Sandra and I met under a bridge. She was homeless, dirty, drunk and angry. So naturally I decided that we would be best friends…against her consent of course.
Ours is a friendship of many years…most of which have been a roller coaster of emotions, ups and downs of trust, blow up fights where she cussed me up one side and down the other, using words I’d never heard and had to google…times that I let her down, disappointed her and broke her trust.
There have been countless middle of the night ER visits, countless drunk dials, phone calls when she was tripping so hard she couldn’t stop screaming and hallucinating.
So as you can see….sturdy friendship…solid ground. She truly has given me the run for my money on this whole love-the-broken situation. It’s all easy and nod-your-head-in-church feel good stuff until the person you are trying to love spits in your face….
No like for real….. she did. Actual human spit. It was fun.
But still. I loved her. And this isn’t a toot-my-own-horn kind of love…this was a JESUS MET ME IN THE MOMENTS AND GAVE ME THE ABILITY AND DESIRE TO LOVE HER. Without His intervention I would have turned around and hauled tail as fast as I could to get away from her.
Did you know that loving your neighbor is actually quite hard? It takes sacrifice…but most of all it takes HIM. That’s how he designed it. If we do it right…we will HAVE to come running back to Him for the ability to do it.
One afternoon I saw that I had a voicemail from Sandra on my phone. So I pushed play and held the phone to my ear, quickly realizing that she had butt dialed me and had no idea she was leaving me a message.
I laughed to myself and started to move the phone from my ear when I heard my name come out of her mouth. And my jaw immediately dropped as I heard her spewing the most hateful words about me to whoever was listening. I’m talking mean-as-a-snake type of words…words that I began to feel physically…with every word I felt the blow.
But she didn’t stop at me.
“And do you know what she’s doing? She’s adopting a baby…. yeah that’s right. She doesn’t want her own…so she’s gonna pay a bunch of money for a *%$& black baby…a &%*& (insert n word). She’s gonna go all the way to Africa and bring back a black baby….what the *&%^ would make a person want to do that….”
And so on and so on. You get the picture.
The gloves were off now. It’s one thing to talk about me…but it’s a whole other thing to talk about my little one…the one who at the time I had not held yet, the one who was still wasting away in an orphanage in Africa…the one who I begged God to bring home every single day.
And to hear her unfiltered view of things, deeply painful.
A rage I had never felt before rose up inside of me. I pulled over the car and put my head on the steering wheel and began to weep. That was it. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it anymore. She was just too much…and this was just too much. How could I ever love someone through this offense? And she didn’t even know I knew. I would not do it anymore…no more time, no more energy wasted on her. I was done. She had done the thing that pushed me over the line of willingness.
I had tried. Wasn’t that enough. But this was my stop….I would be getting off the love-thy-neighbor train right here.
In an instant, as those words crossed my heart… I felt the Spirit of God so strongly.
And what I wanted was a pat on the back and a “good try” chat with the Lord.
But what I got instead was an immediate, overwhelming, burning love for her.
Stronger than before. I knew it was Him…it couldn’t have been me.
I loved her so fiercely in that moment…and I knew that I in fact was being called to love her now more than ever before. That this act of hate towards my own could not be the end of my love but the beginning of the rubber hitting the road, me actually learning how powerful grace is when it’s extended. If grace were only for those who made us comfortable and never offended us…it wouldn’t be so radical.
And so, that’s what I did. Not because I wanted to, but because I was called to.
And that’s what I’ve done for the 5 years since that voicemail.
Was it hard? Yes. Did it get easier? No.
Did she apologize? No. Did I tell her I knew? No.
But even with all of that…did the command change? No.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
I was driving down the road when Sandra stepped off the curb waving her arms, flagging me down. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, so I was honestly thrilled that she was even alive.
I pulled into a parking lot so we could talk. We caught up on her life and what had been going on, what she needed and some of the things she was struggling with.
As I got in my car to leave, she came up to the window with tears in her eyes. I could tell she wanted, needed, to tell me something.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“You see that girl over there?” and she pointed to an African American woman waiting on the bus.
“Yes. What about her,” I asked?
“She’s one of my best friends.”
“Well that’s great. Glad you have found a friend,” I responded, kind of lost for what she was getting at.
“Can I tell you something,” she continued,
“I used to be really racist, like really bad. I hated black people. I didn’t want anything to do with them.”
Shocker. I thought. My mind immediately was flooded with the memory of that voicemail.
“But…,” she began to sob, “when I met Liv and saw how you loved her…I changed. Liv made me think about race and made me have to change. I love Liv so much. So, thank you for adopting her, because I’m not racist anymore because of her life.”
And with that she raced to catch the bus with her bestie…that beautiful brown skinned bestie that Liv’s life paved the way for.
It’s easy to love people who love you back.
It’s easy to love people who believe what you do.
It’s hard to love your enemy.
It’s hard to love someone who hates others.
But easy and hard aren’t part of the equation when it comes to the love of God.
We can not love the one and not the other.
We can’t love and cover and protect the one who is a target of hate or harm…and not love the one causing the harm, or spewing the hate. No where in God’s word does it give us an out… in fact it says the opposite:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”
But it also says this:
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
It’s a BOTH / AND situation in the Kingdom of God.
Stand up for the oppressed, defend those being harmed, speak up for those without a voice…don’t back down from racism…take a stand.
But not in a way that isolates and labels the “other side” not worthy of our love.
Because it’s not our love that we’re offering anyways…it’s His. And as far as He’s concerned none of us are truly worthy of it…but because of His great riches of mercy He has called us worthy.
Those who’s lives are plagued with racism are groping around in their own sort of spiritual oppression…hate and bitterness and un-forgiveness.
Straight brokenness, they’re drowning in it.
And how will they ever find the surface of that oppression, come up for air, unless we, the hands and feet of Jesus, take them by the hand and show them a better way? A way to love all people….because in our loving them, we are actually showing them that all people do deserve love.
What if, by bringing those who hate into the sharp focus of our love, they lay down that hate and learn to love…because they have been loved?
What if, church, instead of linking arms with each other and keeping them out because of their hate….we give them a place at our table. What if we model, through our life, what it looks like to accept and welcome…everyone…no matter the color of our skin.
What if the battle against racism won’t be won on Facebook? What if the victory won’t come through arguments and taking sides?
What if love across all lines is the actual answer.
Not condoning. Not justifying their hate. Not even leaving room for it.
Simply recognizing that brokenness is brokenness in God’s economy. It’s all sin.
And everyone is our neighbor.
So when Jesus calls us to love our neighbor…if our neighbor is racist or whatever long list of reasons we could come up with to not extend the same amount of grace we’ve been given… the command doesn’t change.
Is it hard? Yes. Is it a grit your teeth kind of process? Yes.
Will it cause you to crawl back to His feet day after day, conversation after conversation…begging Him for the ability to love the person who hates?
And that’s just how He wants it.
I understand that this topic is hard for some (should be for all) and very polarizing.
But as the mama of a brown skinned one, I feel that I have a responsibility to be a part of the conversation.
I have been shattered over the news the last week. Broken in a way that feels raw and personal.
I ache and grieve over the world that we live in.
I ache and grieve that my little one will face and battle race and prejudice and privilege, that she will have to overcome assumptions and other people’s personal racial baggage in order to have the same opportunities as everyone else.
That may be hard to read, but it’s true.
Racism is directly opposed to the heart of God, who created ALL in His image.
To hate one race is to hate something God created to reflect Him.
You do the math.
You don’t want to get caught on the other side of that equal sign.
BUT… when you take anger and hurt over racism to Jesus He does not give a green light for you to return the favor, to get the right to hate right back.
And as hard as it is, I know that when I go to Him and ask Him what He thinks about these things we’re seeing, the white supremacy, the violence, the display of absolute brokenness that we’re witnessing, I am immediately aware that they too, those who are steering the ship of this devastation, are made in the image of God.
They are His kids just as much as my black daughter is.
So, I guess my disclaimer is that these words were just as hard for me to believe and digest and decide to follow as they were to write them.
But I can’t escape the truth of God’s heart, and don’t want to be caught on the other side of that equation either.
Phew, let’s lighten the mood a tad.
Just for funsies… here’s a list of funny, weird and slightly offensive comments I have received as the mama of a beautiful brown skinned darling:
- Once in a store, when Liv was fresh from Africa ,tiny baby on my hip a woman approached Brent and I and said, “Awww….is she y’all’s ?” to which I replied simply, “Yes she is.” She looked me up and down and said, “Girl….you sure did lose that baby weight quick.” I looked at Brent, my tall drink of VERY WHITE fine and looked at Liv and just smiled at her and said, “Thank you.” (Ma’am. You must be implying only one thing has happened here….that I was unfaithful with a VERY dark skinned individual.)
- Do you have any real kids? (as opposed to this robot one I have right here)
- Is she yours? (this one gets us in all types of trouble especially if the husband is
answering…he is known to reply .. “Oh no…we just found her outside do you know
who she belongs to…all the eye rolls and apologies.)
- Once a slightly drunk middle aged woman asked us “So what…are y’all trying to be
the next Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt or something)
- How much did she cost? Come on people…I know what you’re asking but choose better words.
- What if she wants to date black boys? hahahaha this one is just too much for me to even comment…isn’t that hysterical?