Raining Silver Dollars

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Some years ago now, Tim and I joined friends for dinner at their home. The couple with whom we were dining had three young daughters. Sometime during the evening, the youngest of the girls became quite distraught over some wrong her sister had inflicted upon her. She came wailing to her father.

A tall man, the fella bent down on his knees before his daughter and said: “Could you speak to me without emotion, please?”

I didn’t burst out laughing at that exact moment, but over the years I have enjoyed more than one fit of giggles over that scene.

As the mother of three girls myself, I knew asking an offended  or hurting child to speak without emotion was like asking God to make it rain silver dollars. There’s a chance he could do that, I suppose, but it’s a ridiculous request from the onset.

Some years later, I was sent to cover a story in which a girl who, either because she was drunk or perhaps just being rebellious, had stepped in front a train. She shouldn’t have lived but she did. Was it a miracle? Her dad sure thought so. He told me how he had been praying for God to deliver his daughter from her rebelliousness. He just never imagined that God would use a train to steer his daughter back to the narrow way.

Narrow it was. That father had difficulty maneuvering his daughter’s wheelchair down the hallway to her room. She couldn’t do it herself. Even after months of rehabilitation, there was very little she could do other than chirp from her wheelchair: “I love you, Daddy! I love you, Daddy!”

I asked her father if it bothered him to see his daughter that way, stripped of emotion and her previously strong-willed personality.

“No,’ he said. “I thank God I have my sweet daughter back.” And by sweet, he meant compliant.

Those two fathers have been on my mind  a lot lately as I try and maneuver my own way through a space that seems alternately both so familiar to me and so foreign, threatening even.

People I love deeply, people I thought loved me deeply, appear like complete strangers to me. I know there is something familiar we once shared, a friendship, a kinship, but I no longer recognize them in an intimate manner and they no longer recognize me in such a fashion.

They keep insisting that they prayed to God and he answered their prayers and sent a man for such a time as  this. The way that father suggested God had sent that train to barrel down upon his misguided daughter.

And I keep wondering who is this God  of theirs who would send  someone so cruel, so callous, so heartless? How could a man who mocked the disabled, called forth hate upon the free press, lied repeatedly about anything and everything, demeaned and debased women to their faces and behind their backs –  how could this man be God’s answer to the earnest prayers of his people?

Some call me on the phone. Some send me private messages. Some call each other and whisper about me behind my back. They tell me that they are praying for me, praying that I turn to God, trust him. Everything will work together for the good, they murmur. I recognize that there is something good in them, a familiar and enchanting kindness that makes them reach out to me.

But I also see that there’s a part of them that wishes for me to be stripped of my strong will. My speaking out frustrates them. They are put off by my unwillingness to accept what they believe is God’s best for me, what they believe is God’s best for all of us.

What they really, really want is for me to behave like that young girl – parroting the empty words of “I love you, Daddy. I love you, Daddy.”

They mistake my refusal to do what they desire as an act of rebellion against God; when in reality it is because I do know God, do know his character, do trust in Him that I cannot, will not concede that a vile and vulgar man was sent by God to lead us. I can no more accept that than I can accept the notion that God answered a father’s prayers by sending a train to run over his willful daughter.

That is such a twisted view of God and who we are in relationship to Him.

The God I know to be true has humbled himself before me, before you, like that dad on his knees, so he can look straight at us as he implores, “Tell me what’s the matter, honey. I’m listening.”

As we suck back the sobs, he reassures us, “It’s okay to cry. I would never want you to speak to me without emotion.”

Because the God of all Creation created us to care deeply, to love fiercely, through blinding, sometimes raging tears for each other, and for this wild and wonderful world He gifted to us.

No. Tears are never a sign of our frailty, but rather a sign of our humanity.

When we demean, degrade, dismiss, deny, and yes, smugly mock those that we consider “less than” we are at our weakest.

As a people.

As a family.

As a society.

And as a nation, divided.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (William Morrow).

 

 

 

 

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

13 Comments

Ari

about 10 months ago

Solid. Truth my dear.

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Rose blackwell

about 10 months ago

Thank you Karin! I have friends who said that to me always bringing in God. My answer was always . God does not work that way. And you know we talked about it in Fayetteville first I met you. I'm not religious I admire you for the faith in your life. When I'm out on the trails God is always on my mind wondering what he is thinking about us in general. Please you keep writing and educate us. I keep sharing your post and hope a lot of my friends are reading them. Love you ,;))

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Ange humphrey

about 10 months ago

Karen, I share this pain with you on every level . Thank you for putting it into words so eloquently .

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Janie Spataro

about 10 months ago

You nailed it once again! Yes, I too have been "scolded" for speaking out. Paternalism is on the rise. Thank you, Karen, for continuing to speak up!

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Phyllis Palmer

about 10 months ago

"'Poor stranger, you shout, you scream, don't you see that it is hopeless?' 'Yes,I see,' answered the Just Man. 'Then why do you go on?' 'I'll tell you why. In the beginning, I thought I could change man. Today, I know I cannot. If I still shout today, if I still scream, it is to prevent man from ultimately changing me.'" Elie Wiesel

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 10 months ago

Thanks for these world, Phyllis. I am going to write them down and stick them to my mirror, so that I am reminded daily that what is needed isn't acceptance or compliance but resistance. Hugs.

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Carolyn Dornburg

about 10 months ago

I've been struggling to find the right words for my feelings. You found them for me. Thank you.

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BevSeefeldt

about 10 months ago

Again Karen your words take my breath away. Thank you for being YOU!

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Phyllis Palmer

about 10 months ago

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

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LaDonna Sasscer

about 10 months ago

Thank you so much for your words today. They encourage me that there are others walking with God. I am not alone. The preachers of our country deny the Lord himself when they seek worldly power in a vain attempt to answer their own prayers as they see fit. It's as if the book of James, Matthew 25, and Jesus answer to "who is my neighbor?" are missing from their texts. Extrapolating out the words "rescue those who are being led to slaughter" to include human embryos, they turn their backs on Syrian refugees who are literally being led to slaughter. They applaud the president-elect that assured Russia and Assad that no one would stop them bombing aid convoys, hospitals, even children's hospitals. They applaud him because they believe he will give them what God has not, the political power to dominate their neighbors and make us compliant. When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Answer: love. Love God, love our neighbors, do good and take up for the oppressed as much as in our power to do so. I love you, dear sister. May the God of all fill your heart with joy and peace as you continue to walk with Him. May your love never wax cold.

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AFRoger

about 10 months ago

I,ve sent a message to the Bishop of my denomination with a suggestion. All of our pastors could observe Inauguration Day bt reading and meditating on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." I'm currently reading Wendell Berry's "The Hidden Wound."

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Lois

about 10 months ago

Have you asked was Pres Obama God's will then? How many of them refused to accept him as a legitimate president? I believe we have stepped out of the will of God in this election. God asks us to follow the light. In no way can this man be seen as leading into light -- into faith and justice.

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Ellen Sims

about 10 months ago

Thank you. Your opening stories of the S/spirit-crushing effect of patriarchy on two specific daughters helped me better understand the layers of pain I'm feeling in the America that Trump has exposed. Many would rather have a powerful (if ruthless and capricious) patriarch for our God-- or president-- than claim their own responsibility to think and act and love with great care and passion. But our acquiescence to or aspirations for patriarchal power begins early. As a pastor, I try to resist patriarchy by using gender-inclusive language for God and humanity, by illustrating ways to both honor and critique our sacred texts and our culture, and by simply standing before little girls each Sunday as a very human symbol of their own sacredness.

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