“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
I took a day “off” today and reconnected with a friend I had met just once before, and her children, at the zoo. This friend reached out after I wrote my first post last Thursday afternoon, and we met again today and realized how much we had in common. We shared some hugs and lots of laughs and watched our children become fast friends.
We enjoyed the beautiful weather- took deep breaths and the long walk around the zoo.
My kids laughed with her kids. Huge belly laughs.
We laughed with each other.
Our boys were so silly together.
They jumped and climbed and ran. They threw themselves into things and laughed even harder.
We took a train ride.
A few of our kids rode horses.
You guys, it was so fun.
It was so peaceful.
It was so joy-filled.
The last few days have been hard. Building bridges is not easy work. It’s exhausting and challenging and mentally and emotionally draining. That’s probably the reason some people don’t even bother. That’s probably the reason some people stay silent on the issues that are important to them- because the work is just too messy, too gritty, too hard.
I didn’t respond to messages today, (except to one saying I could not respond). I didn’t read comments, didn’t try to find answers.
I’m thankful that God offers rest from the hard work. I’m thankful that He offers satisfaction in the midst of toil.
Maybe you need some rest today, too? Maybe a long walk outside or a big chocolate bar hiding in your closet so you don’t have to share? Maybe you need to snuggle into bed and watch your favorite movie?
Whatever gives you rest, maybe you need to find it today.
There is satisfaction in the midst of toil. “This is the gift of God.”
My Grandma walked everywhere she went. And when we were there to visit, my big sister Meah and I walked, too. I remember one day, we all walked to the Farmer’s Market in her hometown of Beloit, WI, with bags slung over our shoulders for the bounty we’d collect.
It was a long way from Grandma’s house. Meah and I were getting hot and tired and we started arguing about something. It escalated and we were yelling and pushing when Grandma stopped walking and told us to stop. “That’s ugly,” she said.
I remember those words. “That’s ugly.”
I knew instantly that it wasn’t us she was calling ugly, but our behavior in that moment. How can anything that pulls apart, that severs relationships, that causes anger or distress be beautiful?
Last week, I told you my fears and offered some solutions, and many of you were kind and gracious. Some of your comments and private messages brought me to happy tears. Some of them caused me to reflect deeply. I couldn’t respond to all of you, to most of you, but please know I read your words. I thought about them. I cried, I laughed, I even rejoiced.
I want to thank you for listening. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for starting the hard work of building bridges.
To be honest, when I started to see how far the post was going, how many times it was shared, how many comments were piling up, part of me wanted to reclaim my anonymity, delete my blog and keep living my quiet life. It was a lot of response to a girl just sharing her feelings and perspective from a mostly quiet town in the midwest. I felt worried that I wasn’t ready to answer your questions. I felt worried that I wasn’t prepared to offer solutions. I just kept thinking: This is going farther than I anticipated. I am not ready for this.
You see, I am not an expert. I am not THE black voice. I just have MY voice. I can just tell my story. I don’t know why it’s so hard to see eye to eye on what is to me a very critical issue. I don’t have answers for all of the other problems you brought up. I just wanted to be seen. I just wanted to be heard. I just wanted you to offer on social media the same compassion I know you would offer my family and I to our faces.
Because what I’ve learned in my life is this: anything- anything- that divides, or tears down, that severs relationships or hinders relationships from growing, is “ugly”. The shootings of these unarmed people is ugly. The rude, hateful comments, some from the church, dehumanizing these people and justifying their deaths, are ugly, too, regardless of how you feel about the cause or about other related or unrelated problems.
When I read some of those comments, I started feeling that pulling, that dividing, that tension. This is Ugly. My Grandma Said it’s Ugly.
But then…then I wrote some words last week and very shortly was overwhelmed by comments from people, from many of you, who cared. So many of you had compassionate, heart felt, encouraging, honest, BEAUTIFUL words. And when we went to church Sunday morning, we were greeted with love as we always are but people also said, “I read your post. I care about your words and I care about you.” At the end of service, my husband and kids were eventually waiting in the van for me to come out because so many wanted to stop and say, “We see you. We care.”
Do you know what happens when we start a conversation built on a foundation of compassion? When you, as a part of the body of Christ, adopt a permanent stature of empathy and caring, even for those who are nothing like you, even for those you can’t relate to and don’t understand, even for those you actually disagree with? Well, then you start to make something beautiful. In this case: a beautiful bridge.
If you want to build a bridge, you must first acknowledge the divide. You have to see the gap in order to fill it. Thank you for being willing to do both.
We see things differently. We feel things differently. That’s the divide. We are saved by grace and forgiven and loved. There’s the bridge. Any work that tears down this bridge is UGLY. By the grace of God, let’s make something beautiful.
P.S. For those of you who wanted a few more practical steps, stay tuned into my Facebook page later this week for a video invitation just for you!
(So I’ve been working on a new blog! This is not what I had planned for a first post, but here we are anyway. Also ignore the social media links. I don’t know how to make them go away.)
Today I posted this picture of my family and I from a gathering with our home school co-op friends on FB. It received many likes and even a comment about our great family, and there was much love and support.
Then, I saw a video a friend had posted of the latest police shooting and killing of an unarmed black man. My friend who posted this video is black. Many of the people who commented were white.
Friends- I’m worried about the comments that I read. I’m worried about how non people of color are responding to these shootings. I’m worried about the excuses people are making for these officers. I’m worried about the obvious lack of sympathy for these people and their families and for the black community that is SUFFERING.
WE ARE SUFFERING.
WE HAVE BEEN SUFFERING.
I’m worried about why this suffering is being diminished. I’m worried about why so many Christian people don’t feel the need to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, except ignore it or worse- rationalize it.
So I want to try something here. Look at the picture of my family again. Look at my boys. Some of you have high-fived these kids on the way into church service. You’ve given them a push on the swing at a play date. You’ve served them cake at your child’s birthday party. Now, look at my husband. You’ve handed him the communion plate, tossed a football with him at a picnic. You’ve prayed for him in connect group. Are you looking at the picture? Now, I have some questions for you:
What if my husband was the one who had just been shot and killed by the police? Unarmed, dying needlessly in the street? What would you tell me to my face? Would you say, “Look, being a police officer is a hard job. There are lots of good cops out there. I have cops in my family and I feel like you aren’t respecting their job. It’s a sad thing about your husband, but you can’t blame the police for this”?
Would you say, “The police told him to keep his hands down and he didn’t. He didn’t follow the rules so he got what was coming to him. You have to follow rules- simple as that”?
Would you look me in the eye and say those things? I read those comments today.
What if it was one of my boys sitting on a park bench, holding an air soft gun, who had been gunned down by police who never even gave him the option to drop the “weapon”?
Would you say, ” Well, your son looked older than he was and how are the police really supposed to know it was a fake gun, so it was just a sad accident”?
Would you tell me, “I’m sorry you’re so sad about your son, but really, ALL lives matter, not just your son’s life. We need to be focusing on everyone, not just singling him out”?
Would you tell me, “Your son was dressed like a ‘thug’. He looked like he was up to no good. If he hadn’t been dressed like that he wouldn’t have been shot”?
I’ve read those comments this year.
Would you tell me those things if it were our family being judged and criticized and actually BLAMED after a death like this? Would you come to the funeral and offer some of those words for “comfort”?
I’m sure the answer is no. If it were our family I know that your hearts would be broken. I know that you would be devastated. I know you’d be sending cards and messages and casseroles. That you’d be hugging and praying and asking God for comfort and healing and change.
Friends, this the response WE need from you every time there is racial injustice because, the thing is, every time this happens, it feels like it could have been my family. It could have been my husband reading a book in his car. It could have been my son sitting on a park bench. It could have been my cousins in a routine traffic stop. It could have been my brother in law outside of a convenience store.
I know it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about this, but I can’t be silent about these things anymore because being silent could mean no change and there has to be change. For the sake of my husband and children and family members. And you know what? For the sake of yours, too.
So, please don’t tell me “All Lives Matter”, please don’t tell me “It’s sad, but…”. Just tell me you care.
Tell me you don’t understand what it’s like to be black. Tell me you don’t understand what it’s like to fear the things I fear. Tell me you don’t have all the answers but you want to know more, you want to help, you want to see change. Don’t argue with me about why I’m hurting. Don’t argue with me about why I’m angry. Don’t try to be right. And please don’t try to make me responsible for why these things are happening.
And after all that, maybe ask to meet me for coffee and listen to my stories and my family’s stories.