Family lore from my wife’s kinfolk recounts the first time Becky’s father assumed solo caregiving responsibilities for the infant Becky.
Those who retell it say that Becky’s mother, Darla, left the house for a church event and gave her young husband, Wilbur, explicit instructions on how to care for their daughter.
Before driving away, Darla stocked the home with extra diapers, clean bottles, warm blankets, sterilized pacifiers and Becky’s favorite toys — all things imaginable for soothing a crying baby.
A few hours into the warm evening, their firstborn began to fuss. Wilbur offered Becky a warm bottle, but she wouldn’t take it. He offered a soft blanket, spoonfuls of baby food and a stuffed bear, but nothing seemed to pacify the tiny tot.
Soon, Becky’s protest deteriorated into crying and then became incessant squalling. A fretful father paced the floor with daughter atop his shoulder, bouncing the bawling baby in hopes of releasing a bothersome burp.
Nothing. Infant Becky elevated her protest with additional wailing.
Left afoot, Wilbur did the only thing he could: He picked up the phone to call the doctor.
At that moment, Becky’s mom burst through the door and swept Becky in her arms.
Wilbur hung up and explained how he’d tried everything to no avail.
“Well,” asked Darla, “Did you give her some water?”
To hear Becky’s mother tell it, Wilbur stared at his young wife as cluelessly as if Darla was speaking Farsi with an Oklahoma accent.
“You never mentioned that,” he said.
The story has a parallel in Christian tradition when Jesus left his followers alone and returned to his father. He left instructions, but not a lot of detail.
This lack of detail prompts a lot of Christ-followers to be like my ill-informed father-in-law and say, well, Jesus never mentioned that.
These are the folks who’ll claim ignorance, saying things like, “Jesus never said anything about how to treat the refugee.”
“Jesus was completely mute about universal health care.”
“He made no mention of tobacco or whether Baptists can drink beer.”
“Jesus said little or nothing about common-sense sword or gun control.”
And I suppose these are accurate observations. There’s so much that is absent from Jesus’ teachings.
However, much like my mother-in-law’s, Jesus’ teaching was fundamentally clear. For the uninformed, he offered additional clarity when asked to name the greatest commandment.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
But in case folks didn’t understand his basic message, Jesus offered the Golden Rule, a standard in most world religions. The Message translation of the Bible, offers extra transparency of Mathew 7:12.
“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.”
Whenever I’m feeling short of divine instruction, this one is my go-to rule. Just treat others the way I would want to be treated.
This means I ask myself tough questions as if the answers impacted me, like what would I want done if it was my daughter? How would I feel if my kids’ school was shot up? Or what if my refugee family had been turned away? Or how will my disabled brother get the health care he needs in his declining years?
Simple. The answers are there when we want to hear them.
As soon as Becky’s mom gave her some water, the protests ended. But in the future, if we ever leave a grandbaby with my father-in-law, I’ll be sure and tell him, “Wilbur, if you are drinking water, give the baby water, too.”