I’ve spent much of my life trying desperately to avoid conflict.
Not wanting to create a problem. Not offering a solution. Not giving an opinion.
Not making decisions. Not standing up for a cause.
Not having a voice.
Maybe it’s the guilt that I too often associated with the effect of my choices upon others, however benign the decisions might be or how much more the outcome of the choice would affect me than anyone else.
Maybe it’s the fear that I carry daily of disappointing someone or of forgetting to be thoughtful of others before myself or of exposing my true beliefs and being, which might not be acceptable to others.
Maybe it’s the fact that I really dislike the aftermath of words said or deeds done that were not received in the way they were intended, and thus caused such tremendous pain and conflict and anxiety that surely my choice to stand up and speak out was surely the wrong decision.
And for what?
To have conflict find me. Incessantly and from every angle.
And that’s when I realized – avoidance is no longer an option.
Because avoiding my responsibility to address the needs that often masquerade as conflicts should never have been a choice I made in the first place.
Because sometimes it becomes absolutely necessary to dig deep and find a voice and stand up for a cause, even when it’s unbelievably hard and even when the consequences, although hopefully good and may not actually be. But the consequences of NOT fighting are not an option.
Because fighting for our children is always a cause that requires a voice… a big voice, so that all the little voices are heard.
It’s no wonder why my heart belongs to children – we are still so similar. And you might be more like them than you think, even though it may look like and feel like you’ve long outgrown your childish ways.
Children long for safety and security, for stability and acceptance. So do we.
Children long to love and trust and to be loved unconditionally and to be trusted unconditionally. So do we.
Children long for relationships that are meaningful and connective, that demonstrate understanding and empathy and compassion. So do we.
And when children struggle to find those elements that are truly vital to their brain development, to their coping abilities in stress and conflict, to their understanding of love and trust… it is then that we see and experience their visible and physical and verbal battles that are their cries for help.
These are not the voices that we want to ignore or push aside. Maybe it looks like bullying or teen pregnancy or self-harming behavior, brutality in a locker room or homophobic slurs scribbled on a bathroom stall, running away from teachers or defecating in clothing or spitting at adults. Maybe it acts like criminal activity or drug dealing, prostituting or addiction or cheating. Maybe it sounds like racial epithets yelled at bus stops or verbal attacks on kids with disabilities, eating someone else’s lunch or teasing the kid with an incarcerated parent or insulting the girl whose body hasn’t hit puberty like the rest.
These are the pleas of a child, desperately searching for someone to gain understanding of his or her situation and to garner connections with someone who cares about him or her. These are the pains of a child, experiencing such devastating trauma and loss that can demolish a young psyche much more lastingly than that of an adult brain. These are the heartaches of a child, frantically stuck in fight-or-flight mode eternally and incapable of coping with anything that might feel like an attack on a tragically fragile mind that just wants to protect itself from harm.
These are their screams for attention to unmet needs, and those voices cannot be ignored.
For these children, these future leaders, are standing up and are speaking out about the injustice, intolerance, and inequality that they have personally known and wish they hadn’t. These future leaders’ ability to cope with and to survive and to grow through these difficult circumstances depends on how willing we are to stand up alongside and in front of them. Their futures rely on us, the adults in their homes and communities and churches and schools, upon how willing we are to champion the needs of the poor and orphaned and widowed and abused and neglected and heartbroken and outcast.
The Bible is overwhelmingly clear as to where the responsibility lies in compassion towards and advocacy for and defense of God’s vulnerable ones, His children.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners…” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27)
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
If we cannot find ways to act justly on the behalf of the children in our societies who absolutely need to be protected, to love them in mercy-full ways that tells them that they are valuable and precious in our eyes and in the eyes of our God, and to walk beside these most vulnerable creations God has intentionally crafted as such, then we are abandoning the call God has put before us, time and again.
If we turn away from the pleas of His children, His poor and needy ones, His forgotten and fatherless ones, we are literally turning away from God Himself, as He is in each of them. Even when, especially when, their behaviors and words can sometimes distract us from their utter dependency upon our attention to God’s commandments to care for them.
We can no longer continue to avoid the conflicts that involve children and their causes and their needs.
We absolutely must take a stand on their behalf, to show them how precious they are to us as their communities and as fellow creations of God, to set examples for them of necessary advocacy and compassionate love and mercy-full mentoring through even the darkest of moments so that these future leaders will unequivocally know the unfailing, unending love of the Father. And thus, they will be better equipped to carry forward that healing love into their roles as adults, rather than the brokenness of abandonment.
Our future leaders, our children, depend on our rock-solid commitment to not only be the hands and feet of God at work in their lives, but also the unconditionally loving embrace of a Father at work in their hearts.