Every constellation of ritual, belief, and ethical practice that we call "religion" finds its way to inventing something like blessings for children, of more or less consequential form. Some such ritualizations are taken to be of deep consequence or significance -- like naming, christening, baptism, confirmation, or becoming bar/bat mitzvah. Others are more ordinary though not necessarily less important for identity in the long term, like blessings during "routine" religious services, or special invocations or prayers when young people are gathered for special youth events.

Here in this video we have blues musician Susan Tedeschi and her band covering a Bob Dylan tune, which is an everyday prayer for a youngster: "Lord, Protect My Child."

The song tracks the child as "he" grows up, with the parent continually asking for divine favor, especially in the event that the parent will not be around.

As a parent, I listen to this tune and feel a hefty equality between the two parts: the plea for blessing for the child, and the awareness that like many parents, I am, I hope, destined to die before my child. The plea of "Lord, protect my child" is not just about the child in childhood, but the child throughout her whole life. As I write, I can imagine that parents who have lost their children might have a different interpretation of this song.

As I step back from the lyrics and think theologically about them, I can only assert that either all children are divinely "protected," or none are. The plea to protect "my" child can, finally, only be an affirmation that all children should be protected, and that divine "protection" is asked for not because anyone has a right to be immune from suffering and tragedy, but because we love our children with a love that awesomely exceeds what we could muster of our own accord. "Lord, protect my child," then means: "Let the love that carries my dreams for this child beyond my wishes for my own life be the very love that is active, effective, and felt right now -- by this child, through me as a parent, and despite me as a parent."

Tom Beaudoin