A 21st century parable

There’s an elderly woman near me who has missed out on the joy of  having grandchildren.  All her friends seem to have hoards, but in her family it just hasn’t happened yet.  She still hangs on to the treasured toys and baby clothes of her own children, hoping for just one little person she can love and to whom she can hand down her collected repository of family history.

A few years back, when her daughter-in-law fell pregnant and then miscarried, she decided to finally get rid of her own sturdy wooden cot, which had served well for her children too.  A difficult decision.  But when the charity shop would not, could not by law, accept it for resale, she just couldn’t believe it.  Unsafe by modern standards – fit only to be taken to the tip! What of the cot sheets and baby blankets that she had tailored to fit?  It seemed so pointless having kept them all these years.

Now the miracle has happened again and her hopes have soared.  Of course she follows the request of her son not to breathe a word until the 12 week scan – a concept with which she’s unfamiliar.   She learns to go online each week and see how her grandchild is developing in the womb.  It’s the world of the future and she wants to be part of it because of what it is bringing her.  When the time comes for her son and daughter-in-law to know the sex of their child, she goes with the flow so she can be where they’re at.  It’s really quite an advantage and, she realises, it’s actually the world of the present.

The parents-to-be have been online and researched cot death, immunisation, car seats and cotton versus bamboo clothing.  Understanding that this baby will be in good hands, she begins to reconsider the items she has kept inviolate for years.  Perhaps it’s time to let them go!  The agony is that more than 40 years have been wasted hanging on to treasures that are no longer relevant! Moreover, she has to accept that she has no control over what is now considered relevant.  There is no call for hand knitted lacy matinee jackets and booties.  Easy care is the order of the day.  Her son and daughter-in-law will do it their own way, no matter what.  In point of fact, being totally honest, there really never was a single ‘right way’, certainly not just hers.  She starts to find it very liberating.

In his book Border Lands, David Adam makes a point which seems to be relevant to this (true) story.

“The church has got caught in an imperialist role, saying to others,  ‘I have this, and I know what is good for you.  Without what I have you are poor and ignorant – not to forget damned!  I have the riches to bring to your poverty, I am the possessor of what you need to receive.’ ” 1

Adam, in the introduction to his book (page vii),  cites a passage from Alec Vidler’s book, Christian Belief, where he said of the Holy Spirit:

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to disturb a man or institution that is becoming settled or stiff; to break up what was taken for a fixed philosophy of life or a satisfactory routine of habit, in order that he may build up something better.

Are we paying attention?

 1 David Adam,  Border Lands, SPCK 1991,  p.44

Bronwyn Mannell

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