“It’s not fair!” she says, over and over.
We are watching The Devil’s Arithmetic, based on a Jane Yolen novel about a Jewish teenager who goes back in time to a concentration camp during WWII.
(It’s recommended for ages 10+, and I’d agree with that in most cases. Esmé’s been enjoying DVDs off the teen shelf lately, and this was one I grabbed at last visit to the library. I was doing an early morning preview, and she got up early and decided to join me, immediately riveted to the screen. Having read that it wasn’t extremely graphic, I decided to acquiesce to her insistence on watching it all the way through.)
She’s deeply bothered that the prisoners’ hair is chopped off, and that they don’t have pajamas, and that they have to share blankets. She draws parallels between the time of Moses and babies being killed, between escapee hangings and Haman’s gallows.
Once again, I am seeing history, His story, through new eyes.
Of all the subjects we cover, I think history is the most important. Anyone can teach math, reading, spelling, writing, even science, and it can be incorporated into a Christian worldview. But seeing God’s hand all the way from Creation and even before, all the way to the present events, is a foundation I desperately want to lay before too many other people attempt to influence Miss Esmé with contradictory worldviews.
And so I watch her watch the effects of evil on the screen. I am glad that she is bothered by the injustice, that it touches her so. To be untouched would be callous! And I thrill as I watch her delve deeper into understanding a God whose world, whose laws, allow for such unfairness.
From the time she could talk and we had a clue what was going through her busy mind, Esmé has been obsessed with fairness. Mostly in terms of how she is treated. Why is it fair that we have two votes to her one, and even when one parent is not here, she still loses out to the one parent, because parent votes are bigger? She is quick to point out inconsistencies – and to demand fair treatment.
She bumps into a classmate at school and says a quiet “I’m sorry.” The adult on duty, not hearing, comes over and demands that she say “Excuse me.” She thinks “I’m sorry” is more appropriate after the fact and has already said it, and so they clash and I get a note from the teacher about her bad day and she is miserable from the injustice of it all.
And we tell her life isn’t fair. Deal with it.
Her teacher tells me Esmé needs explanation when her friends lose privileges for a misdeed; she demands to know why they are being punished. And while some might say her questioning shows a lack of respect, I am proud of her in this case. Because she is demanding justice for her friends, not for herself. And I think that is worthy.
It is always worthy “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free.” (Isaiah 58:6) Of all the dreams I have for her, this is among the greatest.
We follow up The Devil’s Arithmetic with Miracle at Midnight, illustrating the impact just a few, just a one, can have on thwarting injustice.
But the fact is: life here and now doesn’t seem fair. As much as we strive to change things, this remains a fact. All the time, there are people who get worse than they seemingly deserve. People who get better than they deserve. And we wonder why the innocent suffer and the wicked seem to inherit the earth.
But there is one awesome card in this game of life, baby girl. A trump card, held by God Himself, the King of contradictions Who will set this world right side up again.
It’s called grace.
It means people don’t get what they deserve.
They get far better than they deserve.
Maybe not right here, right now, though you see glimpses of grace all around if you look. But one day…
…the trump shall resound, and all this pain and suffering will be no more.
And it will seem infinitely minuscule in comparison to the majesty God has in store. A majesty we can’t even begin to comprehend.
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
Feel the pain and injustice, my girl. Loose those chains.
And live secure, fearless in the knowledge of Grace.