Andrée Seu Peterson: Mending calloused hearts

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 18th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD commentator Andrée Seu Peterson with a Christmas reflection. It’s a selection from her 2008 book titled,  Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me.

ANDREE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: On the night Jesse fell I was starting to be concerned about Christmas. Oh, not about the story in Matthew 1 particularly, but about presents and money and time crunches. Jesse put an end to this when she somehow let her body drop from a 30-foot bridge onto macadam about a mile from here in November. The police are investigating.

Jesse came to live with me in September, a high-school friend of my older daughter, an art student just back from a year in Rome and needing a credible address so as to pursue studies in the university 10 minutes from here. I offered my daughter’s old room and told her straight up that I wasn’t much of a hand-holder. She was 21, she could come and go as she pleased, raid the fridge, and generally make herself at home. I kept her in homemade granola, which I noticed she relished.

It is amazing that Jesse survived, let alone that she choked up my phone number when they found her oozing blood from the head. Detectives at the scene called here to get her parents’ phone numbers, before volleying questions about mental health, to which, of course, I pleaded ignorance. Memory rifled hurriedly through shards of recent conversation for clues, not so much for the detective as for me, to learn what I already feared to learn, both about Jess and myself.

I am momentarily in love with the medical profession, with a neurologist and a trauma doctor especially, who met us in the waiting room an hour later, looking stern and painting every bleak scenario, as was their duty. 

But by morning light they had slain each medical Hydra and Chimaera and brought better news than anyone deserved to expect. The next day they’d tackle the femur, and the next day a scattering of broken vertebrae with awful names like T-12.

In the three months that Jesse lived under my roof I sensed pressures and deep waters, and tacked the girl onto the end of my prayer list. On the rare occasions that we did speak, I dispensed mealy mouthed counsel you could have pulled from any self-esteem handbook at Borders. 

I was working up to sharing Christ, but it was never the right time. “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” 

But there is nothing treacly and sentimental about Christmas. Soon there would be the slaughter of the innocents in Ramah, and “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.” 

If there are no Ramahs there is no need for Jesus. If there are no young women who fall off bridges because they are sad, and no middle-aged callous women with calloused hearts, then what is the point of Christmas?

Things are suddenly sharp and clear. And as that old unsentimental Jew Simeon dared to put it, at the risk of spoiling holiday cheer, Christmas is here “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.

(Photo/Creative Commons, Flickr)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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