Not My Child, Take Me Instead

by Valerie Tompson, City Church Executive Director

Years ago, my sister-in-law told me that when you have children your heart walks unprotected outside of your body. What does a parent do when her child is in a hard place? How do mothers process disappointment, and exponentially worse, tragedy? 

When COVID began in 2020, my first thought was how grateful I was to not have small children. What a nightmare to be stuck at home with them, I thought to myself. Then as the weeks progressed and life changed, it became apparent that the loss for adolescents and young adults was enormous, particularly in the high school and college range, my two daughters’ ages.

If I think too deeply about it, I might just not be able to stop crying, said a friend about her children’s loss. 

I don’t know if my son will ever be the same, said another friend. 

Sometimes I think to myself, I only got 18 months of normal college, said my own daughter, and then I feel guilt for even thinking that, when others have lost much more.

I don’t want to count on anything happening anymore, said my other daughter, because everything gets canceled.

I think about how hard it was to see my daughters struggle through COVID when it was, in reality, likely a small (but formative) hurdle in their lives. And then I think of Mary. 

What did she really know when she welcomed her son into the world? How could she have understood both the magnitude of what he would do for the world and what she would lose as he did it? I think every bone in my body would have screamed out, No. Not my child. Not under any circumstances. Take me instead. And maybe she felt the same. But even if she did, it seems that Mary kept her focus on her true savior, not the savior I often look to – the happiness that I strive to create for my family. “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” Mary knew where to center herself – the Lord, her savior.

As I read the blogs from some of our remarkable women at City Church, one thing comes to mind. We take care of people. We care for others; we walk through times with others and wish it could be us. We face deep sorrow and want to change circumstances. 

I wish I could have taken those losses for my daughters. And yet, I know that it is part of their story: living through a pandemic at the age they were. And instead of being concerned about creating a happy life for my children, I desire to model to them a focus on my savior. Things are not right in this world. And I can’t make them right for my children – thank goodness, because that would be a huge task. Instead, I need to remember that my soul rejoices in the fact that the mighty one has done great things for me, AND for those I love.

Valerie Tompson
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