Mothers' Prayer

As images of the refugee children along the US-Mexican border flooded my feeds on Facebook and Twitter in the summer of 2014, my heart ached.  I could not imagine the perilous situations the mothers of those children were in to take such risks in sending their children, accompanied by strangers or other children, from their Central American homes with the faint hope of finding a safer, better life in the United States.  I felt such pain and sorrow for these mothers, and I didn't know what to do with it until a colleague pointed out a text coming up in the lectionary.  The reading was of Moses' mother placing him in the Nile to avoid Pharaoh's command that all male Hebrew children were to be put to death.  At that point, this hymn about mothers sending their children out into the dangerous world started forming in my mind.

And then, Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri.  Again my feed was flooded, this time with stories of systemic racism and white privilege.  A dear friend of mine posted that she dreaded the day she would have to have "the talk" with her beautiful boys.  The talk to which she was referring was the one where she taught her black sons how to avoid being shot by white police officers.  I could not imagine the thought of having such a talk with my son, yet I knew that it was my privilege to be raising a blond, blue-eyed boy that kept me from ever being in such a situation.  I grieved for Michael Brown's mother.  And for all of the mothers who send their children into a world that wants to harm them.  And those mothers and their children found their way into the hymn.  

But still the hymn remained unfinished - just fragments of word and melody ringing in my mind - until I took a nine-day vacation.  This was the longest I had ever been away from my two-year-old son.  The holiday was entirely my choice, and I knew I would be returning in a relatively short time.  I also knew that he was safe within the custody of my partner, his daddy.  Still, my arms ached to hold him, I missed him so.  And it was this ache - and the realization that it was likely just a fraction of the anguish other mothers feel when their arms are empty of their children - which compelled me to complete the hymn

I realize that this piece is not as timeless as previous hymns I have composed, but I was aiming for timely in this case.  I wanted to speak  to specific issues and to specific pain.  My hope is that this hymn may comfort those mothers who face decisions like these every day.  More importantly (and more likely with my audience), I hope it will disturb those who are comfortable in their privilege - those who like me, are unable to imagine such a scenario where one would release their children to the world.  It is my hope that they will be able to see that such situations actually exist and that, within them, there will open up a compassionate desire to work for change. As Cornel West tweeted recently, "Empathy is more than a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through. Empathy is having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it."  May we muster the courage to create a world where no mothers are forced to place their babes into the capricious currents of this world.

Mothers' Prayer

Exodus 1:8-2:10; Proper 16A (Ordinary 21A)

One mother makes a fraught decision, hushes her child and says a prayer,
Then she lays him in a basket, trusting him to the river's care.
Why this act of desperation? Why such peril for a child?
Why aren't neighbours, home, and family safer than the waters wild?

Mothers seek to guard their children, watching o'er them as they grow.
Sometimes life can hold such danger, they must trust the river's flow:
Send their daughters fleeing violence - hope they find safe shores at last;
Teach their sons to hold their hands up to avoid the shooter's blast.

What's amiss when brutal forces press families to choose this way?
Poverty crushes. Cruelty conquers. Fear holds fam'lies in its sway.
We can still hear Pharaoh's edict sounding loudly to this day.
Mothers, acting in their anguish, release their babes, then hope and pray.

O God, help us work for justice. Help us labour for your peace.
May our children grow in safety; may their hope and joy increase.
Help us, God, to build a world that's free of violence, fear, and war,
Where mothers' arms embrace their babies 'til they're grown and rise to soar.

Copyright © 2014 by Rachel Frey. All rights reserved.   

If you wish to use this hymn in worship, please follow the instructions in the sidebar.  Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. We will be singing this song on Sunday in worship as part of Reconciliation Sunday. Thank you for writing it, sharing it and allowing it to be used! Blessings! Laura Fitt-Baird, pastor FCC Medina, Oh