Whose Child Is It?

WHEN competing claims to the custody of a child clash, it may be hard to sort out who is right. But this isn't a new problem. In the Bible, I Kings relates a dramatic incident where two women come before King Solomon with a lone baby (see chap. 3). Both had been living in the same dwelling, and one had unintentionally suffocated her child in the night. Now each claims the living baby as her own.

When King Solomon threatens to divide the living child with a sword and give half to each, the child's mother gives up her claim to it. Instead of letting the baby be killed, she chooses to allow the other woman to keep it. It's clear from this action that she is the true mother, and Solomon restores her child to her.

In the Bible, Moses' mother and Samuel's mother also had to give up the custody of their children for different reasons. These mothers were confronted by tyranny, abandonment, and long-term separation. But when they put their dire needs before God, divine Love, in prayer, Love more than met their needs, their children's needs, and the needs of their society.

Moses, for example, would have been killed as a result of Pharaoh's edict. But his mother's efforts to save his life were successful. He was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and grew up to lead the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt. Nor did his mother suffer for her willingness to trust Moses to God's care--she was hired to look after him (see Exodus, chap. 2).

Christian Science shows us that God is Father and Mother, man's heavenly Parent and the source of all mercy and justice. And God does not idly stand by while His offspring suffer. Deuteronomy poetically describes His care: ``As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings . . .'' (32:11).

The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, understood a mother's agony over a distant child. Her poem, ``The Mother's Evening Prayer'' (Poems, p. 4), speaks to the parent in each of us:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;

O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,

Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight!

Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

When emotions and a parent's love are intermingled with the hungering for justice and divine guidance, it's sometimes difficult to know what God is guiding us to do. But we need to be willing to say to God in our heart's prayer, ``You are the One who properly decides what is right for this child.'' Is this giving up too much? In today's legalistic climate, society says we should fight for our rights. Christ Jesus taught a different doctrine. He said, Matthew's Gospel records, ``If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also'' (5:40). This instruction was not intended to deprive Christians of their well-being and basic rights, but to teach them to rely on God for their present and ultimate provision.

Jesus came to fulfill moral and spiritual law. Such a fulfillment of law considers the needs of all--parents and children alike--as it resolves custody battles. The individual judge may be allowed wide discretion in his ruling. But those praying about the outcome look on the good and all-wise Parent, God, as the ultimate arbitrator both of justice and of the best care for all. We don't have to feel helplessly passive. The God of all justice is supreme. He shepherds all in their journey, be it to our own hearth or to some other, equally God-protected outcome.

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