I am a disturber of ducks.
I see the mallard first, standing on one leg atop a small rock near the reeds. He is so still, so perfectly iridescent with his blue green head. I instinctively grab my phone and stupidly try to sneak up on him. He drops his hidden orange leg. I see movement of a speckled brown and white mound. The mallard’s mate is ruffling her body up and over a divet in the ground she’d been lying in. I could have stepped on her lovely, camoflaged self. She and her companion slip almost imperceptibly into the pond. It is clear in the way they make small circles in the water and shake their tail feathers they are agitated. I slide the phone back into my pocket. I am a disturber and an agitator. All I wanted was a picture of a one-legged duck I could post on Instagram.
On a rare Friday off with nothing needing doing, I had headed to Bates College for a walk around the pond. I needed to get out of town, away from the familiar walking path I normally take in my neighborhood. Bates is pretty and small in that New England collegiate way. I love the place. It’s a miniature sanctuary in the middle of the city. Even though the sound of traffic can be heard in the distance and students and faculty are always out and about, it never feels crowded or noisy. The cat o’ nine tails that edge the pond and the path that encircles it seems to buffer the mad, mad world that contorts a few hundred yards away.
I love it when I’m lucky enough to hear the bells toll. They make me think of God. To me they are a clarion call to pray, to celebrate, to remember. Sometimes they peal wait. Sometimes they clang make haste.
On this day I was trying to find my way back to right thinking. On the first go around the pond, it was the mallard that reminded me how reflexively tied I am to getting the right picture instead of picturing the right thing. I quickened my pace. I was thinking that school is hard and that the brokenness of children was taking its toll and nothing in this mad, mad world seems right. Nothing at all.
We are Alice falling down the rabbit hole.
Up is down. Down is up.
Right is wrong. Wrong is right.
Living in a world so far off course it is hardly recognizable.
These children are not afraid of the monsters under their beds, but they are afraid of going hungry. These children are not afraid of the latest horror movie or the blood-fest video game some teenager has shown them, but they are afraid that they’re stronger than the adults in their lives who are supposed to be taking care of them.
They’re afraid that getting to school, preparing a meal, finding clean clothes and staying away from abuse is all up to them.
“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
These children. So quick with a hug and a fist.
So quick with a profanity, so quick with a gift. Here, I made this for you.
So quick to hold hands, small fingers imperceptibly lacing through mine.
The tales they tell while they are coloring.
It is on the fourth go around the kid hurt that tries to choke the hope out of me by whispering, “You will never be able to fix this,” is loosening its grip.
Of course, it’s true. I can’t fix it. Every school day I am confronted with the reality that humans are a messed up lot and we’ve messed up our wee ones. However, I do not have to give in to the Despiser of our souls, the one who loathes children from their womb- beginnings and is hell-bent on destroying them the moment they inhale their first God-given breath. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
By not giving in to his lies that all is lost in the next generation, I become a disturber and an agitator of another kind. I become like Jesus, who turns tables on the plans of the enemy.
When the bells tolled four o’clock as I rounded the bend near the Arts Center, I was awakened once again that I am not the fixer. I am a bringer. I can bring what has been fixed for me on today’s Friday, the Good One.
I can bring mercy and I can bring hope.
I can bring hands that guide, pick up, and rescue.
I can bring hands that wash, hands that button and zip against the cold.
I can bring hands that wipe tears.
I walked up the natural amphitheter and turned back toward the pond. It was settled for me again that to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe that the cross is enough for a mad, mad world and all its children. To believe that Jesus fixed it like He said He would back in the beginning. This is my clarion call. This is my prayer. Let the bells toll.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.