By: Jeana Hallock
It was just after five o’clock and my phone started buzzing, with the type of buzzing that can only mean one of two things – severe dust storm warning (I live in Phoenix, AZ) or Amber alert. I looked down mainly to see if I should leave the office sooner or later to avoid the traffic issues created by a haboob, but what I saw instead was an amber alert complete with license plate and car description. I stopped for a moment and prayed for the child and the family. I prayed that somehow, seemingly against all hope, the child would be rescued unharmed. I’ve heard that the alert system has helped… the thought occurred to me that maybe in part it was because people prayed.
A few hours later as I neared home, I saw an electric sign over the freeway with the same alert. I prayed again and breathed a sigh of relief that I’d soon be back home with my daughter.
When I arrived, the house seemed strangely empty. No dog, no “dad” (my husband), no daughter. I thought maybe they had gone for a walk, since it was still light out and not too hot, considering how hot it usually is this time of year.
Within a few moments, I realized that they were all on the back patio. As I came outside, my daughter beaming said “Mommy! Water Table!” with all the enthusiasm that her less than 2-year-old frame could muster. “Oh you’re playing with the water table,” I repeated back. There was a long exchange of two-word “sentences” and translations that I’ll spare you from, but I was overjoyed to see her there so delighted by such a simple thing.
After a few minutes, my husband, who was scrolling through Facebook postings, said, “Oh, poor little boy.” My husband said it with gravity and then he read a headline. A five-year-old boy had wandered away from his family chasing grasshoppers while they were out camping. Although hundreds of people had searched for him, it was too late when they found his body four days after he had gone missing. As I interacted with my daughter out on the patio, what he said didn’t really hit me. He always reads headlines.
But at 4:25 in the morning, having been awakened by my little girl, who still sleeps in the bed between us, I laid awake. For hours. Praying. Thinking… about how something so innocent like chasing grasshoppers had ended so tragically. I prayed for the parents, for their marriage, that they wouldn’t blame themselves or each other (although I realized that if I were in their shoes, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else). I thought about what those days of waiting and hoping and searching must have been like for them, and what it must have been like for a child to be all alone out in the woods… hungry, tired, afraid.
There was something very different about the two situations – the amber alert and the family camping trip turned tragic. The first was an evil that society perpetrates on our children, and the second was an innocent tragedy—a story with a picture-perfect beginning, a family spending time together, a boy with sunlight shining down on him, amusing himself with grasshoppers, that ended suddenly in heartbreak.
And yet, there was something very similar in the two stories as well. Although I try not to ask the age-old question, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why?”
I’m not going to pretend that I have an answer.
I comforted myself with the idea that the image of the boy in the sunlight was now indelible – he’s in glory and will be spared from the further tragedies of this earth.
And as a parent, I prayed not to be overcome by fear and to continue to trust God on this journey of raising my own children.
But more than anything, the experiences of yesterday reminded me to hug my children and family tighter, to hold them closer—love them better—and to pray for children everywhere.
The longer I’m involved in the movement to advance life and God’s design for marriage and family, the more that children have become the focus of my prayers. Children are the weakest among us. They can be innocently lured into harm’s way. And there is real evil in the world that can befall them. They rarely are able to give voice to the challenges they face.
We must be their protectors as best we can. We must try to give them the ideal, whenever possible. In doing so, perhaps we can etch the indelible view of sunlight on even just a few.
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