Oh my God, can I complain?

My mom shared an article about left-behind children in China the other day.  (You can read it here.)  The name is, perhaps, deceptively whimsical, sounding like it would be at home in Neverland.  The numbers are staggering.  The reality is heartbreaking.

As I read the article, my mind filled with names and faces, images of what these statistics look like in the concrete reality of life here.

photo by Rémi Walle

It looks like the students I teach and eat and laugh with, the ones who text me in the middle of the night when they're reeling from a break up, the ones who celebrate their birthday by eating a meal with me, the ones who call me when they're sick to find out if I can give them some ginger to make tea.

It looks like students telling stories of growing up with their grandparents with barely a passing reference to their parents or saying, "I don't know," when I ask who taught them what it means to be an adult.

It looks like having conversations about sex that I didn't think I'd have until I had kids of my own.  And about dating.  And about rape.  And about self-harm.  I've never before been so thankful that humans have a built-in fear of pain and hesitancy to hurt themselves.

It looks like me texting a student who was out running to be careful of the storms, since there was some crazy lightning going on, and getting a reply back, "Thanks for reminding me.  I won't be the lucky one [to get hit].  If it happens, I will be glad."  She wasn't joking.  I went out to find her and we walked around for a little while.  She texted me after we went our separate ways: "I'm not worthy of your careness."

This is what it looks like.

And echoing in my mind is Jars of Clay's song Oh My God with its exquisite capturing of anger and grief in the face of deep brokenness.



Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace and future falls
In present pain, all fools say, "Oh my God."

Oh my God, why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don't bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell
Your closest friends
Oh, my God.

Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief
And graft my soul upon Your grief...

Broken hearted, separated
Orphans always say...

Sometimes I cannot forgive
These days mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be
Maybe I could get some sleep

While I lay, I'd dream we're better...

Sometimes I can close my eyes
And all the fear that keeps me silent
Falls below my heavy breathing
What makes me so badly bent?

We all have a chance to murder
We all have the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded
That the pain is worth the plunder

Sometimes when I lose my grip
I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give up

...All the wounds that money causes...

All the cries of thirsty children
This is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers
This is our greatest offense

Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God.

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