I will never forget this cherub-faced princess and daughter who taught me profound lessons about love. She always wore her heart boldly, even as an infant. She taught me volumes of understanding about a love is costly and messy and uncomfortable. A love that stretches you beyond your limits and then it tugs some more.
The day this picture was taken I sat with my kids in the fading evening light, all of us bursting with giggles as we took silly shots. Suddenly my crutches went walking away without me, held hostage by my almost four year olds. “Eh” I call out, “ITA- ita silu de, ita be arfa wa gobadu ana.”
Everyone dissolved into laughter. I was telling them if they take my crutches, they would have to carry me. I think they strongly considered my comments a challenge. But I could only hop so far on one leg.
This shot happened almost by accident. She thought mama’s crutches were posing accessories. Years later she challenges me still. Could the very things that threaten to disable and destroy become that which frames the greatest release of God’s beauty in our lives? Could the evil that frames the world with hate simply be setting the stage for us to show up with love?
Guys, I don’t even really know where to start tonight. I’ve spent the better part of my life being in the minority. A woman in leadership. A woman with disability. The only or one of a few white people for hundreds of miles overseas.
But I am not going to pretend I even begin to understand the depth of impact seeing the images the violence in Charlottesville has for my friends with darker skin tones than my own here in my home nation. Because I don’t. I couldn’t. I’ve faced deeply hurtful discrimination because of being a woman and at times for being disabled… but I haven’t been second guessed because of my skin color, or been called hateful slurs, or been singled out. I have not had to deal with the same kind of systemic injustice.
I am just going to say it. However well-intentioned, the #ThisisNotUs hashtag floating around social media misses the point entirely.
Have we ever harbored a thought about someone who is different than we are that was less than loving? Then it is absolutely on us. Change starts IN us before it can ever happen through us.
We need to call one another higher. Especially those of us who say we follow Jesus. These are the watershed moments where we can choose to see, to speak, to become the conversation changers, the storytellers and poetry makers, the artists and activists that shape the world of tomorrow, not with a hashtag but with our lives. Our choices. Our words. Every single day.
Make no mistake. Silence is deafening. And I for one, will not be silent.
We must dare to have the hard conversations. And keep having them.
The gorgeous gaggle of children I was privileged to love as my own and raise for seven years came from many different regional tribes that had generations of strife and animosity between them.
But we grew up as one family who loved and prayed and played and cried and laughed together. We celebrated our differences and those differences made us stronger. We were family before we were anything else. And they did not see my skin color except to insist if I stayed long enough it would grow nice and dark like theirs because they were quite sure I had Sudanese blood on the inside.
Even more astounding was to watch our children love and bless and pray for their enemies that in many cases violently took their entire world from them.
They taught me that real love looks like something… It looks like being peace in the storm, laying down our lives for one another, standing with the oppressed, walking in the opposite spirit, stepping out of our safe comfort zones, paying the price to have eyes that see, seeking to understand rather than be understood. And this kind of love never fails.
Today. In the torn fabric of our nation divided, does our love look like something tangible? Because beloved, if it isn’t tangible, it isn’t love.