Doug came home from work Friday night feeling sick, so he crashed on the futon while I put the three kids to bed. It’s a bit of a circus getting the three into their beds, and that is with two parents. It is much harder to do it when there is only one of us (which makes me all the more grateful that our precious Lauren took the whole brood for the night this weekend!).
I got Elijah settled in his crib in our room and the big kids were in their beds waiting for stories when a helicopter began to circle. It was low to the point of making the house shake, and ever since the take down in our driveway a few months back, I have become more vigilant about knowing where the helicopter is circling. I looked out a few windows and couldn’t see it (usually not a good sign), but finally saw out the back porch that the center of its circle was a block or two away. Having established this, I went back into the kids’ room and did my best to read over the noise.
I finished our books and Mercy asked: “Mommy, lay with me?” I don’t always know when stuff like this unsettles them or makes them feel afraid at all, and often enough they seem pretty oblivious. But I am always careful to be very present and to help them feel secure when there is this kind of noise and chaos going on outside. So I cuddled up with my girl, and she immediately rolled over to one side and requested “rubs”. I rubbed her back, trying to offset the pounding of the helicopter with a counter rhythm of gentle touch.
Suddenly there was a loud voice coming over a loudspeaker of sorts, repeating variations of: “Go inside your houses. Do not come out of your houses. Stay inside.” At this, I hopped out of Mercy’s bed and again did the survey through different windows to establish where the activity was moving. The helicopter’s circle had not moved but now there were cruisers covering different streets around us.
I got back into Mercy’s bed, and this time she asked for an “arm rub”. So I traced patterns on her arm, just the way I always loved “arm scratches” as we called them. Every few minutes, the helicopter would get really, really loud or a bunch of sirens would pass, and my fingers would curl a bit more tightly around my little girl’s arm.
The noise continued as did my rubs, and just as Mercy was getting drowsy and Aaron was finally still in his bed, I heard the loudspeaker again, repeating: “We have you surrounded. Surrender.”
One more time out of her bed, into the hallway, and to the bathroom window where I could better hear and see. Doug had also gotten up by now and clicked on the news to try and see if we could figure out what was going down. Deciding again that the threat was still a block or two away, I made one last stop to the kids room. A few leg rubs later, and my girl was breathing heavily. I did not hurry out of her bed again, but stayed a while beside her sleeping form.
Eventually the sirens faded and the helicopter sped off. I called our friend who lives a block away, and he said that they were okay and that the center of activity had been one block east of their house. Nothing ever did show up on the news, and we still don’t know what all the fuss was about.
Last night the preachers of our church gathered to look at the next section of John’s gospel that we will be preaching from this summer. We read this passage in John 10: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
We talked about where we see “the thief” at work in our midst, and it was not hard for us to name some of the things that rob life from our community. Gangs. Unemployment. Addiction. Racism.
A chapter earlier, Jesus announces that he is the light of the world and I thought of this verse in Isaiah: “It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the fortunes of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
I like to imagine God looking down at those places where children play without worry; where families have employment, food, insurance; where church platforms are loaded with every high-end piece of technology and, with the sound of helicopters beating in his ears, declaring: “It is too small a thing…”