift ~ the gift of self forgiveness. Often we have a hard time forgiving ourselves, but the gift is free for the taking. The point of this piece is that there is relief for the hurting soul, and it just might be found in forgiving oneself.

As I applied sunscreen today I noticed my furrowed brow . . . and I wasn’t even raising my eyebrows. No matter. It was still furrowed. I have no choice. I inherited this trait. My father had a furrowed brow, often in sync with raised eyebrows and crinkled wrinkles in his laugh lines. Not only my dad, but his sister, and their mother had the same furrows and crinkles. There are probably more likenesses even further generations back. We have sturdy genes! I know you know what I’m talking about, for you have them, too ~ those persistent traits passed down from generation to generation. Some we like. Some we’d eliminate if we could.

What about those traits we wish we could get rid of? Let’s say you don’t like your over-abundant sprinkling of freckles, or maybe your hair is curly, and you wish it were straight, or vice versa. What about the traits that are inside us; the ones hidden beneath the epidermis? Sometimes heredity predisposes us to disease. I am a carrier of Muscular Dystrophy (MD). Three uncles and two cousins died from MD from my side of the family tree. Females are carriers and MD predominantly affects boys. The disease manifested itself in early childhood showing weakness in large muscles. At the time in history when my uncles and cousins had MD, they were able to live until their early twenties.

What about depression? It’s another disease I know something about. Depression is also genetic and runs in families. I have depression. I do not know whether any of my ancestors had the disease. Maybe in those days it was not even diagnosed. Loss of children alone, like my maternal grandparents suffered, could send one into deep depression. I’ve been in and out of depression most of my adult life, and I have no doubt that I passed it to my firstborn son. Likely he suffered from it most of his young life. I never thought about depression being hereditary until long after my son took his life. Knowing we both carried a weakness for this silent disease in our gene pool hurts me deeply. I can’t help the hurt, but neither can I let self blame destroy me.

If you are a parent who has lost your child, and you suspect depression was a key factor, please don’t blame yourself. Depression is not easy to diagnose. It is a silent, relentless disease that can bring shame to those who suffer from it. I must admit that I have not sought treatment for it, although I acknowledge it during medical exams.

My son had been treated for depression in the past, but he did not want to go back on drugs. He was an adult. It was his decision. In spite of personal pain, he was an excellent employee and was well-liked among his peers. They were totally shocked by his suicide. How many others are like him in some way? How many would get jobs if they admitted on their resume that they suffered from depression? I’ve worked in Human Resources. From my experience I’d have to say, “Not likely.”

Those of us outliving a precious child, who chose to die by suicide, struggle to put guilt to rest. We created this child. They were bits and parts of two people who have both strengths and weaknesses in their genes. And not only our genes, but what about the weaknesses in our environment? Our children are impacted by all of it. Are we somehow responsible for the decisions they make once they leave home? Wouldn’t it be unrealistic to think so?

We aim to do our very best rearing our precious children, but there comes a day when they fly free. We want them to, don’t we? They need to make their own footprint in the world. We’d love to steer them clear of potential potholes, which we are more likely to see on the horizon. Wisdom coupled with age has given us clarity, but our young people don’t often take our advice. After they reach a certain age, they think they are wiser, more mature, and more in touch with the world.

It is my opinion that we have to let our children live and make their own choices while loving them unconditionally. It’s that final choice they made . . . the one we were powerless to stop . . . that breaks us. It has taken years, but now I understand and accept that my son was very depressed before he died and perhaps long before that. The realization that my son and I shared the same weakness will always hurt, but I couldn’t prevent his choices any more than I could prevent freckles. Our family of genes, coupled with life experiences, makes up the sum total of who we are. We have carried down through the generations the strengths and weaknesses of our ancestors. And if we go all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve, we realize that they sinned. And their sin has been carried forward in every generation since.

Why not list depression with all other diseases that don’t have a stigma? Let’s detonate the stigma of shame that society has attached to depression. Let’s talk about it freely, just like we are learning to talk openly about suicide. Can we agree to not beat ourselves up over the parts of our genes that may or may not have played a significant role in our children’s deaths? It was their choice to die. Not ours. We tried to be the best parents we could be. To quote Maya Angelou, “If I’d known better I’d have done better.”

“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20 NLT

“The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child.” Ezekiel 18:20 MSG

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.” Jeremiah 29:11 VOICE

 

 

This entry was posted on September 11, 2015. 4 Comments