Why Do the Nations Rage?

Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
why do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord,
and against His anointed.

–The Messiah, George Frideric Handel

Her name is Mary, and she is a pudgy child with a face as disdainful as a cat’s. Though it is almost 90 degrees outside today, she arrives for the church camp departure dressed in too-large boy’s combat boots, orange gym shorts, and the plaid and ruffled blouse of a school marm. She scowls at us mothers, standing in our blonde, pony-tailed line like runners-up at a beauty pageant, with obvious mistrust. Her own mother, a stripper with a methamphetamine addiction, left the family a few years ago, and Mary is barely being raised by anyone. She spends a week or two with her dad, another week or so with grandma, another week with an aunt or cousin, days lived out of a mold-stained Hello Kitty backpack and nobody to braid her hair or absent-mindedly brush it out of her eyes.

She is a mean child, and the other children shudder when they see her coming. She’s such a terror that last year she was sent home from church camp, where prayer and Jesus Loves Me simply didn’t do the trick. As I wait for my daughters, Sage and Rosemary, to settle themselves on the bus, I’m quite sure that prayer and Jesus Loves Me won’t do the trick for Mary this year, either. She has provoked several little girls, including my Rose, to tears already, and the bus hasn’t even left the parking lot.

To add injury to insult, the bus driver, a volunteer from the church, shows up almost 45 minutes late. The children have been sitting patiently in the heat in a bus all this time, waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I sit in my air conditioned car and watch the other parents as the sweat trickles down their faces outside the bus, and I wonder about what the Christian fellow driving the bus is thinking when he delays almost 30 people for almost an hour in almost 90 degree heat? Does he think anything at all? Does he consider the Golden Rule? Would he want to be kept waiting in such heat in an enclosed place with so many restless children? And Mary besides?

An hour passes. Mary has the rear half of the bus in an uproar, and several children disembark and flee teary-eyed to their mothers. A large, red-faced man laughs at us as we gather our chicks, announcing loudly, “We can send them all home, you know.” An expectant mom near me hugs her 10-year-old and gives me A Look. I’m the oldest mom there, old enough to know better than to be pushed around by some fool who hasn’t yet learned that the Golden Rule applies to small human beings, too, so I raise an eyebrow at him and ask which seems better to him, three kids in a two-person seat in a bus in which the temperature must be over 95 degrees, or the arms of your mother, if you’re going to have to wait anyway? He looks away as if words haven’t just come out of my mouth. The pregnant mom smiles.

Rose is sniffling and apologizing for being upset that Mary has demanded her seat and taken her best friend’s seat, too, and for being weepy about having no place to sit. She says nobody will help them with Mary’s bullying. The adults standing nearby all start to move away, for Mary’s old grandmother is standing near us, and we all feel sorry for her–and yet angry, too.

Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
why do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord,
and against His anointed.

According to the Bible, church people are His “anointed,” part of God’s family, and yet so powerless, sightless, and relentlessly human. As Mary is, so have I been: demanding, desperate, grasping and gaping with my sightless chick’s maw. To whatever extent we are orphans and always wanting Love but not finding her full breast, we are ravenous like Mary, and angry because our own mother has left us with nothing better than too-large combat boots and Salvation Army gym shorts and the ruffled, plaid blouse of some privileged privately-schooled child who never knew what it was to want anything, ever. I remember what that was like, wanting the best seat on the bus, and resenting the hell out of the girls whose hair was always fixed and whose mothers stood there like goddesses with the sunlight spilling all around them. Or maybe I just imagined what it was like, or noticed other girls noticing it, and my heart went out to them at the same time that their demands made me want to knock their heads off, push them off the merry-go-round and laugh when dirt filled their mouths.

But today. Today I told my girl, “There are many Marys in this world. You must learn to stand up to them. You can learn to say “no” to her now, or you can learn to say “no” this week at camp, or you can learn some other time; but, my love, you must learn to say “no” when bullies want to take something that is rightfully yours, or even something that you have as much a right to as they do. I wish you lots of strength and love, my little lady.”

And I followed the bus to the interstate and called my husband and cried, “I’m having a Mom moment, will you pray with me for our daughters?” because I know, and he knows that we can’t protect our children from all the Marys in this world, and it’s through living with them and their offenses that we learn love and courage, how and when to stand up to bullies, and especially how to confront the bully inside ourselves and yet have compassion for her.

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