80+ years after first being published, the children’s books of Margaret Wise Brown continue to top a lot of nursery shelves and libraries. Already, four or more generations of parents and children share memories of searching for the mouse in the pages of Goodnight Moon. And before I became a parent I remember reading The Runaway Bunny to a class of preschoolers for the first time since childhood. It seemed quite different from my older, more cynical perspective. At first I thought, “Wait a minute, this mom bunny is a stalker!” Of course, when I became a mom, I got it again.
Home is where and by whom we are loved without condition, or qualification, or even asking for it. This is how we want the people who we love, especially our children, to identify us, and to become for themselves and others. But there are times in the lives of most parents when we feel unsure about whether or not our children truly know this; like when we’ve had to set limits or discipline them, or let them make mistakes, or let go at the many stages of separation.
This Sunday, Jeremiah’s prophecy projects God as the disappointed parent of his disobedient child, Israel. He has God remaking Israel over and over as a potter would with an uncooperative lump of clay. And in the Gospel, Jesus also sounds like he is setting impossible terms to be met for prospective disciples. At first, none of these make us feel that God offers unconditional love. But does this mean God is an exacting tyrant?
Just like the little bunny who was free to run away, we are free to let go of control and possession because God knows us and our capacity to love freely; and knows that we’ll find our way home.
As we send our little bunnies off to school next week, here is one of the best Back-to-School Eve letters I’ve seen, reminding all of us that God knows our capacity for Courage and Compassion which will grow and be tested in all ways at school, home, and in the world. (Feel free to substitute “Baby” for your child’s name).
Peace be with you,