I decided it would be a great way to spend a morning with my kids by watching the movie The Prince of Egypt. In case you missed this gem from the 90s, it’s a cartoon version of the Exodus story from the Bible. If you need convincing of its validity, just consider that Val Kilmer is the voice of both Moses and God. Need I say more?
It was also the movie I watched on my very first date with Michelle when we were in high school. So I fully expected it to be a home run experience for my kids to watch for their first time and create a lasting memory. It was all going well until we got to the scene where the movie depicts Exodus 1:22: “Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
The movie animates the entire story, but it cleverly depicts this scene with two-dimensional hieroglyphics coming to life on the walls of the palace. That’s when my four-year-old daughter Adelyn began to lose it.
“What are they doing to the babies?”
She could barely get the words out in between her tears. She was witnessing this for the first time and it was horrifying to her. It was the first time I’d seen her cry like an adult. Not because someone had wronged her or taken her toy, but rather out of real empathy on behalf of others. She began hyperventilating and couldn’t calm herself. As a father, this wrecked me. Watching her reaction caught me totally by surprise and caused me to see this story with fresh eyes.
I tried in vain to tell her to keep watching and that Moses was going to help them. Curled up in my lap she asked me a few minutes later when she would see Moses help the babies. That’s when I realized there was nothing I could say to lessen the shock of that scene. Those babies weren’t coming back to life. Even more daunting was the realization that the Passover scene was coming.
I turned the movie off and quickly switched on an episode of Handy Manny. Thankfully the beloved handyman doesn’t kill anyone. I had no way of resolving the fiasco other than moving on to something else.
That night Adelyn came into my room and woke me up. She had a nightmare and wanted me to tuck her back in. When I asked her what woke her up, she told me she dreamed someone came and took our new foster baby away. We’ve had kid #5 for about a month now, and already my daughter’s tender heart has wrapped itself around him.
Both of these moments with Adelyn have profoundly impacted me and caused me to reflect. Two insights stand out:
- Our hearts become calloused to what we don’t see anymore.
- A tender heart is an incredible gift and a heavy burden.
I want to be more like Adelyn. I want to care about people the way she does. And yet, my coping mechanisms and my unwillingness to carry that burden often push me into a much easier position of caring less. That works fine most days until I’m unexpectedly rendered speechless by a four-year-old girl.
Are we willing to carry the burden of a tender heart for the world around us?